The annual Pinewood Derby race is a favorite activity for most Cub Scouts (moms and dads too). Each scout builds a race car out of a block of wood. At a den meeting, the cars are raced on a downhill track, often with 3 or 4 lanes.
Similar race events include Raingutter Regatta, Kub Kar Rally, Shape N Race.
The challenge for the parents running the race is to make the race fair, exciting, and over before bedtime. A simple elimination tournament may cause early losers to lose interest. Also, it may not be fair if one lane of the track is faster than another.
At Pack 18 in Everett, Washington we use a scoring method that works well. Technically, it is called chaotic-rotation. Racers are divided up into groups of 6 to 15. In each group, each car races three times, in a different lane each time, no more than once per heat, and against different cars if possible.
After every racer has raced in a group, we select the best cars and race them in a final group.
This scoring system was originally paper-based. The paper system worked OK with 20 scouts, but it took too long to score when the pack grew to 45 scouts. Automating the paper system with an Excel spreadsheet solved the problem. Having the spreasheet display visible to the starting gate helpers also made the races run quickly. A laptop computer connected to display projector works well.
The spreadsheet shown is setup for a 3-lane track, with the lanes are labeled A, B, and C. Other spreadsheet versions are available for 2-lane and 4-lane tracks.
Cars are numbered and divided into groups of between 6 and 15 cars. If you have more than 15 racers, divide them up into groups of less than 15. Each race group uses a page of the spreadsheet -- the 6-car group is shown above.
Car numbers are entered in the Heat 1 "Car" column. These numbers re-appear in different places in Heat 2 and Heat 3. As races are run, 1, 2, or 3 is enterd in the "Place" column for first, second, and third place. At the end of 3 heats, the "Total Place" column will have a 1 for the 1st place car, 2 for the second place, and so on.
The white cells in the spreadsheet are the only cells that accept entries. Driver names are looked up and the score is computed automatically.
If you have a electronic timer, you can enter race times in seconds, rather than place.