By LOGAN DARNELL
For Coal Valley News
MORRISVALE - Peyton Brake, 11, of Morrisvale, only began his racing career one year ago, after the parents of a friend suggested to his parents, Brian and Amber Brake, that he take it up. Many races later, including a first-place finish at the 2019 South Charleston Soap Box Derby, it became clear that the kid was a natural.
Peyton has qualified for the International Soap Box Derby race in Akron, Ohio, taking place now through July 20.
The opportunity comes as a delightful one for the Brake family, whose trips to and from Ohio have often been difficult. Peyton's 6-year-old brother, Paxton, has battled leukemia since he was 1 year old, with three-and-a-half years on chemotherapy. Paxton's leukemia has been in remission for two years, which has allowed the two brothers more family time, though Peyton himself visits a rheumatologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
The aforementioned family who encouraged Peyton to take up racing were, in fact, another cancer family, so the sense of community between them has also given the boys a chance to pursue their hobbies. His grandmother, Natalie, says it was a welcome change for the children, whose younger cousin has now taken up racing. Paxton, who is near the minimum age of 7 to begin racing, has loved watching his brother's races and is ready to join him when he can.
Peyton says his favorite thing about Derby is how fun it is to race down a hill, and how nice other racers have been to each other. Getting his first win was "awesome," according Peyton, as he was excited to get to go to Akron for the International race.
Though dealing with Paxton's cancer has been difficult, Peyton said he is glad they have all been able to find a joy in racing. He wants to thank his friend Eden Poff's parents, Philip and Brandi, for helping get him into Derby, and his family for supporting him.
Peyton and Paxton's father, Brian, says it feels great to go to Ohio as a family and do something fun. He says that Peyton has played a very supportive role for his brother over the years, and it is nice that he finally gets to do something for himself.
The International Soap Box Derby features well over 100 racers who speed down the world-famous Derby Downs, which was built in 1936.