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Why did slot car racing fade so quickly in 1967-68?


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#1 Foxhound

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 11:33 AM

The anglewinder changed nothing beyond the commercial tracks, and affected only a handful of "pro" racers. It didn't change the course of the hobby, it just was an added fillip of design that a handful guys had to copy to keep up. At the same time, the hobby was losing participants left and right.


What do you think was the main reason that slot car racing faded so quickly in popularity in 1967-68? Had technology evolved so rapidly that the typical ten to fourteen-year-old did not have the money to buy what was needed to stay competitive, let alone the metal cutting and soldering skills required for scratchbuilding?

Or was it simply a case that popular culture very suddenly evolved away from models, cars, etc., so that even pre-teen fellows wanted to play in rock bands like the Beatles and the Stones instead of being car nuts/grease monkeys?

:huh:
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#2 TSR

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 11:50 AM

Neither. Most of the raceways simply closed because the economics were not sound and the owners were going broke.

The people who sold the franchises (AMRC) simply lied to the franchisees. Once the raceways closed, the kids had no place to go and were simply forced to quit the hobby, many of them very disappointed that there were no places to go play anymore.

Nothing to do with the cars, technology, or money.

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#3 Jairus

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 12:03 PM

I disagree that it is that simple. Much of the hobby was made up of Baby Boomers and you cannot expect a 15 -20 year old young boy to continue spending his income/allowance on toys, when girls, cars and a first job are also competing for his time. I believe it was more likely a move to other interests. For instance, the Van craze was the Boomers searching out affordable transportation and a "bedroom" on wheels.

The static model car hobby also experienced a huge drop in sales during this same time and that could not be explained simply by over reaching hobby shops closing up from lack of money. Kids just stopped buying models because their interests branched out to other things. I think Vay may be more correct in his last paragraph that you think Dokk. On the other hand I do not deny your statement about raceway economics but think the two are actually inexplicably linked.

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#4 TSR

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 12:09 PM

Jairus,

That would imply that there was only one generation growing up, not the case... :D
In my own case, I saw EVERY ONE of my "home" raceways closing out one after the other, pushing me somewhere else until there were no more.

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#5 Cheater

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 12:15 PM

Vay,

Here's my view.

I believe you're looking at slot racing from the wrong direction in considering it to be a cultural phenomenon that grew on its own. A better context for the growth of slot racing in the 1960s is to look at it from the business perspective.

Electric model car racing had been known well before the '60s and had not grown to any appreciable extent until American Model Car Raceways (and others) began "packaging" slot racing into franchise operations "tweaked" to be an attractive entertainment product for the times. Some say slot car raceways as businesses were the "tanning bed salons" of the '60s, in terms of how they were marketed to potential investors. As the business was relatively inexpensive to get into, lot of people bit and opened raceways.

As the number of raceways blossomed in a fairly short period of time, the toy makers began to take notice and the number of products created to sell to this new "industry" began to accelerate.

The house of cards began to tumble when raceways owners discovered that, while slot car racing was initially interesting to a large number of curious people, few took it up as a longer-term hobby. Inevitably, even during the middle '60s, raceways owners discovered that patronage tended to decline over time. Thus while many raceways were initially profitable, that situation did not last for long for the vast majority of facilities.

I believe this "epiphany", the lack of long-term profitability, occurred to a large percentage of the quickly-opened raceways in roughly 1966-67 or so, just as the manufacturing community was bringing large of amounts of slot car products to market. Raceways began closing at a high rate just as hundreds of new cars, kits, etc., flooded the market.

With the numbers of raceways rapidly declining, to move product, the panicking manufacturers slashed prices and sold their products anywhere they could (hardware stores, Western Autos, etc.), and as we know now, much was never sold and continues to appear from dusty storage on eBay. Some slot car goods were even buried in landfills just to be rid of them.

That's why the "crash", in my opinion.

The more difficult question is why slot racing is unable to retain, as longer-term participants in the hobby, a higher percentage of the people who are exposed to it.
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#6 Jairus

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 12:49 PM

Jairus,
That would imply that there was only one generation growing up, not the case... :D
In my own case, I saw EVERY ONE of my "home" raceways closing m out once after the other, pushing me somewhere else until there were no more.


No, you are correct that there are many generations growing and evolving at the same time, each is as diverse as the next. Generations come in waves based on events in the past, some cataclysmic and some less so. Boomers came about from the end of WWII and the prosperity which developed during the next decade. However, there is no denying that Boomers have been and continue to be the most dominant current generation marketers concentrate on. For example the current advertising push for drugs, retirement programs, exercise equipment, powered wheelchairs, upper-level cars and all the other trappings of a graying affluent generation.

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#7 slotcarone

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 01:21 PM

Neither. Most of the raceways simply closed because the economics were not sound and the owners were going broke. The people who sold the franchises (AMRC) simply lied to the franchisees. Once the raceways closed, the kids had no place to go and simply forced to quit the hobby, many of them very disappointed that there were no places to go play anymore.
Nothing to do with the cars technology or money.


:D This and all the other answers given are all very accurate. I would like to add that being in the New York Metro area at that time there was almost a raceway in every town. Many were franchise set ups and were not owner operated. This being a cash business with at that time no real way to track the amount of business done - you can see where I'm going with this. Basically the hobby faded because of the raceways closing.

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#8 bradblohm

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 01:25 PM

Hello all,

I'll throw out two more possibilities to add to the mix: Cars stopped looking like cars, and "rules".

