By Aaron Waldorn
From Erik Steel of NEORA:
Resurrecting the Hobby One Smile at a Time
Many a conversations have been held in respect to bringing new blood into our passionate hobby and so far I haven’t had one conversation that could help us target the next generation of RC racers. Many of the young guns coming up through the ranks are children of the parents who were in the hobby themselves, and unless we all start pumping out our own army of kids, deflection will eventually fizzle into nonexistence.
Lake City Speedway in Plattsburgh NY is a facility like not too many others. It is brand new construction, within a busy shopping mall, and is likely the nicest facility in the country as far as carpet oval racing is concerned. The season opening North East Oval Racers Association event held October 7-8 boasted 128 entries from as many as 400 miles away. What was more impressive than that was the constant flock of onlookers popping in from the mall to check out what we were doing. I noticed early in the day that several young kids from the mall were very heavily focused on watching the action, many of whom were cheering on a car/driver they never met, and I could see that there is an opportunity to maybe snag one new blood that day.
Being a full sized race car driver, I always had the marketing materials at hand for car shows, sponsor appreciation days, or race day festivities. One day I decided to make my own RC hero cards, more as a comical gag between friends, but then I actually had some kids genuinely ask for my autographed cards. The light switched on. As a kid I remember going to events with my parents, most specifically a trip to a short track in Claremont NH, and it was Ken Schrader night. I was at the autograph booth first in line and I also won the chance to ride in the pace car that night as Ken drove it. I am a Ken Schrader fan to this day, and I am a racer today as well, much believed to have been from this experience.
Throughout the race weekend I watched as kids came and went, and if I got my eye on one that seemed very interested, I went up to them, introduced myself, told them that I had started in this sport at an age very close to theirs, personalized a hero card and watched them covet that thirty cent piece of cardstock like Dale Earnhardt just gave it to them. They didn’t know me, and frankly I am a no name in this word, just a man with the love for a hobby that has been in my life for a long time.
Some racers poke fun at my antics, many are my friends and I joke with them as well, but what no one can say is that I didn’t try something to help us grow. In closing, I would like to challenge all of the racers, big name or none, to think about what they can do to bring just 1 smile to a kids face and get them into our passionate brotherhood.
Erik “Horsedog” Steel