Mateo Corona-Alfaro (left) and driver Mirko Spasojevic ride their gravity car Saturday morning during Challenge Race 2019 at Lynnwood Elementary School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Mateo Corona-Alfaro (left) and driver Mirko Spasojevic ride their gravity car Saturday morning during Challenge Race 2019 at Lynnwood Elementary School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

2-person gravity cars get kids of all abilities on the track

Regional Challenge Races enable developmentally disabled children to participate.

LYNNWOOD — Cheers accompanied the rumble of wooden gravity race cars hitting the pavement Saturday at Lynnwood Elementary School.

Instead of the typical one-person ride, these cars had room for two.

Behind the wheel, drivers 10 years or older steered a rig for their developmentally disabled co-pilots.

Leo Finnegan designed the two-person derby cars nearly 40 years ago so his developmentally disabled child could join his other kids in racing.

Now Finnegan works with Rotary clubs around Puget Sound to host “Challenge Races” like the one here Saturday. It was the Rotary Club of Lynnwood’s fourth year hosting the event.

Gabe Cole arrived bright and early with his parents for a chance to ride in one of the brightly painted cars.

Nolan Doherty (black-and-white car, black helmet) comes in a close second place at the annual Challenge Race at Lynnwood Elementary School on Saturday, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lynnwood. (Video by Julia-Grace Sanders / The Herald)

“Part of this is him experiencing something fun and something that builds community while seeing kids like him,” said Gabe’s father, Tim Cole.

This is the third year the south Everett family has come so Gabe, who has a genetic disorder, can participate in the races.

“We would drive further to get to something like this,” Cole said.

The event allows kids that might otherwise never be able to race to do so, organizer Anne-Marie Lake said.

It was 14-year-old Nolan Doherty’s first time in one of the wooden cars. His parents, Kristin and Mike Doherty, said they wanted to bring him before he got too big to take part.

Kian Snider (left) and Lauren Lemkaw ride their gravity car Saturday morning during Challenge Race 2019 at Lynnwood Elementary School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Kian Snider (left) and Lauren Lemkaw ride their gravity car Saturday morning during Challenge Race 2019 at Lynnwood Elementary School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The course was on a gentle slope from one end of a parking lot the other. Molly Helmuth, who hails from Seattle and is the youngest female NASCAR driver, waved a checkered flag to start the races. Seahawks and AquaSox mascots Blitz and Weebly cheered drivers from behind the starting blocks.

Nolan took an early lead in his heat later in the morning but was edged out of first place at the finish line.

Proceeds from the event are to be split between the Rotary Club of Lynnwood and Finnegan’s nonprofit, Life Enrichment Options.

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

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