Slot car racing didn't die in Europe as it did here because (at least I think) cars always looked like cars. They didn't transform into wedgie door-stops in the quest for all out speed as they did here. A Ferrari looked like a Ferrari, and a Jaguar looked like a Jaguar, and a Porsche looked like a Porsche. Look at the popularity of D3 now, which I believe is because bodies used are the Can-Am cars of yesteryear. Emphasis on SCALE that also can run, NOT door-stops! I will ALWAYS think that people more identify with cars, not speed. There will always be some speed-demons, but...

And then there's rules... Look at what's been flying here that last couple of weeks. People want to race with like-minded people. Some want inline only, while others want side and angle-winders. Some want rigid chassis while others think there's nothing wrong with hinges. Until some over-bearing fascist FORCES us to play the same rules (and since neither JPVR nor PdL are strong enough to do it (no offense Philippe)) it's unlikely to happen. We're pack animals, and we'll always get pissed off, splinter into our own like-minded pack, and play with ourselves. Uhhh, scratch that! Play by ourselves. Yeah, that's what I meant!

Now, there's no denying what's been said earlier, but I believe these are also contributing factors.

Brad "please don't hit me" Blohm
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#9 Lee Jet

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 01:27 PM

From my insular perspective, as one who was very actively slot racing in the
So Cal 'Golden Era', the fade was brought on by strangulation due to its own extremely rapid techo-growth.
In fact I payed my bills mainly from selling motors, cars and race winnings during '67 and '68.

Then the cars got too fast for most people with normally-endowed reflexes, the slot shops closed (for the reasons noted by others in this thread) and people went on to other interests...

So I am thankful at this season, for D3 Retro slots! :rolleyes:

Lee Hines aka that "Lee Jet" dude from 'back in the day'

#10 Mark Wampler

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 01:37 PM

I think the lust for speed grew at such a rapid curve that many kids didn't want to or have the means to keep up. From what I understand about the real Can-Am series that ended in 1973 drew a good parallel to slot racing. There were very few rules and just a few guys by comparison were overtaken with going faster, that by the early 70's the hobby flamed out. By then, imposed rules were perceived by some to choke out the essence of going faster. If you can't go faster, then why race at all? Wing cars eventually took over scale racing for the most part and now there are these "models" that don't look like real world race cars anymore and no more association with any recognizable real racing machines. I also think that the profit/square footage for track owners was a severe pinch for their profit as rent increased , much like skating rinks and bowling alleys that were also closing their doors.
You can quote me.

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#11 idare2bdul

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 03:37 PM

There were lots of reasons slot tracks went out of business as pointed out above. The lack of vision in promoting slot cars was a big problem. It's hard to remember that golf and tennis weren't very big deals until winners started bringing home big bucks. Having a championship based on RTR type cars, not scratchbuilts and a million dollar purse might have sustained or built more interest. It didn't happen and as the cost of opening a commercial raceway keeps going up fewer people are tempted to invest in this business. Too bad because unlike my other hobbies you don't need good weather or a big bank account to go slot racing.
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#12 Noose

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 04:06 PM

As Cheater says, I suffered from the fumes... gasoline fumes from the cost of the real car, perfume from the girls, and most of all motor fumes cuz having to change motors in between heats was just plain stupid. So in 1971 I stopped.

When I came back for a short time in '77-78, I didn't get into it seriously and at that time R/C was starting to take over.
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#13 Tom Thumb Hobbies

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 11:43 PM

Although I was very young (7 years) when my parents first opened our raceway I have been involved in its operation in some way on a daily basis since day one. As I grew older I became more involved until I started full management in the early-eighties. In my experiance many of you are correct in your opinion about why slot racing declined.

When slot racing was new there was the "wow" factor. I remember opening on weekends at 8:00am to a full parking lot with some people waiting hours for one of our then 16 lanes. Our first couple of years we started taking reservations weeks in advance for groups as large as 30 racers. Many local businesses would bring their entire staff to race and many would purchase cars for everyone. We first noticed a decline when some of our casual racers became "hobbyists".

At first everyone was at the same skill level. When you showed up and ran your car it was anyone's chance to be the "champ". You had fun no matter how you matched up against others or how badly your car was wrecked during the day. Then some racers became more serious about going fast. They invested more time, effort, and money in their cars than many of the others. More often this smaller group were the ones winning the races now. And because of their added investment and effort they were less likely to laugh off the abuse their cars may endure at the hands of the casual racer. Many slot racers did not want to invest the time and money required to keep up with the "serious" group. And without making that investment they could no longer compete for the bragging rights of winning. It wasn't as much fun racing for third or fourth or whatever.

As the group of "serious" racers continued to fine tune their cars they required less and less product. They either had most everything they needed or made it themselves. Hence less sales for the raceway. At the same time some of the casual racers were moving on because, for some reason, it just wasn't as much fun anymore. This whole process was so subtle that it went almost unnoticed by anyone. If you look at most other competitive hobbies there are very similar scenarios being played out everyday. I have seen it first hand in R/C carpet indoor most recently in my area.

Obviously the cause wasn't helped when stores like Woolco, Woolworth, Sears, Western Auto (in my area), who had no investment at all in the square footage needed to house a race track, started selling cars and controllers for our commercial raceways. It was a case of short sightedness on the part of manufacturers. Short term profit but the hobby almost died.

