By Mike Garrison
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!
This week rather than travel around the world, I decided to call over my fellow co-worker here at LiveRC from a few desks over, Tyler Hooks. While Tyler has lot of interesting topics that we could discuss, it has just been announced that he is taking over the management of the RC Pro Series - one of the original nationwide off-road R/C racing series in America. Through various owners and changes since its early beginnings over a decade ago, the series that was once popular around the nation, has been confined to primarily Texas for the past several years. With Tyler taking the reigns, we sit down for this week's Talk It Up Tuesday to discuss the RC Pro Series past, present, and future in the hands of Hooks.
LiveRC: Welcome Tyler, thank you for making the trip all the way from your cubicle to mine for this edition of Talk It Up Tuesday. The reason you are here today is some very exciting news regarding the RC Pro Series, as you will now be taking over correct?
Tyler: Lol yeah thanks for rolling this down the metaphorical hallway to me. RC Pro is still owned by Indy RC World, but I will be taking over the promotion and management aspects in an effort to help grow the brand in conjunction with the Indy crew.
LiveRC: How did this all come about, and what made you decide you would like to pursue being the owner/director of the RC Pro Series?
Tyler: Well, I have raced in the RC Pro series since I was probably 15. It has been THE series to race if you live in Texas for over a decade. When I began racing the series Jason Branham, Mike Battaile, and David Joor would battle it out pretty much every race it was epic. Fast forward to today, Jake Dellinger is the man to beat with guys like myself, Brandon Rose, Dillon Caldwell, Ethan Lefebvre, and Noah Dickerson. The competition is still the same the names are just different.
(RC Pro Series at Real R/C Raceway in 2008)
LiveRC: My first RC Pro Series race was in 2007 at Real R/C Raceway, which then led me to follow the entire series right down to the finals in Texas. When was your first RC Pro Series race?
Tyler: I am pretty sure my first event was the 2012 State Series first round at Gulf Coast Raceway/Mikes Hobby Shop.
LiveRC: When, who, and how did the RC Pro Series get started in the first place?
Tyler: The original owner was Forrest St. Clair with help from Mike Battaile who attempted to grow and expand the series all around the country. Frosty is actually back racing with us after a long hiatus. Carlton Eppes then took over and I believe that is where you saw RCPro Products for a short time. For a while in the early 2000s up until when I started racing, the series was owned by David Lovett and his wife. The Lovett’s turned over the reigns due to health reasons. The series then bounced around for a bit before it was purchased by the Indy Crew in late 2016.
(RC Pro Series Finals in 2007 - Organized by Carlton Eppes)
LiveRC: In my opinion, when the RC Pro Series became a Texas only series, that was a major let down to a lot of racers nationwide. Will we ever see the series become a nationwide series again?
Tyler: Well this year, the series has two rounds in Oklahoma and one in Louisiana. Yeah, it is a majority Texas series though. If execution goes well next year and we meet the goals that have been laid out, then expansion is the goal ultimately.
LiveRC: Another aspect of the RC Pro Series that I believe helped boost local racing was the various smaller state series races that were organized. Do you have plans to bring back the RC Pro State Series as well?
Tyler: Right now it is still too early to know really what we and the industry are capable of handling. Texas is an anomaly considering that there are so many tracks due to the size of the state. There are only a few other states that have the size to handle their own independent series. I think the focus will primarily be put on defining regions and executing upon those first.
LiveRC: As a promoter, what does it take put together a series such as this that draws in the big names, keeps them happy, but also keeps the weekend warriors and privateer racers happy as well?
Tyler: Personally, my main focus isn’t the big name drivers right now. They don’t really pay the bills of the series. I want to keep the warriors and privateers happy first, and then if there is extra money left over then maybe we can foot the hotel or flight of a bigger name. These regional events don’t really do a whole lot for guys like Maifield, but they can gain fans and change customer perception by doing them.
LiveRC: What are your immediate plans for the remainder of 2018 series?
Tyler: This year the focus is making everything more transparent. I want all the racers to feel like they know everything about the event and feel like their participation means something. As the owner of Indy says, we are throwing a long 3 day party for these guys and gals, so we want them to go home having had a good time and feeling like they got their monies worth.
LiveRC: What are your plans for 2019 series and beyond?
Tyler: Next year we plan on splitting the Texas/Louisiana/Oklahoma region in two considering it’s size. North and South and hosting 2 series’ with a combined finals so that we can all meet up for a big event late next year. If we can pull that all off with only minor mishaps then it is time to look at frying bigger fish if you will.
LiveRC: In your opinion, what is one aspect of R/C racing that needs to be changed in order to continue growing our sport and bringing racers back?
Tyler: I think regions like mine really need to take a look at the initial cost to play. We love 1/8-scale down here and that’s great, but it’s hard for moms and dads to drop a grand on something little Timmy may or may not want to throw in the trash in a month. 1/10-scale racing is so much cheaper and easier to deal with as an intermediate step from Walmart toys to a nitro buggy. A local shop near me, RCHQ, just opened an oval last year for Friday night racing and it is killing it. It gives the local kids something to do with their Christmas presents and doesn’t require even $600 to compete right off the bat.
(Saturday Night Oval winners from RCHQ)
LiveRC: As a promotor, what is your opinion of what can we do to breathe life back into local club racing?
Tyler: This is difficult, get creative I guess. Daniel Grobe, one of our local race directors implemented an idea on Wednesday nights at Thornhill where everyone races three times like triple a-main style, and every race is heads up. You pick your starting spot randomly and best 2 of the 3 races count. We are in and out in less than 3 hours and it’s fun. I think it just comes down to changing things up sometimes and making things interesting. I have seen street outlaws style two lap races at tracks like Beach RC. It’s just nice to do something different sometimes.
LiveRC: $@^! here comes the boss! Go back to your cubicle and act like your working on something! Wait…is there anything you would like to add before you go?
Tyler: Big thank you to my dad for supporting all my wild ideas, and the Indy RC World and RC Pro crew for implementing some of them. See you guys at the track!