"Let's face it, nothing is sacred anymore," says Baker. "I'm not saying we can turn this thing around immediately, ensure honesty by Akron, but we'll try. Of course, everybody's watching us this year. If we have only 10 entrants going down that hill it's fine with me."
Part of the overall problem, Baker realizes, lies in the vagueness of Derby rules plus the fact that soap-box cars are constructed out of sight of referees. His belief is that if parental guidance and moral strictures aren't enough, then the rules must be.
"The program I'm pushing is called Back to Basics, back to the idea of real soap boxes," he says, "which is where this whole thing started. If it is actualized, there will be two classes—one strictly, and I mean strictly, for kids; the other, called the open class, for anybody. The first class will be what the Derby's all about. The second, well. Bob Lange can build a car and come and race it himself if he wants."
Baker also proposes stringent workshop tests for entrants to prove their cars' authenticity as well as punishment for any local franchise that sends an illegal car. He admits the necessity for new regulations is a little disillusioning. "You really can't expect the Derby to be anything but a carbon copy of society," he says.
For kids like David Abramovitz and other hardworking soap boxers who never intended to cheat, there will always be ways to maintain perspective on the meaning of victory. If nothing else, they can take advice from Jimmy Gronen, who has been to the peak and back.
"It's not like being on top of the world," he said recently of his Akron championship. "It just wasn't that big a deal."