I don't feel there was any one big reason that slots faded away. There were dozens of small ones. And they are not unique in any way to slot racing. Sometimes track owners, manufactures, and even racers were/are their own worst enemies. Mistakes have been made and opportunities lost. But hindsight is always 20/20. Slot racing has always been a cyclic business. I can go back through our 44 years of P&Ls and find, most often, six years cycles of feast to famine in slots.

Admittedly the current lull is deeper and has lasted longer than in the past. I am hoping the the D3 / Retro concept will breath some much needed interest into the hobby. At best it will bring some old racers back and introduce new ones to the hobby we all love. At worst it will help delay its demise. I am optimistic. The racers who lived through the glory days of slot now are in the period of their lives when the past becomes more precious and they have the money to revive their memories.

I am honored to be hosting the first IRRA Retro Reunion Race in March. Since finding out about D3/Retro racing I have thought about little else. I am a 51 year old man who is starting to feel like a teenager again. Who said you can't go traveling back in time ??? :D How about we set aside all the squabbles about motors and tires and rules etc and concentrate on the magic of reliving some of the best times of our lives.

For those of you attending our event I will be the guy with the huge, permanent grin on his face sometimes heard to giggle to himself as he tries to remember how to drive these things. :D :D

Mike McMasters
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#14 bradblohm

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 08:12 AM

Hello Mike,

Don't you go closin' now! I recently took a job with Limitedbrands in Gahanna and have wanted to stop for a while. Thanks to your post I'll be stopping by next week. Any evening better than another to stop by and run vintage cars?
Brad Blohm

#15 CruzinBob

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 11:30 AM

Mike McMasters,

It's great to hear input from one who has actually been directly involved in the operation of a raceway for so many years. Would you answer a question?

You focus on the "racing" element in the main part of your post. How has the birthday party and "walk-in' rental side of the business been? What type of advertising have you done?

The reasons stated here for the decline of slot car raceways are all great points. A few ring more important than others.

One thing I've been telling people from my perspective is that it is a fad for most. Some are enthused for a time whether it be for competing or just coming in to rent cars. The competitors fad away for reasons stated above and renters find other things to do or just plain forget the joy they had while they go on to other things.

Secondly it is becoming increasingly harder to get customers and one of the reasons is the fact that most raceways only last about a year or 2. I've opened 8 raceways since 1992 and for every one there was several potential customers who immediately asked "How long you gonna be in business!?"
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#16 Tom Thumb Hobbies

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 07:18 PM

Don't you go closin' now! I recently took a job with Limitedbrands in Gahanna and have wanted to stop for a while. Thanks to your post I'll be stopping by next week. Any evening better than another to stop by and run vintage cars?

Not to worry :) I don't think we are going anywhere soon. The track is almost finished (we are rebraiding it) and we hope to reconnect all the taps tommorrow. Between a UPS lost roll of braid, a crappy replacement roll, and a busy holiday season we are running a little behind. You might want to call ahead to make sure we are finished.

(614) 274-5150

Thanks,

Mike McMasters
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#17 Tom Thumb Hobbies

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 10:23 PM

Mike McMasters - It's great to hear input from one who has actually been directly involved in the operation of a raceway for so many years. Would you answer a question?

You focus on the "racing" element in the main part of your post. How has the birthday party and "walk-in' rental side of the business been? What type of advertising have you done?

It has been decades since we did parties. It is something we hope to return to in the near future. And our location doesn't lend itself to much walk-in traffic. I am as guilty of failing to capitalize on opportunities as many other track owners. What helps keep the doors open is our full line hobby business. Frankly, we stay so busy with the other hobby categories that we seldom have time to devote to slot racing promotion. We ain't rich but we ain't starving either. Advertising is a tricky thing. We have done radio, print, direct mail, and a couple of other ad "gimmicks". We have NOT advertised our slot racing except as a addition to another product ad. Do I think we have got our money's worth?? The quick answer is NO. Very few coupons were returned and our informal poll of new customers didn't indicate many saw our ad. BUT, it is possible that the ads increased awareness of our store which may have led to future visits beyond the time frame of the ads.

You said I was focusing on the racing element. Not really. Anytime two or more people hook up a controller its a "race". You don't have to have a race director or a counting system. They still measure themselves and their cars against the other. During open track hours how many times have you had a new inexperienced racer pull his car or not buy more time when the "fast" guys show up? They say it's because they don't want to be in the way. Maybe. But they also don't want to look so slow next to the others. Human nature.

I have always felt that a slot track needed to be run with the mindset that it is more an "amusement" and less of a hobby. Not that there isn't a place for the slot car hobbyist. Heck, I IS One :D BUT, the "amusement" customers will generate most of the $$$ which will keep the doors open and enable us hobbyists to enjoy slot racing in our own way.
Since my dad's passing last year, my wife and I decided to completely "re-invent" the business. My goal is to get more casual "runners" while not alienating my serious racers. Talk about a balancing act. :D I have been contacting, for example, the managers of local Firestone and Goodyear dealers and offering a monthly "employee get together" racing slot cars. Also the local Ford, Chevy, etc. dealerships. I want to get a good group from each and pit them against each other with bragging rights to the winners and "The Wall of Shame" to the losers. They will all race on different nights and their group's combined laps will be compared to the other groups to determine the winners. That way each dealership will work together as a team to try and defeat their competitors. Maybe even award a monthly "Manufacturers Cup". A traveling trophy??

