By Tyler Hooks
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!
For this week's Talk It Up Tuesday, we sit down with Brian Burnette to discuss the highs and the lows of being a long-time racer turned track owner and series promoter.
LiveRC: Welcome Brian as this week’s guest to “Talk It Up Tuesday”! For those who may not know you, lets start at the beginning. Who, what, when, where, how, and why did you first get involved in R/C car racing?
Brian: Hello and thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my story with you guys. I'm Brian Burnette, I'm 47 years old, my home town is Gainesville, Georgia where I currently live. I've always had a huge interest in RC cars as a kid and had several different types growing up and doing the back yard bashing thing. I got into the racing side of RC racing in 1997 when a friend of mine invited me to a track in Buford, Georgia called The Sugar Bowl, and the new hot thing was the Associated RC10GT Nitro Truck. Man when I seen that thing and the off road track, me coming from a motorcross/supercross racing background I was hooked, and within two weeks I had a Associated RC10GT truck and was racing every weekend and the rest is history.
LiveRC: You took a decade off from racing and made your return in 2016. What brought you back to R/C car racing?
Brian: In August 2016 one of my former team mates Mark Johnson called me up and invited me to a race in my home town for The Wicked Weekend, so I met him there on Saturday and the second I walked into the covered Pavilion and smelled the Nitro fumes I was hooked again, and also ended up going back all day on Sunday to watch the mains. It was awesome to see lots of old racing buddies from the past that were still racing and they was shocked to see me for sure. So the following week I started researching all of the different cars, and by the end of October I was back racing again. I can honestly say the 10 years I was gone I thought about RC racing quite a bit and missed it for sure and I'm glad to be back.
LiveRC: Partners with Mark Moon, you are now the co-owner of Loganville RC Complex. What made you decide you wanted to venture into becoming a track owner?
Brian: I met Mark Moon in January of 2017 at our local 1/10 indoor track after my son took a interest in 2wd buggy and wanted to give it a try. From the beginning Mark was very helpful in anything that I ask him about with the electric cars (which I was at a total loss on them), and he helped us a lot and we became really great friends. As the year went on and started traveling to some out of town races together and just enjoying the good times and racing. Towards the end of the year in 2017 we were told that our local track Loganville RC Speedway was up for sale, and Mark ask me what I thought about him maybe purchasing the track. I asked him if he really knew what all was involved in owning and keeping up with a track the way it should be kept up, and after some discussion about it he decided it might not be such a good idea, and decided to back away and someone else bought the track. In 2018 the new owner had a few races and wasn't successful and the track just sat for months. Mark approached me again and said he really hated to see another RC track close in Georgia and Loganville RC is the second longest running track in Georgia (not 100% sure on that but I know Loganville has been around since the early 2000's). So after many conversations between Mark and I he finally convinced me to help him out and I can say it's been one heck of an adventure and way more work than either of us ever expected.
LiveRC: What do you believe, as a track co-owner, is the best approach to increase entries and be successful on a weekly club racing basis?
Brian: This is a tough subject and always a struggle to figure out what's the best direction to go with this. Over the years I've seen tracks come and go for different reasons, but Mark and I have several thoughts on this and our approach has been always do your best to provide a quality product to your customers (the racers) and always do what you say. Anything you build you have to start with the foundation and build from there, and with ownership of a track you are constantly building and adding to your foundation from the appearance of your facility to track building, track appearance, program direction, doing your best to cater to the racers, and keeping it fun. Being an outdoor track you have a constant struggle with the weather and have to adjust accordingly just to get club races in. We don't race on a weekly basis just due to what we have seen over the years with past tracks running every week starts out really good and then falls off really fast, that's why we are on a bi-weekly schedule and seem to be working out best for us as we typically average 60+ racers by doing it this way, of course again the weather is always a factor and we adjust accordingly.
LiveRC: We often hear people say, “There is no money in owning an R/C track or hobby shop.” Do you believe this is true, or is there a way to be financially successful and still keep customers happy?
Brian: I knew you would ask this question haha. Well now coming from both sides as a racer and now co-owner of a track I can see how the racers think with all of these large scale races that take place throughout the year think that the owners are making money and sometimes it appears that way, but I can assure you this is not a money maker at all. There is countless hours that goes into running and owning a track. Mark and I both work a full time job as well, it's a second job for the both of us and it can be very stressful at times, there is always constant maintenance on something at the facility, and it takes more money than people think to keep everything going in a positive direction. I have to say we are blessed at our track with lots of guys always willing to lend a helping hand and make things happen and we are so thankful and humble for each and everyone of them, you all know who you are and Mark and I want to say thanks again. Keeping customers happy is always a struggle and in RC we've learned you will never make everyone happy and we are ok with that, we just try to always to give the best effort as possible to do what we think is best for the racers and that's all anyone can do. In our opinion financial success is making enough money to cover all of your expenses from, rent, insurance, water, having good dirt brought in, lawn maintenance, track work, equipment rentals, the list goes on. The struggle is real but we enjoy it or we would not be doing it!
LiveRC: In addition to being a racer, pit dad, and track owner, you are also a series promoter. Tell us a little about the Southern Off-Road Series and your involvement with Mark in that as well.
