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Slot car racing isn’t just for kids

But they do rule
By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald/News Messenger Sports Editor
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Fast Track Hobbies in the Blue Oaks Marketplace located at the corner of Blue Oaks and Lonetree boulevards is more than a store. In fact, its owner said it isn’t a store at all, but a shop. Although visitors to the 11,000-square-foot facility will find it to be a myriad of things, one thing that stands out is slot car racing. Slot cars race along a grooved track that supplies energy to an electrical motor that can power a vehicle up to amazing speeds. However, the Le Mans style tracks require a steady hand to stay on course. Fast Track Hobbies has two slot car tracks and is building two more. The existing tracks have eight lanes each and most days one can either watch participants race around hairpin curves and go full throttle on the straight-aways – or try it themselves. Dwight Adamson, Fast Track Hobbies’ owner, said there is virtually no age limit when it comes to slot car racing. He said it’s a sport where grandparents can race with their grandchildren just for fun, or the more advanced can test their skills during Saturday night’s racing competition. “We are the only slot car track in the greater Sacramento area,” Adamson said. “At this time we race on Saturday night. The program is expanding and we’re talking about possibly opening up one other night, maybe once a month or twice a month.” Although a number of adults engage in the sport, Fast Track’s shining star is a 13-year-old named Justin Colvin. Colvin and his father, Mike Colvin, used to do a lot of RC (remote control) racing, traveling as far away as Arizona to compete. Justin Colvin began slot car racing when he and his father visited the hobby shop and Mike Colvin sent his son off to play with the slot cars while he attended to some more technical RC matters. Justin Colvin’s skills on the slot car track didn’t go unnoticed. His father eventually bought him a starter kit and Justin rapidly rose through the ranks. “I think he was 10 years old, maybe 9, and it was more ‘Hey, can I go play with the slot cars?’ ” Mike Colvin said. “He seemed to like it so that year for Christmas we got him a little starter kit.” It didn’t take long for Justin Colvin to go from amateur to pro. There are four levels in slot car racing – novice, advanced, expert and pro. Earlier this year, Justin Colvin won his second national title. Justin Colvin said he picked up a lot of his “trigger finger” skills from working RC controls. He said he doesn’t participate in any other sports and spends about three hours a week on his slot car racing. He said before a big race he typically doubles his preparation time. “Right now, it’s a hobby but I do intend to get more into it,” said Justin Colvin. “It takes a lot of practice, a lot of experience.” The young champion said the racing depends a lot on the track being used and having the right slot car for that particular track. Mike Colvin serves as Justin’s pit crew and works on the more than one dozen cars they use for racing. Visitors to Fast Track Hobbies will also notice that between the pair of operational tracks are two, double-sided work benches. It’s not uncommon to see a number of slot car advocates working on their cars carried in some rather elaborate, portable slot car pit-crew kits. “When you have a slot car track or hobby shop you need pit space for people to work on stuff,” said Adamson. Adamson said he has a number of customers who come in to work on their vehicles almost every day. He said they share techniques and ideas and just hang out having a good time. “That’s not possible without lots of pit space,” Adamson said. “It costs for various services, like if you need labor or you want to use the tracks. But to use my pit space – it’s free.” Besides the sophistication of customizing a car or getting just the right height for one’s chassis and tire size, there’s a lot of skill involved in racing. The races involve running one’s car on each track for a 3-minute interval. The time is then averaged against others making the same run, but there’s also the urge to engage in head-to-head competition. “The biggest problem of driving these is you get sucked into the next guy’s race,” said Dough Heffner, one of the adult racers who spends a lot of time working on his cars. “On the straight-away I always go deeper (into the curve) and other cars go flying off trying to keep up with me.” Going too fast into a curve can cause a car to slip out of its slot costing the operator precious time. The flat track at Fast Track Hobbies is a 115-foot winding layout set to scale. The cars vary in length from 4 inches to 4 ½ inches. The second track is called the Purple Angel, a 165-foot structure that reportedly is one of only two ever built. It has a large, rising section banked at an angle allowing the cars to get a full head of steam going into the straight-away. However, it’s the curves where the fast times are made. “When Justin (wins) he always wins right there in the hairpin,” said Heffner, pointing to a particular section of the track. “You’ll be a foot ahead of Justin and after that turn you’ll be a foot behind him.” Each lane has a separate timer that records on a digital scoreboard color-coded to match the color of each lane. It shows the time it takes it takes to complete a lap (4-5 seconds for the more skilled drivers) and then flashes the best time for one lap. Adamson said Fast Track is building two more tracks, one a drag strip. He said the drag strip is about 80 feet long. He said the record for speed in drag racing was 140 miles per hour. He said that was actual speed and not to scale. Besides slot cars, the shop carries virtually every part needed for all types of remote control vehicles. Adamson said not only does he carry what any RC or slot car aficionado would want, but serves as a great way for kids to learn skills they might not otherwise acquire. “There’s a lot of things you can learn on a slot car track,” said Adamson, who has worked on engines costing as much as $700. “There’s a lot of things involved that a lot of people don’t realize. There’s so much you can learn here.” One obvious thing is learning to have fun. He said he has had company’s hold parties at Fast Track Hobbies. He said some organizations were planning to host slot car racing parties and he books birthday parties where both the kids and adults can join in the fun. He said the parties are catered as Fast Track Hobbies does not cook. Besides Saturday night racing each week, Fast Track Hobbies also hosts two NorCal slot car events. He said the next one will be held this fall. “The last one we had over 100 entries. And that’s four divisions across four classifications,” said Adamson. “Some of those guys drove as far as four to five hours to get here and a lot of guys stayed in Rocklin.” And that’s good for Rocklin’s economy. What: Fast Track Hobbies Slot Car Racing and more Where: Blue Oaks Marketplace 6831 Lonetree Blvd, Suite 102, Rocklin When: Open 7 days a week 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday Contact: (916) 784-1722/FTHobbies.com