I am going to throw out the book as far as race format and procedures. I am going to try anything I can think of that is unique and new. If you look back at some of the things that AMCR suggested in their publications some seem a little corny. Hot dog races? Pursuit events? Best team lap racing ( like best ball golfing). But who knows. Anything is worth trying. Once these customers are "hooked" then I will introduce them to "conventional" racing. (ie Challenge Cup or IRRA etc.). If they don't like it, OK, back to the "offbeat" stuff. Those that like it will help grow our regular programs. Euro rotation with 3 on 3 off. Lane stickers required.

Mike McMasters
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#18 Horsepower

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 09:42 AM

Although I was very young (7 years) when my parents first opened our raceway...

I have never heard it put so perfectly in just a few paragraphs. Thanks, Mike!

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#19 Bill from NH

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 01:05 PM

It didn't fade in all parts of the US in 1967-68. Where I lived, in southern Maine, we didn't have a commercial raceway open until the fall of 1967. The shake-out didn't occur until 4 or 5 years later. New raceways were still opening in parts of New England well into the mid-to late '70s. :D
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#20 Noose

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 01:27 PM

I am a 51 year old man who is starting to feel like a teenager again .Who said you can't go traveling back in time??? :D How about we set aside all the squabbles about motors and tires and rules etc and concentrate on the magic of reliving some of the best times of our lives.

I'm older but it has had the same effect one me! Hopefully the IRRA will enable us to just that. I'm looking forward to being at the race and meeting you in person.
Joe "Noose" Neumeister
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Lexan is my canvas!
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The only thing bad about Retro is admitting that you remember doing it originally.

#21 markdshark

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 08:12 AM

As Cheater says, I suffered from the fumes... gasoline fumes from the cost of the real car, perfume from the girls, and most of all motor fumes cuz having to change motors in between heats was just plain stupid. So in 1971 I stopped. When I came back for a short time in 77-78, I didn't get into it seriously and at that time R/C was starting to take over.

Here, in the midwest, we simply transitioned into R/C. If you were looking for a more realistic auto racing experience, R/C was the natural way to go. Besides, some of the early R/C kits weren't that much more expensive, than a competitive slot car. You could buy a Veco .19 engine, for a lot less than a good rewind.
Mark Parus
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#22 Mark Wampler

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 09:36 AM

How about we set aside all the squabbles about motors and tires and rules etc and concentrate on the magic of reliving some of the best times of our lives."

I like this quote Noose, but too many people want to be right and spare no heartache to prove their point.
You can quote me.

-Mark

#23 CruzinBob

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 11:25 AM

...I have always felt that a slot track needed to be run with the mindset that it is more an "amusement" and less of a hobby... Talk about a balancing act.

... I am going to throw out the book as far as race format and procedures. I am going to try anything I can think of that is unique and new...

I very much agree about the amusement part. Jim Honeycutt (Magnatech Raceway/Products) has been professing this mentality for years and I listen to him carefully. As a racer-inspired track owner however, the ease of adhering to established race programs is difficult to shed.

Not many talk about the difficulty of the interaction between "casual" and "serious" participants. We've considered having different tracks for different situations but all that does is limit your potential and present divisions and unease. There are many scenarios I've gone over in my mind over the years and I still don't see how the two mentaliities can coexist.

I also agree that more "relaxed" and "silly fun" type race programs should supplement at least one basic hardcore race program. I am a hardcore racer at heart, albeit a "fedex" racer whenever possible and totally enjoy a well-organized USRA type program. I don't personally like "break-out" programs but believe there is definitely a place for that in a weekly program in any raceway.

One program you should look into is the format used at Pelican Park (OR). It takes a while to figure out but they use one heat races to qualify for finals. The simple outcome is that some losers can become winners and there is a lot of racing involved.

#24 Tom Thumb Hobbies

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 04:19 PM

Bob,

It is difficult to mix "casual" and "serious" in the same program/race. That is why I try to NOT put the "casual" racer and the "serious" racer into direct contact until I have had time to hook the "casuals" on the hobby. My idea for the Firestone dealership vs Goodyear dealership was to expose them to racing without the total focus being on winning (yet). My thought was that on "Firestone Night", for example, even though they would be racing against their co-workers the focus would be on helping each other do well and beating the Goodyear teams stats. I am hoping that the cooperative effort to do well will soften the "win at all cost" effect at least until some are as addicted as I am to slots and move to the "Bigs". :rolleyes:

Break-out? We don need no stinkin' break-out. :D :D Like you I am a hardcore racer. I am a co-founder of the "If You Can't Race It, It's Useless Society". Unfortunately a big percentage of slot "runners" don't stick around long enough to contract that disease. Too bad. While not fatal there is no known cure.

Thanks for the link to Pelican Park. As soon as I have more time I will take a look.

Mike McMasters
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#25 markdshark

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 07:44 AM

In both slot racing and R/C, I've always treated it as a fun hobby, not a competition. I've enjoyed the camaraderie, the travel, and the experience. If I did well, so much the better. If I didn't, I still had a good time.

I think that's the secret, to keep you from burning out! When it stops being fun, then it's time to stop!!! Does this mean I'm not serious about racing? I don't know! Is Frank Kimmel (9-time ARCA champion) not serious, because he's not running NASCAR??? Some of us have found a comfort zone, and are happy with that level of competition. But either way, it keeps us coming back!
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#26 sportblazer350

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 01:41 PM

In reading these posts, and references to Retro racing nowadays (how great it is), reasons why the hobby faded 40 years ago - I see a (maybe?) parallel... now I know this may ruffle some feathers, but let me throw this out for thought: one of the (many) reasons for the hobby fading seems to have been serious slot racers. Comments about the serious racers who (1) did not buy much from the shop owners, (2) built their own chassis and motors, (3) sold their hand-built products to others vs the raceway selling parts and/or RTR cars.

