He’s a third-generation racer.
Therefore, it’s safe to say McDowell Elementary student Colt Nelman was destined to drive in soap box competitions.
But Colt’s family members aren’t the reasons why he fell in love with racing.
It had plenty to do with a certain drama film that teaches us to enjoy the journey rather than crossing the finish line first.
"I watched a movie about the soap box derby," the 9-year-old soap box racer said.
That 2011 movie, "25 Hill," was written and directed by Corbin Bernsen. The story focuses on the annual youth racing program and also highlights the relationship of two strangers, who persevered despite the tragic deaths of their family members.
Fortunately, the Nelman family hasn’t faced such overwhelming adversity. Nonetheless, Colt’s success in cars made of aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fiber reinforced polymer has everything to do with two of the most important men in his life.
They are his father Keith and his grandfather Pat, who Colt affectionately refers to as "Pop."
"My dad raced when he was a kid in Portage County," Keith said. "I was involved with it when I was a kid. You can say we’re a derby family."
The youngest one has some bragging rights.
That’s because Colt advanced to the All-American Soap Box Derby. Needing 180 points to reach this prestigious destination, the stock-division racer accumulated 211 points to qualify.
Colt won two races in Cleveland and five races in Ashtabula to punch his ticket to Derby Downs.
Colt is scheduled to compete July 20 in Akron. His race is set to begin at 9 a.m.
"It’s a lot of fun," Colt said.
The Nelman family has kept quite busy leading up to the derby, which has been an annual event in the United States since 1934.
Colt raced in Columbus, Lancaster, Cleveland and Tuscarawas to accumulate a number of key points during the season.
One race didn’t take place in the Buckeye State.
Colt also competed in a race in Sanford, Florida, where some of his family members reside. In fact, one of those relatives was an accomplished racer himself.
Keith’s cousin, Jesse, qualified for the All-American Soap Box Derby in the 1990s.
"Colt is really shy," Keith said. "A lot of those races make for a long day, so there’s a lot of down time. He has made plenty of friends. It has brought him out of his shell."
Colt has certainly enjoyed racing throughout the season. However, there was one race that proved a bit scary for the soapbox expert.
"There was hail at one of the rallies," Colt said. "There was a tornado three miles from Akron. There were tents, but they were all falling apart."
Style points aren’t awarded at races. Regardless, Colt can tell his friends that he has a rather nice ride.
"You’re not allowed to paint it," Keith said. "It has an American Flag sticker all over it."
The car is sponsored by, who else, another member of the Nelman Clan. He is Keith’s brother, Kyle, an orthopedic surgeon who lives in Hudson.
So how should Colt approach his first trip to Derby Downs? Perhaps the patriarch of Hudson’s first family of soap-box racing has the best advice.
"Have fun," Pat said. "He doesn’t need any pressure."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.