By Mike Garrison
My full-time R/C racing “career” got started over a decade ago, and like many racers I started out racing the local 1/10-scale stock buggy and truck classes. All my friends were racing modified so, to keep up with the cool kids, I ditched my stock motors only a few months into my career for the fastest 10-double brushed motors I could find. I have been a full-time mod racer ever since, with no thought or consideration of ever returning to stock racing.
Recently, my wife and I packed up the truck and prepared to head south for a trophy race in Arkansas. My dad, who was an avid R/C racer in the late 80s and early 90s, was planning to join us as well. A surprise warm front moved through, and my dad made a last-minute decision to stay home to ride his dirt bike. After arriving at the track, I realized we still had all my dad’s stuff still piled up in the backseat - including his new 17.5 stock buggy.
My dad is not one to let someone borrow or “try driving” his stuff. Whether it’s his dirt bikes or his R/C cars, those are his and only his to ride and drive…unless he’s not around to know about it. Against my better judgement, I decided there was no reason for his new stock buggy to miss out on the fun, so I charged it up for a bit of practice.
They say that kids who grow up too fast and act like adults “missed out on the fun of childhood.” Three laps into practice I realized that, after ten years of modified buggy racing, I have missed out on the fun of stock spec classes.
I ended up racing the stock buggy class that weekend, and several more weekends to follow, and have now decided to it’s time to build my own stock buggy.
The common stereotype is that 17.5 buggy is an entry-level class for sportsman-level racers. I was among the crowd of modified racers who believed that for years; however, I now have a totally different perspective.
On a local level at many tracks around the country, the stock classes may in fact be what most entry-level and sportsman class racers choose to enter. In the Midwest, however, some of the most talented, consistent, and skilled drivers around are found racing stock – despite not always having the support, sponsorship, and backing that many mod-class racers have.
I saw this firsthand at the recent Hanging Judge race hosted by GS Hobby. Lap times around the small track were in the 6-7 second range, and the extra power of modified motors provided little to no advantage. I entered both stock and mod buggy, with both a stock and modified buggy. After qualifying, I found myself sitting fifth in stock and well out of the A-main in modified. I was bumped out of the A-main by a number of drivers, but the one who stood out the most was my good pal Cole Henriksen - a local stock racing guru. Cole not only TQ’d and dominated the stock class, but also TQ’d one round of modified and qualified into the A-Main behind Jared Tebo, JR Mitch, and several other regional mod racer hotshots using the same 17.5 buggy in both classes. Power was not a factor at GS Hobby - it was pure skill and consistency. Cole’s performance was the first of many examples to come in later weeks of the talent hidden within the stock class.
I am not personally a threat to anyone in either stock or mod, but for actual fast guys it is often frowned upon for modified racers to “drop down” to stock classes. Stock class racing presents an awesome set of challenges and emphasizes the need for consistency, perfect line choice, and strategy that isn’t always found in the modified ranks. As I have found myself paying more attention to the class, I have realized that as an industry we need to eliminate the stereotype that “sportsman” and “stock” are defined as the same thing. I would agree that more entry-level and sportsman-class drivers are found in stock than mod; however, I believe that a change needs to be made to open stock-class racing up for pros and average Joes alike.
Racing 1/10-scale stock buggies is very similar to 1/8-scale nitro buggies: both have a limit on engine/motor size, both are highly scrutinized for weight, and the vehicle’s fuel tank or battery capacity can be very important. The difference is that, instead of limiting 1/8-scale nitro buggy to strictly sportsman and entry-level racers, the industry welcomes all skill levels.
Why is stock limited and “intended for” entry-level racers only? Why are we not lining the fences to cheer and scream while watching a nail-biting battle between Ryan Maifield and Dakotah Phend in stock buggy as we do in mod?
I agree that the hobby needs an entry-level 1/10-scale electric off-road class, such as Sportsman 1/8-scale buggy is to nitro racing, but I believe that by closing the doors of 17.5 class racing to the sport’s top pros - and by shaming those who choose to compete in a more rigidly-structured division - we are missing out on an entirely different world of excitement, action, and competition.
My hat is off to the select few events scattered around the nation who welcome all skill levels to both stock and mod classes, and opening the doors of new challenges and excitement that stock class racing has to offer.