... Now here is a similar situation today: Retro/D-3 racing: scratchbuilt chassis built by the race winners, then these same folk selling their hand-built chassis to others for joining into this class... again, raceways NOT selling chassis and/or RTR cars to would-be racers...

Don't get me wrong here - I am one to be joining into retro and D-3 racing very soon, as well as true vintage 1960s racing. I just happened to notice this similarity in your posts, and thought it might be "food for thought". The retro racing, using RTR or chassis kits sold by the raceways, gets $$$ in their pockets on top of the track time and race fees.

And another 1960s reason for shops closing you others brought up: new rules, causing older products to be non-sellers for the raceway owners - I have seen this first hand, today, at a raceway I know of... where constant rules changes got an owner stuck with hundreds of $$ of products now deemed illegal in retro racing... how does that help an owner to stay in business?? I think the racers themselves, as another posted, can be part of the reason for decline in the hobby. We must take the raceway owners into consideration - no raceways, no hobby, unless it all retreats to garages and basements... :angry:

Another segment of the hobby that is growing each and every month worldwide: 1/32 scale plastic cars. Like them or not, it is GROWING and 1/24 commercial is... not...(?)... at least not at the same rate 1/32 scale is. Again, food for thought and discussion.

Glenn Orban
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#27 Prof. Fate

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 02:14 PM

Hi,

... then these same folk selling their hand-built chassis to others for joining into this class......again, raceways NOT selling chassis and/or RTR cars to would be racers...

This part isn't accurate. With a few exceptions, the chassis is the ONLY part not sourced at the shop (except most shops carried pro chassis as well), and the shop supplied the drop arm, brackets, pre-fab pans, and the brass and steel.

Local tracks outside of LA but in driving distance, often sent people to the Arcos in CA to buy chassis from people like Steube and Tore to sell in their shops. Often Steube was being conned. That is, the guys would see some earnest kid, and since they were doing a new set of chassis anyway, would GIVE the chassis to the kids, not realizing that the tracks were sending "shills".

But from the standpoint of the track, the only difference between a D3 racer and the Flexi racer is the cost paid for the chassis.

Fate
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#28 Robert Livingston

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 09:03 PM

I was one of the earlier drop-outs. I started with a Strombecker home set c. 1963, and by 1965 I was racing 1/32 scale, scratch and parts-built cars to Aintree/Southport rules in a club. In 1966 the commercial tracks (as opposed to the hobby store with a store-built four-laner in the basement) started drawing the racers, and I built a car for a buddy to drive. Cars were still scale models. By 1967 my old racing friends had dropped out of the hobby for college, and by 1968 it seemed the hobby had disappeared. I went on to Industrial Design school, and bought out a fellow-student's entire slot car pile of parts and cars from his time at Polk's Hobbies in NYC, a few years earlier. I was still interested in slot cars, but there didn't seem to be anyone racing the way we did in 1965. The slot car parts and cars were gone from the hobby shops.

Over the next decades, I set up floor tracks in my various apartments and houses, off and on, scouring flea markets and close-outs for cars and equipment. I always had friends interested in building models, but mostly of mililtary or railroad subjects. Though these years, I would occasionally walk into a surviving slot car raceway, only to be confronted with ugly, freeway-wide eight-lane tracks, devoid of even an attempt at scenery. Since my cars had been developed on sectional floor tracks, they were pretty hopeless, and lost on these mega-tracks. And the cars that DID race there looked like, well, they looked like they had roller skate wheels, and they looked like they had been built by adults, but designed by children! They were the ugliest, most badly-proportioned models I had ever seen. As a model maker (I had worked as a professional for a while, oddly enough in a place that had a track in the 1960s, and had manufactured slot car parts) I didn't see much value in non-scale models. My background was in scale modeling.

It wasn't until the plastic RTR upsurge that I came back into the hobby full time, and started applying my 1965 slot car skills again. It is good to be back, racing in the club scene again, and running 1/32 scale proxy races through the internet.

To me, the biggest problem slot car racing has had is the non-scale approach. But that's just me, and a few other guys.

#29 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 11:58 PM

Glenn,

D3 racing here in SoCal is set up to not repeat the mistakes of 40 years ago. At BPR, you'll find that the local chassis builders (Steube, Easterly, etc.) sell their chassis thru Chris at BPR. The revenue generated by our SoCal racing goes thru Chris. The D3 motor we use is sold thru Chris. Legal D3 bodies are sold thru Chris at BP.

Paul Sterrett well knows the pitfalls of the past and has remained steadfast in not giving in to others' wishes. He is determined to be the "benevolent dictator of D3" to steer D3 in the right course and not allow the mistakes of the past to ruin the "rebirth" of the golden years of slotracing here in SoCal.

Let's hope others across the nation and the world for that matter join in realizing the long term health of our beloved hobby depends on supporting (with purchases) our local raceway. Strict control of the D3 rules will always be towards supporting our local raceway, otherwise a repeat of the mistakes made 40 years ago will once again ruin our hobby.

Keith :rolleyes:
Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68

#30 gascarnut

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 03:26 PM

I think that most of us who are building Retro frames for sale to new racers are trying to do so through the local raceway(s). Sometimes it is just not possible, but we all recognize the need to keep the raceways open.

