I first heard about Cameron Dopp from a friend, Nick Colander, who kept up with the young man’s racing career even after moving from New England to Washington. I was on my way to New York for the Big Apple Novarossi Challenge at Barnstormers RC Raceway, and so was Dopp - for his first trophy race without his parents or grandparents, where he raced his way into the Nitro Buggy final. I found out that, not only was Dopp an up-and-coming racer in the Northeast but competed despite, and in fact because of, a potentially debilitating disease. Learn more about Cam Dopp, his life, his RC career and more in this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday. (Cover photo: Stewart White, via Facebook)
(Photo: Stewart White, via Facebook)
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Cam Dopp: I am 17 and from Enfield, Connecticut.
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
CD: I got into racing through my grandfather. He had a Losi Mini-T, and I thought it was the coolest thing on this Earth. My mom said my eyes lit up, and I was in love with the cars from there on out. They took me to my local shop, RC Madness, that same night. That was the first time I met the owner, Chris Marcy, and he has been a huge and influential part of my life since. I started seriously racing a few years ago, maybe four years ago now, but I have been in the hobby and club racing since I was seven — so about 10 years.
(Photo: Stewart White, via Facebook)
AW: What grade are you in? Do your classes make it difficult to attend racing events?
CD: I am a senior in high school and have plans to go to college. School is extremely difficult to work around for big races. It is a very important thing to me and I really like focusing on my studies, but in my head RC will always be my major interest. However, my parents — having better judgement — see it the other way, so if it comes down to missing school for races my grades better be the best they've ever seen.
AW: What made you decide to start attending big races and trying to attract sponsors?
CD: Honestly, I'm just an extremely competitive person. I love competition and I feed on that rush of the racing. I really enjoy racing against some of the best and because I am very particular about some of my equipment I just want to start looking for those companies that I am attracted to and get help with their products so I can continue to grow as a racer.
AW: What’s your favorite track? Favorite big event? What different classes have you raced - and which is your favorite?
CD: My favorite track is, obviously, RC Madness; everything about that place says home to me. Everyone is extremely helpful and positive. We have amazing tracks that I get to practice on, and I just love that place. My favorite big event that I've been to would be the JConcepts Turf Nationals at rc madness. That race has gotten bigger every single year we have had it. The racing is always so close and so much fun. It just makes for a great weekend with a lot of great people.
I race a ton of classes. I run 2WD and 4WD buggy, touring car, 1/12-scale, and nitro 1/8-scale. I enjoy racing nitro buggy and 2WD buggy the most. Nitro is extremely difficult, and I love that about it, but I will also always enjoy the feel and fun of a 2WD buggy.
AW: Can you tell us a little bit about your health condition? How does it affect your daily life? What role does RC racing play in how you cope?
CD: My health condition is named ankylosing spondylitis, which I know sounds pretty sketchy. It's an issue that doesn't restrict me of anything if I don't let it. Basically, it's like really bad arthritis; it forms inflammation in all the joints in my body and can fuse them as well. It causes severe pain from day to day, and to treat it I give myself an injection once a week. The treatment gives me a weak immune system, which isn't ideal. As far as daily life, I wouldn't say it really affects me. Mentally, it has made me an extremely strong person. It has made me lose a lot of time in school because I wasn't able to go all that time, but I still worked hard and with the help of my parents, I got a tutor and stayed on track with my studies. It has not affected my grades or happiness in any way, and has gifted me one of the most important things in my life. Before I was actually racing RC cars I did a lot of sports and had a lot of interest in dirt bikes and BMX. While these activities were great for me, I needed to slow down and give my body a break. I had already owned RC cars but never invested immense amounts of time in it — it was always a side hobby to my main priorities, but as I was sitting home bored, not able to ride my bikes, I decided to go club race with my grandfather. That was all it took to make me so interested in this hobby that, eventually, I decided I didn't want to ride dirt bikes but rather compete with what I think are some of the coolest toys on earth. This disease has led me to a hobby that I can enjoy no matter how I am feeling. This hobby doesn't care who you are, or what state of health you're in, because no matter what you can get involved and enjoy it. As far as helping me cope with what I have, I really don't see it like that. I have a disease. It's not the end of the world. It won't change just by sitting and complaining and although it's always a great thing to have something or someone to help you through a difficult time I don't see RC as this. My pain and disease may always be here so waiting for it to cure and get through my body just isn't something that will happen. Remission is possible but even if it doesn't become a reality for me I'm fine with that. I’m fine with that because I've already been over what I have and so for me RC is more of a second life than something to cope with. RC is not just a savior for my mind or body, but a relief from everything. I become someone totally different when I throw my bag and cars into my truck. It’s my happy place. It is what I do not to just feel better when I'm down, but a place that makes me even happier when I'm up. I can express myself and how I feel through it because everything about RC can be made to show what kind of person you are. You can display it in so many different ways.
Photo: 4G Photo, via Facebook
AW: What do you find to be the biggest challenges of trying to further your RC career?
CD: The biggest challenge is being able to go to bigger events and compete with limited equipment. RC is amazing, but extremely expensive, so to go to a larger event and buy all the things necessary to compete at a high level cost a lot. Just practicing gets expensive even though I think it's super important. This makes it extremely challenging to get noticed and strive in a highly-competitive environment.
AW: What are your proudest RC moments? Do you have any goals for your RC career?
CD: My proudest moments in RC include going to my first national event for on-road at 360v2 Raceway, and going to The Barn (editor’s note: Barnstormers RC Raceway) for the Novarossi Challenge. The Nationals is important to me because, although it wasn't a great result, it was an amazing experience in my life that I wasn't sure I would've been able to enjoy but it made me crave that environment even more. The race at The Barn is another proud moment just because that weekend I was alone; I don't say that meaning that I did it all myself, because if it weren't for my parents, grandparents, Chris Marcy, and a lot of other selfless individuals I would not have had the weekend I did, but that was the first trip I had ever made when I drove myself and had no one else with me. I went and I focused with a Tekno NB48.3 which, at the time was the car I could afford, and I ended up with an amazing weekend and a hard-fought result despite the challenges I went through that weekend. My goal for my career is to do the best I can and when I'm the best I can be I want to be able to help others become their best as well.
Photo: Rob Oompa, via Facebook
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
CD: I love to go out with my friends and honestly just do whatever satisfies us at that moment. We just do random things which is a thing that I cherish about my friendship with my friends from school. RC is one of the only consistent hobbies that I do other than maybe playing video games.
AW: What’s the best part of RC racing? What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
CD: The best part of RC racing is the enjoyment I see a lot of people get when playing with these amazing cars and being around friends. Although this hobby is amazing, there is a downside: I dislike the negative talk and the complaints that are extremely public, like back-and-forth complaints on Facebook. I think that's a huge turn-off to anyone who is entering the hobby.
Photo: Rose White, via Facebook
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
CD: My parents, grandparents, Chris Marcy and RC Madness, Matt McCready, and many others. I also want to thank my homie Nick Colander. He has been a great friend, and his moral support is unmatched even from across the country!
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CD: I want to thank you for the opportunity to do this and let's go racing!