TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Chris Tocco
Tuesday, Feb 9, 2016 05:38pm
By Aaron Waldron
Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!
In September 2014, I interviewed RC Tracks of Las Vegas owner Chris Tocco remotely from my hotel room in Italy during the IFMAR Worlds - it was just hours after the news broke that he had won the bid to host the 2016 Worlds.
A year and a half later, I shot him a message to learn more about his background, his goals for the incredible racing facility he created, and what we can expect when the RC world heads to Sin City later this year.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Chris Tocco: I’m 32 years old and originally from Temecula, CA. My wife and I moved to Las Vegas in January 2013.
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
CT: I first got an RC car in the mid-90s, as a Christmas preset from my grandfather. I raced off and on for a few years - usually when I was hurt from racing motocross. I really got into racing RC in 2002 when I retired from motocross. I raced all the big events from 2002-2005 then got back into racing in 2013.
AW: What was it that attracted you to RC racing after ending your motocross career?
CT: I always enjoyed RC racing and staying competitive. I started racing by entering the 2WD mod class at Hot Rod Hobbies, and what really hooked me was when Greg Degani let me drive his Kyosho 777 at KZ Speedway. It was so similar to racing motocross, from the way you had to choose lines around the track to how the car reacts from the input in the radio. I was born to compete and this was the best of both worlds! I could race something similar to motocross and not get hurt.
AW: How long did it take for you to start attracting sponsors? Did you realize that the RC racing scene so closely mimicked the scene of amateur and professional motocross?
CT: I have been close friends with Jared Tebo for a long time. He and his dad, Bruce, helped me learn 1/8-scale racing really fast. I had been racing 1/8-scale for about four months and had an opportunity to go testing one day with Jared and Steve O'Donnell. Steve approached me and offered to help me with engines and fuel. Then a few weeks later we had the Sidewinder race at KZ in Sun Valley, CA. I did well and made the main in pro buggy. After that I started getting some support from Kyosho.
I think motocross and R/C is very similar to how you attract your sponsorship or support. If you have a good work ethic, take care of your equipment, help others with the knowledge you learn from other racers and keep a professional and positive attitude that's what I feel really attracts companies to support you and your racing. I feel I have always received great support from companies in the MX and RC community not only by results but by being a good person to people and giving a helping hand when possible.
AW: What are some of your favorite memories and biggest accomplishments from your racing career?
CT: I think it was 2002 or 2003 Reedy Truck Race at Hot Rod Hobbies. I TQ’d Gas Truck and finished 3rd in the main. That was one of the first races Ty Tessmann came down from Canada to attend - he was like 9 or 10, and already very good! I also had a good week at the RC Pro Series in 2003 at KZ. I was kinda unknown and just started racing 1/8-scale, and I led 30mins of the one-hour final. It was pretty cool being an unknown and leading Kortz, Degani, Bradley, King, Korn and a bunch of other factory guys. Degani had just won the Worlds and leading those fast guys was a good memory.
AW: When did you first start kicking around the idea of starting your own track?
CT: I have always thought that with my MX and RC experience I could build a really cool facility, but since I lived in Southern California there were already a bunch of tracks - it didn't make sense to add another one. However, when we moved to Las Vegas in 2013 I realized that we needed a nitro track for the racers in the area. I had a goal to build a facility worthy of hosting the IFMAR Worlds. Everything just lined up from there and we have a pretty awesome facility where racers from all over the world come to compete!
AW: Since you already landed the 2016 IFMAR Worlds, what goals have you added to your list?
CT: I have a lot on my plate this year at the track. We just hosted the inaugural Nitro Encounter and attracted a bunch of top pros from around the world and all over the US. Then we have SilverState in March, the Worlds Warm-Up in May, and the IFMAR Worlds in October. My goal for these races is to always try to bring a well-organized, professional environment for all the racers competing.
Another goal for me is to help bring new racers or enthusiasts into the hobby. The track is only a mile from The Strip. We just put together a deal with a company to have RC rental packages available at 42 concierge desks at the popular hotels on The Strip, and we just got a fleet of Kyosho SC6s to provide good cars for our customers.