But even if we don't sell everything through a raceway, the frame alone is not the only piece that needs to be bought and it is not the piece that generates the most income for the raceway owner. Motors, tires, bodies, and then all the other running gear, all generate income to the raceway owner, as well as the race entry fees.

Every extra racer is a potential source of extra income to the raceway owner, whether he bought his frame over the counter or not.
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#31 Noose

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 04:20 PM

Let's hope others across the nation and the world for that matter join in realizing the long term health of our beloved hobby depends on supporting (with purchases) our local raceway. Strict control of the D3 rules will always be towards supporting our local raceway, otherwise a repeat of the mistakes made 40 years ago will once again ruin our hobby.

Raceways here aren't close and some don't sell much retro stuff at all, even though races are held there. Thus, the internet is making up for that void so I encourage raceways to sell via their websites, too.
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#32 Rick

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 10:28 PM

Raceways here aren't close and some don't sell much retro stuff at all

Definitive retro parts = complete K&S rack. LOL.

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#33 Noose

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 07:48 AM

That's the truth for sure!
Joe "Noose" Neumeister
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The only thing bad about Retro is admitting that you remember doing it originally.

#34 Cheater

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 09:01 AM

To me, the biggest problem slot car racing has had is the non-scale approach. But that's just me, and a few other guys.

PdL and I argue about this point all the time.

While I agree that commercial slot racing's increasing non-scale aspect didn't help, I really can't agree that the "scaleness" factor is the "biggest problem". Consider that the slot cars raced in commercial raceways were quite a bit more scale in the '60s, yet the overbuilt raceway industry still crashed. The move to less-scale cars happened after the raceway industry experienced its great contraction.

Revenue/income per square foot of store space, a commonly-used metric in retail, is miniscule for most slot car raceways and that's the central problem. That same square foot of retail space has a cost (overhead) that must be paid. If the income it produces is not sufficient to cover the overhead, it's only a matter of time before the door gets locked for good. And I really question whether having slot cars as scale as HO trains in the display cases would have a significant impact on that metric or on the numbers of people coming in the front door.

Scale appearance is a factor, but it is not the critical factor IMO. If that were the case, where are the reports of raceways achieving notable success by taking that approach? I certainly haven't heard of any...

JimHT, Cruzin' Bob, and Mike McM. understand that the vast majority of their customers will be players, not racers, and that making it easy and painless for the players to have fun is one of the best ways to increase the above-mentioned sq ft income. The real question (as Mike McM. raised) is whether the players and the racers can happily co-exist as components in a raceway's clientele. I'll say this: not many raceways seem to have had much success is achieving such a goal.

The racing organizations, while professing a desire to increase participation in their niche in support of the raceways, have tended historically to drive people away, largely due to their overly complex and confusing rules and classes (while de-emphasizing scale appearance), combined with the promulgation of "faster is better" and "speed secrets" mindsets.
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#35 CruzinBob

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 12:05 PM

Well, 'spose it's time to chime in here....

Greg is totally wise within his years. :laugh2: There are certainly many reasons for the failings of raceways thru the years and I think he's pointed out the biggest factor - rent. Some have said you must keep your rent down to survive... SURVIVE, what a defeatist attitude! BUT there have been some open raceways who are not racers but true businessmen (Cruzin' Tarzana; Chequered Flag, Reseda; Raceway USA, Portland) and did very well for a short time. Cruzin' had a good one-year run focusing on rentals and parties. Chequered Flag did the same (rentals/parties) and also did very well with hardcore racers but there was that difficult mix just like oil and water.

Jim does well with an appropriate attitude towards rentals in a mall setting. Buena Park does well servicing the hardcore racers in an OK location. Don't forget BP has about 10 million potential racers in a 100 mile radius.

I like to think that scale cars bring forth much more interest than the blob slot car. And from what I've experienced in my raceways and on the road this is absolutely true. BUT just as soon as one pulls the trigger, they no longer think about what the car looks like, only what great feeling they have with the quick response the little missile gives them. The initial interest of racing a scale car is overshadowed by the adrenalin of actually racing it. The thing that I am wondering about is R-E-S-P-E-C-T... the true scale car inspires respect for the car and will have a lasting effect while the blob car inspires awe for its speed and handling and that has fleeting inspirations.

It's always interesting to see what everyone thinks. :)
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#36 jimht

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 03:04 PM

What do you think was the main reason that slot car racing faded so quickly in popularity in 1967-68?

OK, I'll chip in...Personally I was in Nam from '67-'69 so it was obviously caused by the fact that I was no longer involved. :laugh2:
When I got back I merrily went on my way playing with slot cars wherever I found a Raceway, unaware that such things were dying everywhere. In fact, I proceeded to buy one & keep it going ever since, not realizing I was beating a dead horse.
Such lunacy aside, I think it was not so much the move away from scale that caused the problem, but what caused the move in the first place: unrealistically big tracks that allowed speed rather than limiting it.
This continues today with the "King", or any other similar track that has long enough straights for horsepower & aerodynamics to dominate.