Brian: The SOS Series (Southern Off-Road Series) was part of the Loganville RC previous owners as they started this series and was part of the deal upon the new ownership of the track. This series started in 2013 and has been a 4-race points series mostly at Georgia tracks with plaques and awards being given out at the finals - going to the track with the most entries during the series. The series early on was a success but struggled the past couple of years. Mark and I had several discussions as to continue with the series in 2019 or not, so with lots of time and planning and talking with several different track owners that was willing to host one of the races we decided to go with it. Let me tell you this has been way more work than either of us would have ever expected and very overwhelming at times. This year we have 2 rounds at Georgia tracks and 2 in South Carolina (Rd 1 @Loganville RC Complex Loganville GA Rd 2 @ The Hobby Connection Easley South Carolina, Rd 3 @ S&B RC Speedway in Piedmont South Carolina, Rd 4 @ Augusta RC Supercross in Augusta GA). So far we have completed 3 rounds of the Series this year and round four will be on August 31 at Augusta RC Supercross. The Final will be on September 14th at the track with the most entries and that is yet to be decided. Round 1 had 186 entries, Round 2 had 180 entries, Round 3 had 162 entries. So far we have had really great turn outs and been receiving very positive feedback.
LiveRC: In your opinion what makes this series unique compared to other series around the nation?
Brian: I'm not sure if we are unique or not with this being our first attempt at a series, but as I said the feedback has been very well as we are not perfect at all, and dealing with growing pains and learning what works best has been a challenge and all of this is helping us as we are already planning for the 2020 SOS Series. One of the objectives is to keep this as a 1 day race if one so chooses, practice is available starting at noon on Friday and a couple of hours on Saturday morning for the racer that chooses not to be there on Friday. We understand the issues with everyone work schedules and taking time off. There is so many other races that takes up 3 to 4 days of time, and not there's anything wrong with that as we enjoy them as well. Keeping this as a 1 to 2 day event seems to make things easier for most with their planning around other things for their weekends. With the high entry counts we pride ourselves in being able to run a very efficient program in giving the racers 3 qualifiers and their mains, it makes for a very long day of course but so far we have been able to complete each of the rounds in 15 hours or less. So far we have been getting positive feedback with our program, but if the entry count keeps going up we will have to look at other options.
LiveRC: What is the best part of working in the industry as a track owner and series promoter?
Brian: As a co-owner and I think I can speak for Mark as well on this, just having the positive comments from our local racers and racers from all around other states and tracks saying things like "keep up the good work" and "your track is awesome" and "thanks for keeping the SOS Series going". It's nice to know people notice all of the hard effort and work that you are putting in. As far as the promotion side we have been overwhelmed with great support with some great sponsors like Associated/Reedy, AKA Tires, Race Time Entertainment, Sticky Kicks, LFR, On Point Graphics, just to name a few. Things are already looking good from the promotion side of things, we currently have several really big things in the works as we speak for the 2020 SOS and looking very positive to be an epic series in 2020!
LiveRC: What is the worst part of working in the industry as a track owner and series promoter?
Brian: The worst part is knowing that no matter how well you do something there will always be someone complain and talk negative about what you are doing, but you learn real quick to not let that stuff bother you and just keep doing the best you can. The promotion side is the scheduling races in a timely fashion working around all of the other races throughout the year, yet sometimes it unavoidable to keep from racing on other events, but we try our best to avoid it. The other is being able to build in rain dates for the races if needed, which we have already had to do twice this year, and lots of headaches are involved for sure. None of us can control Mother Nature and she has been a little rough on us this year.
LiveRC: What is one thing you wish you could change in the R/C industry, and why?
Brian: I would love to see some of the big time corporations take a chance on sponsoring some RC events to help it gain more recognition and popularity. I think it would benefit everyone in the long run. Also Mark ask me awhile back what I thought about us focusing more on the novice class and trying to build it up, I said that was absolutely a great idea. So we started to build that class up and now have a great following of novice racers. At every race we have an average of 15 to 20 novice racers showing up and having a blast. We also decided last minute to add that class to the SOS Series and it has been very successful with 15 to 25 entries showing up at each round. You hear everyone talking in this industry about how do we make it better and build it back up, or get attendance back up, or get people involved? Well this is just my opinion, but as I stated earlier to build anything you have to start at the foundation and in this case it's the youth, kids, novice racers who will make this awesome hobby grow. You have to help them out when they come to the track and make them feel that they belong, and not be scared to death to ask a seasoned racer a question. Help them out and encourage them to just have some fun and if they do that they will come back. In case everyone has forgotten we were all a novice racer at one time. If you do this you will see a change for the better as we have since Mark had a great idea!
LiveRC: Greatest R/C car racing memory to date?
Brian: There has been many over the years. Back when the RC Pro Series first started off back in 2002 I was the first 2002 East Coast Pro Nitro Buggy Champion and repeated as Champion in 2003. I also had a good enough run at the 2005 1/8 Off Road Nationals to qualify for the IFMAR Worlds, but unfortunately I was unable to attend. My best memories since my return in late 2016 is getting my now 13 year old son Cade involved and watching his fast progression, and the memories we have made together are priceless and I would not change it for anything!
LiveRC: What are your plans for the Loganville RC Complex and Southern Off-Road Series moving forward?
Brian: Mark and I are just going to keep doing the best we possibly can at giving everyone a great racing experience and provide the best product we can. The SOS Series is still a work in progress with lots of positive feedback, and Mark and I both have a great vision for the future of this series in hopes of turning it into a premier series that everyone wants to put on their RC bucket list of races to attend at least once.
LiveRC: Thank you so much for joining us today Brian, it’s been great chatting with you! Is there anything you would like to add before we go?
Brian: Yes, thank you LiveRC for this opportunity to let me tell you a little about myself, Loganville RC Complex and the SOS Series. I have to say a huge thanks to Mark Moon for everything you have done for me and my son Cade, and the chance to help you with Loganville RC Complex and The SOS Series - it has been a wild ride so far and a very humbling experience as well. I would also like to thank our sponsors; Team Associated, Reedy Power, AKA Tires, Murnan Modified Motors, and Dads wallet. Haha!