A shark, a Crocs shoe and a slinky dog will careen down a hill in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 18, racing each other and many other motorless carts around obstacles in the first Red Bull Soapbox Race since the pandemic started.
Driving the slinky dog will be Littleton’s Cody Racliff and Mike Hedrick, who’s from Colorado Springs. Their team, which is known as 3rd Degree Burns and includes Cody’s wife, Hailee Radcliff, and friend Jodi Teeples, is the only crew from Colorado out of the fifty that will compete this weekend.
Red Bull had hosted an annual soapbox race every year since 2000 as part of its extreme-sports challenges designed to promote the brand. Since college, Cody and Hedrick had wanted to compete in such a challenge, particularly Red Bull Rapids, which charges participants with creating a themed raft and maneuvering it through whitewater. In March, they saw a social media post advertising this year’s soapbox race, back after a two-year hiatus. There were only three days until the deadline to apply, but they decided to try.
“We were like freaking out to get ideas together but, essentially, what you had to do was drop some sketches with your car idea, rough ideas of how you want to build the car and all those types of things, and then submit a team photo, as well as a description of you and your team and how you met,” Cody says.
The Racliffs and Hedrick started with the concept of a weiner-dog cart because they thought it would be funny. Cody also liked the idea of two separate carts connected to each other, so the slinky dog, reminiscent of the character in Toy Storyemerged as the idea they submitted to Red Bull.
“It kind of went silent for probably almost a month, so we just assumed we didn’t get in,” Cody recalls. “Then I just randomly got an email, basically saying, ‘Congratulations, we’ll see you in Iowa!”
That email came in April, giving the team a month and a half to construct the car. Though Cody says they had to change the functionality a bit from the original sketch, the final cart looks much as they imagined.
After the team added Teeples, it petitioned to change its name to 4th Degree Burns, but it hasn’t heard back from Red Bull. The original trio picked the name 3rd Degree Burns because the most famous part of the soapbox race isn’t the winners; it’s the crashes. “It was preemptive thinking like, we’re probably gonna get some road rash or something on us while doing this,” Cody says.
Even if they do, Red Bull has many safety rules to ensure that participants don’t sustain injuries. Still, Cody and Hedrick will be the two drivers on race day because Hailee and Teeples are too worried about crashing. “[Hailee] was just a no-go immediately because she was scared,” Cody says. “You can only have two drivers anyway, or two people in the car, so it was more based on who was willing to do it.”
Unlike most other teams, this one has no members with engineering experience. Hedrick is a tattoo artist in Colorado Springs who also has a shop in Buena Vista, Cody works in a creative role with SmartWool, Hailee is an art director, and Teeples is getting an English degree. “We’re not engineers, but we definitely came together to make something safe enough and good enough to think we’ll be competitive,” Cody says.
They kept the mechanics simple: Rather than rigging a wheel, they’ll use their feet to steer; they added brakes for stopping. Although they haven’t officially completed the cart — the pieces have to fit in a U-Haul — they’ve put it together enough to test it in the Radcliffs’ Littleton neighborhood, which has a hill about as steep as what they expect to find in Des Moines.
Though the specifics of the course aren’t revealed until the day of the race, courses always run downhill so that the cars can gain momentum, since they don’t have motors. Cody says all they’ve been told other than the location is that there will be a couple of jumps and the course will split at one point.
Aside from building a cart, the team was also tasked with performing a thirty-second skit prior to the race. Going with the Toy Story theme, Cody and Hedrick plan to dress as little green aliens while Hailee and Teeples act as “the claw” from the first movie, picking up the drivers and putting them in the cart.
“I’m a bit of a shy person, so the skit is the worst part of this,” Cory says. “By all means, it’s the thing that has kept me up at night, for sure.”
Teams will be judged not just on race time, but creativity, cart design and skit showmanship. The top three teams win prizes; There are special categories for People’s Choice and Fastest Speed.
While 3rd (or 4th) Degree Burns hopes to bring home some kind of trophy, the real goal is to enjoy the experience.
“It’s just about getting out of town, doing some fun events with friends and loved ones,” Cody says. “Obviously, winning would be amazing.”