Tracks shouldn't drive away those who really prefer realistic slower cars or force them to go faster to play.
This doesn't mean it's necessary to have small tracks, just tracks that have shorter straights.
Conversely, track designs that are both big & slow aren't good for commercial locations...time wasted chasing the car & inefficient use of expensive floor space.
How to make money from any leisure time activity: Golf, Bowling even Slot Cars... :D
Rig it so anyone can play whether they own the equipment or not.
Charge those who rent premium prices.
Don't assume anyone is willing to stop whatever they're currently doing to get involved:
"I've already got enough Hobbies."
Sell the equipment to those who want it, but don't change the environment to cater to them.
Remember, the profit margin is much higher for the player than the addict.
Don't set up race programs that require large investments in inventory. Racers are merchandisely fickle.
You can't sell from an empty cart, but it's not necessary to tie up a lot of money in inventory to sell merchandise.
If you can't get it quickly, the manufacturer probably changed it already.

Jim Honeycutt

"I don't think I'm ever more 'aware' than I am right after I hit my thumb with a hammer." - Jack Handey [Deep Thoughts]


#37 GT40

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 03:15 PM

If I did not have slot racing experience from my childhood I would consider the raceways I am familiar with pretty intimidating places to try to learn about the hobby. And there's not a lot of user friendly introductory material out there. For that matter I still shake my head and go "Huh?"when I try to read the USRA rulebook.

I understand the importance of casual customers to a business; but I would think one always hopes to convert the birthday party types into hobbyists at some point.

I recall when I was kid, there were always two tracks reserved for rentals and practice, and one track for racing.

I have heard that the drag racers are the guys that contribute the most to keeping Buena Park Raceway open. We didn't have a drag strip where I was as a kid, but it seems like a good way to get started in slots. The driving and cars are (seemingly) less complicated than road cars.
Steve Walker
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#38 jimht

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 03:43 PM

I understand the importance of casual customers to a business; but I would think one always hopes to convert the birthday party types into hobbyists at some point.

You're right, but you miss the point.
There's no need to do that to make money, in fact it's possible to make more by not doing so.
The only sure thing is the higher the bar, the fewer that will step over it.
Whacking a ball with a stick isn't too complicated, beating Tiger Woods is.
However, one can have fun playing with the same toys as Tiger, on the same links as Tiger, vicariously pretending to be Tiger...even, as long as you don't have to beat his score.
When it becomes about the score, instead of "the journey", most walk away or just watch.

Jim Honeycutt

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#39 Cheater

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 03:54 PM

Damn, Jim, you've been making some excellent posts on this subject, both here and elsewhere, but the one above is one of your best.

The only sure thing is the higher the bar, the fewer that will step over it.

Whacking a ball with a stick isn't too complicated, beating Tiger Woods is. However, one can have fun playing with the same toys as Tiger, on the same links as Tiger, vicariously pretending to be Tiger... as long as you don't have to beat his score.

When it becomes about the score, instead of "the journey", most walk away or just watch.


Gregory Wells

Never forget that first place goes to the racer with the MOST laps, not the racer with the FASTEST lap

#40 stumbley

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 04:47 PM

Greg, it's obvious why Jim has been succesful; he "gets it."
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#41 jimht

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 05:09 PM

:thank_you2:
Hindsight is perfect.
:dash2:
Maybe I should retire & be a consultant... think it would pay more per hour than a Birthday Party?

Jim Honeycutt

"I don't think I'm ever more 'aware' than I am right after I hit my thumb with a hammer." - Jack Handey [Deep Thoughts]


#42 Tex

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 05:27 PM

Maybe. But then you'd miss out on getting to keep any food or grab bags left behind.
Richard L. Hofer

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#43 stumbley

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 06:28 PM

... Kind of like having their cake and eating it, too?
Stan Smith
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Democracies endure until the citizens care more for what the state can give them than for its ability to defend rich and poor alike; until they care more for their privileges than their responsibilities; until they learn they can vote largess from the public treasury and use the state as an instrument for plundering, first those who have wealth, then those who create it -- Jerry Pournelle.

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action. - George Washington

Things that are Too Big To Fail sooner or later become like Queen Bees, the Alpha and Omega of all activity, resulting in among other things, the inability to think of anything else but servicing them. - Richard Fernandez, The Belmont Club

#44 CruzinBob

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 07:33 PM

Maybe. But then you'd miss out on getting to keep any food or grab bags left behind.

Don't forget they let them run around with alcohol in that mall. :D

#45 Tom Thumb Hobbies

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 10:02 PM

Such lunacy aside, I think it was not so much the move away from scale that caused the problem, but what caused the move in the first place: unrealistically big tracks that allowed speed rather than limiting it.
This continues today with the "King", or any other similar track that has long enough straights for horsepower and aerodynamics to dominate.

As a King track owner, I, of course, don't agree. What drove, and still drives, racers away is not the attempt to push the speed limitations of the track but the chase for the speed of their fellow racers who invested more time and money than they were willing to do. The only advantage, IMHO, to a smaller track is less rent.

When GT40 said "I understand the importance of casual customers to a business; but I would think one always hopes to convert the birthday party types into hobbyists at some point." you responded with a truly awesome comment.

There's no need to do that to make money, in fact it's possible to make more by not doing so.
The only sure thing is the higher the bar, the fewer that will step over it.
Whacking a ball with a stick isn't too complicated, beating Tiger Woods is.
However, one can have fun playing with the same toys as Tiger, on the same links as Tiger, vicariously pretending to be Tiger...even, as long as you don't have to beat his score.
When it becomes about the score, instead of "the journey", most walk away or just watch.

I completely agree. However, I try to convert those who get more serious into hobbyists so as to separate then from those who still just want to play. That way, those who are all about the "score" can be challenged without dampening the mood of those who care only about the journey.

