Post Date: April 18, 2015

The Pinewood Classic

The Pinewood Classic returns to downtown Phoenix for the second time on Saturday, April 25. Though slots for racers sold out a while ago, spectators are in for a real treat with food, drink, and people-watching galore.

We asked Doug Penick to tell us about the event. (Full disclosure: Doug is the mastermind behind the Flourish Phoenix logo. He does great work.)

FP: Where in the world did the idea for this event come from?

DP: A few years back I took a trip back to my hometown of Virginia Beach. Around the same time, my dad was building a pinewood derby car with my younger brother. We had done the same thing years before when I was a boy scout, but this time it was a lot different. Dad proceeded to show me the precision machined wheels he’d purchased off the “cub scout black market,” and right down to the millimeter where to place his aftermarket tungsten weights. He had a laundry list of NASA-certified methods, guaranteed to win the pinewood derby. And he did. He and my brother went to state finals several years running. When I was younger, the full extent was, “I want mine to look like a steam engine!” And that was that. No bells, no whistles.

It made me want to build a pinewood derby car more than ever. I just needed a reason.


I had been part of planning Pedal Craft’s second and third events here in Phoenix, and knew just enough about throwing this type of party to be dangerous. During the last Pedal Craft event at Monorchid, I blurted out my idea to Brad Moore of Short Leash Hot Dogs. Before I had finished my sentence he offered to host it at their restaurant. Brad and Kat have really championed The Pinewood Classic and helped tremendously in taking this thing from an idea to a reality.

FP: Registration for racers this year is sold out, but it sounds like the Pinewood Classic is a lot of fun to watch. Tell our readers why they should come, even if they’re not racing.

DP: The Pinewood Classic is more than just the race – it’s really a community block party. And although it’s a “grown-ups-only” race, the event itself is family friendly. We take the space between Sit … Stay and Carly’s Bistro, and transform it entirely. Short Leash will be running their food truck all day with a Pinewood Classic specific menu; Four Peaks Brewing Co. will be there with a beer tent; and we’ll have live music from local bands The Copper States and Bears of Manitou during the event, as well as continuing after the races for an after party and awards ceremony.


There will be commemorative t-shirts and merit badges available, as well as limited run posters designed by a number of local artists and designers (with proceeds of poster sales going to benefit the local non-profit Food for the Hungry). There’s even talk of bringing back the classic car show that came in for last year’s event.

One of the best reasons to attend is the spectacle that the race brings. Racers are encouraged to dress in costumes and assemble teams, guaranteeing that the people-watching on race day is second to none. The celebration rituals you’re likely to see will rival anything you’ve seen on SportsCenter. The atmosphere is electric and it’s one of the greatest events in Phoenix right now, even if you don’t have a “dog” in the race. Short Leash’s dining room is also open for service all day, so feel free to pop in for lunch or dinner and peek out onto the patio to see what the fuss is really all about.


FP: It seems to me that there’s a lot of resonance between Pedal Craft, which you mentioned earlier, and the Pinewood Derby in terms of bringing people together in a fun atmosphere to make our city better for everyone. What is it about these kinds of things that energizes you?

DP: Pedal Craft was an anomaly. I had never really seen any other gallery opening or event that accomplished such unanimous and organic support from the creative community. As I joined the planning team for Pedal Craft, I began to understand that its greatest legacy was not necessarily the art that had been created, but the community that had been built in the process. Countless new friendships were formed around that event, and even new business opportunities for the designers involved. It uncovered a number of very talented and active creatives who had been relatively unknown to the general public up to that point.


That is what energizes me about these events. I wanted to keep that pattern alive, even as Pedal Craft was winding down its presence in Phoenix. For the Pinewood Classic, I especially wanted to expand the participation beyond only graphic designers and illustrators. I would be so stoked if a few years from now, there are countless stories of relationships whose origins can be traced back to the Pinewood Classic.

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Photos by Amy Frances