Saturdays of Thunder is the ninth episode of Season 3. The episode first aired on November 14, 1991. It was written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs and directed by Jim Reardon. It features cultural references to films such as Ben-Hur, Lethal Weapon, and Days of Thunder.
Bart becomes deeply immersed in competitive soapbox racing while Homer begins to realize that he's not as good a father as he thought. After attending a lecture at National Fatherhood Institute, Homer becomes a more attentive father, helping Bart build the ultimate soapbox racer. But Bart decides not to use it in his big race against Nelson Muntz, instead opting to borrow Martin Prince's scientifically engineered aerodynamic racer.
When the local Soap Box Derby is held in Springfield, Bart has his heart set on first prize. But the catch is that he must build his own Soap Box Racer. In the meantime, after taking a fatherhood quiz, Homer discovers he knows next to nothing about his son. He goes to the national father hood institution, at the institution they give a book on father hood. He offers to help his son by building the racer together, Bart eventually agrees. Unfortunately, Homer's less than adept building skills brings Bart a very shoddy, rickety piece of junk for a racer (named Li'l Lightnin'). This is especially so in comparison to Martin Prince's personally designed and built space shuttle-like racer, Martin B-57. Martin and Bart form an alliance vowing that either must somehow beat bully Nelson Muntz and his very intimidating racer, the MIG-17, armed with every dirty trick in the book.
When the race is underway, Bart can barely reach any kind of noticeable speed with Homer's racer and becomes a laughingstock for it. Meanwhile, Martin has difficulty controlling his racer, as it is moving too fast, which eventually causes his racer to smoke-bust and burn. After being injured, Martin finds that he can no longer race and opts for Bart and himself to combine forces by having Bart race Martin's racer over the racer he and Homer built. Bart seeing no other way to win agrees, which breaks Homer's heart. When Bart later apologizes and desires Homer's best wishes, Homer selfishly denounces both Bart and Martin telling Bart to do whatever he wants. Dejected, Bart gets ready to race in the final match with Martin's newly tuned racer. Having enough of Homer's behavior towards Bart, Marge confronts him and expresses her disappointment in him. She is quick to remind him of the times she defended him in spite of everyone including her sisters, Patty and Selma, telling her that he is a terrible and incompetent father. Marge points out that his latest action in rejecting Bart's choice to be a racer for Martin proves that he is a bad father himself and if this is how Homer would rather behave himself, she tells him off that he had indeed proved her wrong and everyone else right about him being a horrible father. This statement that makes Homer feel worse and quickly tells Marge to leave him alone with his depression.
At the house, Homer thinks to himself about how selfish he's been, realizing he has learned a lot about his son, he goes straight to the fridge in the kitchen and reads the test that came from the institution, he does the test and passes. He rushes off to the race to show his support to Bart with BAC Canberra. At the starting line, Homer wishes Bart luck and tells him that no matter how the race ends he'll still be proud of him. The race is tough as Nelson pulls every dirty trick in his arsenal, but eventually through his skill Bart comes out on top and the "team" enjoy their victory. Bart also meets his new hero, three time soap box champ Ronny Beck, who hands Bart his trophy. Bart and Homer act like sore winners, which embarrasses Marge who reminds them they should be good winners. Lisa agrees and points out that they should be sharing the victory with Martin since it is his car that won. Homer tries to convince them to let him and Bart enjoy their victory once, even to Marge and Lisa's detest. Bart share a hug as Homer finally became a good father to his one and only son Bart.