One thing I know for sure. There about a million ways to make more money with less effort than owning a slot raceway. But few of them are as much of a challenge and VERY few are as much FUN. :D

Mike McMasters
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#46 Ron Hershman

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 10:41 PM

I like to think that scale cars bring forth much more interest than the blob slot car. And from what I've experienced in my raceways and on the road this is absolutely true. BUT just as soon as one pulls the trigger, they no longer think about what the car looks like, only what great feeling they have with the quick response the little missile gives them. The initial interest of racing a scale car is overshadowed by the adrenalin of actually racing it. The thing that I am wondering about is R-E-S-P-E-C-T... the true scale car inspires respect for the car and will have a lasting effect while the blob car inspires awe for its speed and handling and that has fleeting inspirations.

It's always interesting to see what everyone thinks. :)

While I was racing the Retro cars at the Sano, I was thinking... it's hard to tell the difference between a Ti22 and a Lola when the cars are at full speed on the track buzzing around. There could have been a wing body on a Flexi (with no air control) on the track going the same speed and the guy off the street would not have been able to tell a difference.

Only when there is a track call can one see how cool the cars look or the difference between styles. Not to mention those cool detailed bodies and interiors.

#47 jimht

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 10:57 AM

We must remember that Hobbyists are not necessarily racers.
Have we been successful by aiming at Racing as the be-all & end-all?
The question to ask ourselves is whether tracks that allow speed & expense to dominate actually have been good for our business generally.
I think not.
Renters & Birthday Parties are the perfect example:
much fun for all concerned, but it's the action rather than the speed that's the key...little cars crashing, competing...everyone involved...it's not the outcome that's important, it's the journey.

The Industry has had rather a narrow mindset product-wise since the boom of the Sixties.
"Improvements" have tended to be speed & racing related, rather than having a Hobby orientation.
The Peter Principle applied to slot cars. :laugh2:

There's little difference between a Flexi & a Wing Thing technically, one's just faster & more expensive than the other...& that's strictly a racing thing, not a Hobby thing. Simplicity may make for a good race car, but it's dull to tinker with.
I look at those cars & the tracks they're designed for as candy for the player that is attracted to speed & competition...& could care less about the Hobby.
Unfortunately, my experience is that the sale of these cars does not create long term Hobbyists.
...and that brings us back to the point of the thread.

It's obvious that some of us have been able to make a go of it in spite of the big fast tracks (I've got one), but the number of failures using the same format is countless...starting with the decline in 1967-68.
As I've said elsewhere, if you're going to hang your hat on a customer that is attracted to the track & the speed, you better make sure you've either got a bunch of them or you've got a few with very deep pockets.
No-one has been able to find a bunch of them...and the ones with deep pockets don't seem to care much about anything but "the adrenaline rush", cost be damned....and there aren't enough of them to keep us in business.

Jim Honeycutt

"I don't think I'm ever more 'aware' than I am right after I hit my thumb with a hammer." - Jack Handey [Deep Thoughts]


#48 stumbley

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 11:31 AM

Commercial raceways that are successful are in the business of selling entertainment, not racing. People come back to "race" because they had fun, not just because they "won."

An example: I belong to a club that has about 16 die-hard members who attend pretty nearly every race we have (every two weeks on average). There are two members who pretty much dominate the racing, winning consistently and often. The rest of us realistically have no chance of beating them in ANY case, barring severe car malfunction, yet we continue to show up. Why?

Because during our heats, there's competition amongst the lower-ranked guys, to the extent that at our last event, we had a "dice" going in which two racers were virtually side-by-side for about 10 laps in a 25-lap race! That was fun!

... And neither of those racers wound up in the top five for the day, didn't make the podium... but they had FUN racing. That's why they keep coming back. That, and that we have cars that look like cars, run on lower voltage on shorter tracks so that you actually can tell the difference between them, and we can all believe that we're actually driving a Ferrari or McLaren.

This is not to say that wing cars and big tracks don't have their attraction, but it does explain why many who "just play" avoid the commercial scene.
Stan Smith
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"No one is completely useless - you can always serve as a bad example." -PartiStan

Democracies endure until the citizens care more for what the state can give them than for its ability to defend rich and poor alike; until they care more for their privileges than their responsibilities; until they learn they can vote largess from the public treasury and use the state as an instrument for plundering, first those who have wealth, then those who create it -- Jerry Pournelle.

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action. - George Washington

Things that are Too Big To Fail sooner or later become like Queen Bees, the Alpha and Omega of all activity, resulting in among other things, the inability to think of anything else but servicing them. - Richard Fernandez, The Belmont Club

#49 Prof. Fate

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:55 PM

Hi,

When we were having the annual spring convention in Vegas, our traditional last event of the weekend was a stock Carrera 1/24 vintage race.

I promise that when that very-scale Corvette is turning 15 second laps EVERYONE can see it.

Grin.

Fate
Rocky Russo
3/6/48-1/1/12
Requiescat in Pace

#50 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 11:08 PM

It seems that when people are selfish and only think of themselves, they tend to not see the big picture. Paul Sterrett and SoCal D3 is determined to keep the focus on supporting our local raceway to benefit everyone. We feel this is the long term path we must take to prevent the mistakes of the past from recurring and maybe, just maybe provide a future for commercial raceways and slot racers.

Keep the focus on supporting your local raceway. Emphasize the fun aspect of slot car racing. Encourage and help new racers. Be unselfish and everyone will benefit. Hopefully, this approach will become more common throughout our hobby.

Keith :rolleyes:
Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68





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