Challenge Day races give kids a thrill
By NAT LEVY
Issaquah Reporter Reporter
July 16, 2012 · Updated 9:51 AM
Tim Finnegan just wanted to race.
His two younger brothers were participating regularly in soap box derby races - a hallmark of a youngster's summer fun. But Tim's motor skills weren't developing like the other boys, and he was not able to race. That's where his dad, Leo, stepped in. About 30 years ago, cars with two seats became available. Finnegan, a Puget Sound Energy employee, convinced the company to sponsor races.
Tim got his chance to race.
Now, at the age of 45, Tim Finnegan is a regular, some would argue, the main event of Issaquah Challenge Day. Anyone who shows up for a few years in a row knows that he is the man to beat. For Tim, who has battled neurocutaneous syndrome throughout his life - which has mother Rose said caused one side of the brain to grow smaller than the other - the race is a thrill. Tim's got a lot going on, playing on a special olympics basketball team, volunteering at Issaquah City Hall, and later the Community Center, but the race might be his favorite annual highlight.
He's got the technique down, dipping his head at the start to produce a more aerodynamic effect.
"He really looks forward to it," said Rose Finnegan.
Now in its 15th year in Issaquah, the race began in 1982 when Leo Finnegan was able to buy the cars and run the race himself. Today, the annual races are sponsored by the Issaquah Rotary Club.
The race pairs one developmentally disabled person with one able-bodied teammate, and together they navigate cars down a small hill on Second Avenue in Issaquah.
Some of the kids have been coming to drive, or watch for years, while others were brand new to the course.
The family of Corey Beaney only heard of the race two days before it happened. For Corey, 10, an avid fan of cars, joining the races was a no-brainer.
The young Sammamish resident suffered a stroke at only 11 months old, that left him blind in paralyzed in the left side of his body. But nothing could stop his enthusiasm. Paired with veteran driver Eli Dever, Corey roared down the hill three times. After each race, he didn't want to wait for the next opportunity.
"I want to go again, now," he said.
Nat Levy can be contacted at 425-453-4290 or
Corey Beaney and Eli Dever get a fast start.
Sabrina Peterson and Hazel Hansen on their way down the hill.