RC car club fills need for speed in cold months, Local

RC car club fills need for speed in cold months

Craig Major observes his car on the track as he ran hot laps Friday at the Dakota Slidewayz RC Club. American News Photo by John Davis taken 1/27/2017

Mike Stearns, left and Ethan Barton install a transponder into a car at the Dakota Slidewayz RC Club. The transponder will permit an accurate lap count for league racing.

A remote-controlled car with its bod off charges Friday at the Dakota Slidewayz RC Club. American News Photo by John Davis taken 1/27/2017

Ethan Barton, left, Pursue Gelling and Wade Pfaff control their cars from the deck next to the race track at the Dakota Slidewayz RC Club near Aberdeen. American News Photos by John Davis

A radio-controlled car turns on its side during a race Jan. Twenty seven at the Dakota Slidewayz RC Club near Aberdeen. American News Photo by John Davis

Who says you can’t race cars in the winter?

Certainly not Mike Stearns, or any other members of Aberdeen’s newest club.

Members of the Dakota Slidewayz RC Club have been practising driving radio-controlled cars at a freshly constructed indoor track in Aberdeen every Thursday night and most Sunday afternoons since the beginning of the year.

The practices have led to real races — just like the big guys at the fairgrounds race track.

Racers accumulate points every week and a champ will be crowned at the end of the season.

The races have their differences however — the much smaller, radio-controlled race cars are stiffer to drive for one, Stearns said. And he should know: Stearns races in the modified division at Brown County Speedway.

And neither a helmet nor a state-issued driver’s license is required.

Anyone — any age, from anywhere — is welcome to join the club. Dustin Ochsner drives from Britton, a 60-mile journey one way.

“It’s absolutely worth the travel time,” he said.

Violating parts on the cars gets old, Ochsner said, but racers are hopeful that the better they get, the less that happens.

“They’re rough to drive, raunchy to get the drape of,” Ochsner said.

On practice nights, as many cars as will fit and are operational will zoom around on the track, often until they hit one another or a wall or roll on their own.

“It can kind of end up being a little bit of demolition derby,” Stearns said.

Those who aren’t racing are in the back of the shop at thirty nine thousand two hundred five 133rd St., getting their cars ready to go again. Sometimes it’s just switching the way the car is set up, other times it’s substituting the battery or a shock or another petite part.

That’s just one more way the remote control cars are similar to real race cars.

“You’re going to have repairs,” Stearns said.

But you’ll also have a lot of joy.

“Once you do it, well, now I’m hooked,” Ochsner said, admitting that he likes to drive his car around the kitchen table at home in Britton — something his 16-month-old daughter loves.

“That’s why I can’t wait to have a boy, but who knows? She could most likely hammer me if she got ahold of it,” he said.

It’s the family-friendly mentality that has Glen Crawford and his son Garrett racing cars. Garrett, Ten, is the youngest member of the club. But that doesn’t mean he should be underestimated.

The Crawfords work on their cars together.

“It’s most likely more joy for me,” Glen Crawford joked.

For Garrett it’s “pretty cool” and, along with farming, one of his dearest things to do with his dad.

Four or so years ago, Stearns and his acquaintance Darrell Humphries set up a track for winter in Humphries’ shop. But that fizzled out.

Humphries’ unexpected death in December got Stearns thinking about setting up another track and forming another club.

“He was very likely the driving factor in getting it going again. That was certainly part of me getting back into it,” Stearns said.

There was also a radio-control club in the late 1990s, according to American News archives. During those days, the club would race at various local venues such as the mall. Members would set up a track by spurting Coke syrup, which was used to provide traction on an otherwise slick surface, then take it down and clean it up after every event.

That’s not the case with Dakota Slidewayz.

Stearns just asked others — via Facebook and face-to-face — if they were interested in a radio-control club. Within a few weeks, he had members, spectators and a building willing to house a track.

Ryan Hanson wields the building west of Aberdeen where a permanent track was built in just a few weeks’ time.

“Now, everyone wants to come see it, see what we’re up to,” Stearns said.

And, as they do, membership numbers grow.

Spectators are encouraged. So is participation. Practices and races are open to the public. And visitors might have an chance to participate.

“If someone wants to attempt it out, I’d let them run my car around to see if they like it,” Stearns said.

Time and again during a Jan. Twenty six practice, members asked spectators if they desired to get behind the wheel — or in this case, the remote.

That’s along the lines of what Hanson, who is also a Roncalli school board member, wants to see happen with the club.

“In the back of my mind, I’m always thinking about how I can mentor. The track is the ideal avenue to let kids work on cars and be competitive,” he said.

And it fits well with the what classes in many schools are focusing on. For some, that’s STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Roncalli adds two more subjects to that list: religion and arts, making STREAM.

“Kids love technology and science,” Hanson said.

Hanson’s aim is ordinary. He wants to give something to youthfull people.

That can happen in a diversity of ways, he said. For one, corporate sponsors could buy cars that stay at the track.

“A lot of kids would love this but can’t afford it,” Hanson said.

The cars run from $300 to $400, including the modified figures, but not the graphics package racers put on them so they look like the big cars. Some guys, including Stearns, design their radio-controlled units to look like the cars at Brown County Speedway.

Most purchase their cars from Bart’s Parts in Watertown, albeit there are other places that sell them too, Stearns said.

The initial car does not include any extra batteries or spare parts.

Hanson said the cars at the track could also eventually be rented for parties or team-building activities for local businesses.

“And if it doesn’t work out that way, that’s OK too,” he said. “But I’m not going to give up … There’s some cool relationships that could happen.”

For the kids who might benefit from Hanson’s mindset, there’s one more positive.

“Stearns is a legend to them from the Brown County Speedway,” Hanson said. “But they never see him without his helmet on.”

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