But my main goal for 2016 is to promote and build a Worlds event like nobody in RC racing has seen before! With the proper help and support from sponsors in the industry we should make this goal a reality come October.
AW: Has your perspective on RC racing changed since RC Tracks of Las Vegas opened?
CT: Absolutely. On the professional side first: seeing how dedicated some of the top pros are with their preparation and testing. I'm out at the track now watching some of the best racers in the world run lap after lap. They change settings and run more laps from sun-up to sun-down for days at a time. That's why they are some of the best in the world!
Also, trying to understand how a sportsman or new racer thinks and what they want out of the hobby shop and track. Trying to adjust to their needs and concerns over the first year has been challenging and rewarding at the same time.
It's a tough balance to make sure we provide a world-class facility for the best racers in the world, host some of the biggest races in the RC season, but also not forget the needs of the average racer that supports the track on a weekly basis. We are getting better at that and learning each day we are open.
Photo: Brian Lewis, via Facebook
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
CT: I love spending time with my wife, Kayla, and my one-year-old son, Landen. It's pretty cool starting a family and watching our little man grow. I also play a lot of poker - a personal hobby that I really enjoy. It's a very competitive sport and keeps my mind sharp.
AW: What’s the best part of the RC industry? What about it annoys or bothers you?
CT: The best thing I like about RC is meeting new people and seeing friends from all over the world. Since opening the track I have met so many great people in our sport.
Something that RC racers really need to learn is that while we are all competing and want to win we all started this to have fun. I really hate it when I see people fighting or yelling at their kids at the track. Also, some of the racers I see complaining about trivial things at the track. Even with all the money, time and countless hours our staff have spent on our facility people will still find something to complain about. I just don't think racers realize what it takes to put on even a club race or local event. let alone something like the SilverState that we have coming up next month. I would like all the racers to appreciate the club or track they have and help it grow and support it so that new racers will be able to enjoy the hobby/sport.
AW: How do you explain to non-RC friends what you do?
CT: It's funny because when I tell people that I own a RC racing facility they look at me funny. Then I tell them some of these guys make six figures racing $3000 cars all over the world their eyes light up. I explain to people that RC is, in a way, like poker was in the early 2000s. Before poker became what is it today when you thought of someone making a living playing poker it was always a smokey card room with people gambling with their rent money. Now it's so popular that the general public realizes that their are people making millions playing and making a really good living. If the RC industry could get the same recognition the general public would realize the same about RC racing and it would be more well-known.
AW: What are some of the biggest changes you've made to RC Tracks of Las Vegas, and what are you most excited about for the Worlds?
CT: We have been working on the blue groove conditions and have made some some great improvements to the racing surface. I am looking forward to the SilverState and learning more about how to make it consistent and stay together really well.
We are really excited to present the worlds on a professional level and bring World Championship RC racing up to the level it deserves. I can't wait to see the 2016 World Champ come off the drivers stand with the trophy in hand and greet all the people that made the sacrifice to help achieve that goal. To be a part of something so special to a racer is going to be really great experience.
Photo: Kyle Johnson, via Facebook
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
CT: Man, their are so many to list. First I want to thank my wife for supporting me on this adventure of owning RC Tracks of Las Vegas.
My partner David for all the help and knowledge he brings to the business and track.
Our staff at the track; Troy, Max and Shannon for all the work they put in.
On the racing side, the guys at Kyosho: Joe Pillars, Futoshi Ishihara and Yuichi Kanai for everything that they have done for me and the track.
Joel Johnson and Mark Pavidis from AKA for the personal support and all the support at the track.
Daniel from Pro-Line for supporting the track as well.
All the racers that continue to race with us every week and support the shop!
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CT: Thanks Aaron! We are looking forward to seeing everyone out at the track racing with us this season. Just don't forget to have fun! That's what got us in this and what will attract new racers to help grow the sport. See you at the races!