Tanner Stees is one of those off-road racers that started racing at a young age, so it’s difficult to believe that - at just 19-years-old, he’s been racing for over a decade. He’s a former Arizona state champion and has made the finals at some of the biggest events in the U.S. - like the Dirt Nitro Challenge, Silver State and Desert Classic. For 2018, Stees signed a new factory deal with XRAY. With the Dirt Nitro Challenge just over a week away, I reached out to Stees on Facebook to learn more about his RC racing career, his new sponsorship contract, his goals for the season and more for this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday.
AW: How old are you, and where are you from?
TS: I am 19 years old and from Chandler, Arizona.
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
TS: I got into RC because of my dad; he had a Traxxas T-Maxx that he would go and bash at a place by our house. I didn't have anything at the time, so my parents bought me a Traxxas Stampede. It got me into the sport but I wanted something more so I got a T-Maxx as well which really piqued my interest. I started racing it in 2006 and have been doing it ever since.
AW: What do you do for work? Does your job make it difficult to attend racing events?
TS: I work at Redcat like a lot of other Arizona racers do. My job doesn’t really restrict me at all when it comes to attending races, they will pretty much allow as much time off as needed so it’s really nice. What does make it difficult to attend races is missing my college classes.
AW: What’s your favorite track? Favorite big event? What different classes have you raced - and which is your favorite?
TS: I don’t really have a favorite track — I just like racing, so wherever I am at I really enjoy it generally. As for favorite big event I would probably have to say Nitro Challenge; it basically starts the racing year for me. I have only ever raced off-road classes and it’s been 1/8-scale buggy, truggy, and e-buggy, and then for 1/10-scale it’s been just mainly 2WD and 4WD. I would probably have to say my favorite is 1/8-scale nitro buggy.
AW: What is your home track? How does the racing scene in your area vary from other places you’ve visited?
TS: My home tracks are either Hobby Action Raceway or Fear Farm. The actual racing in my area I would say is pretty normal, but the competition in Arizona is generally pretty good. We have a lot of top-tier drivers in the area so it’s always nice to run with fast guys.
AW: What made you decide to start attending big races and trying to attract sponsors?
TS: I would say that I am a pretty competitive person, so going to big races was the next step up from local club races and in 2006 I attended the Nitro Challenge as my first big race. About a month later, there was another big race at the Pro-Line test track where I met Jay Halsey and he offered me my first sponsor. Everything has grown from there.
AW: How will the 2018 season be different from years past now that you’ve joined the top tier of the XRAY team?
TS: It’s not really a whole lot different. In 2017 I received all my parts and equipment through RC America, but this year I get everything directly from XRAY in Europe. Other than that, everything is still the same: I am still sponsored by RC America and will continue to do what I did throughout 2017 and look forward to 2018.
AW: What are your proudest RC moments?
TS: My proudest RC moment would probably have been making the main for the first time ever in buggy this past year at Nitro Challenge. I had made the main in previous years in truggy but never with buggy, and doing it with a brand-new car last year was really awesome for me.
AW: Do you have any goals for your RC career?
TS: I don’t necessarily have any specific goals for my RC career but rather to do the best I possibly can at every race. I would obviously like to win a big race like the Nitro Challenge, or a national-level event, but just doing my best is what I go for.
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
TS: When I am not at the track I generally enjoy going shooting with friends and family or playing paintball with some of my buddies.
AW: What’s the best part of RC racing? What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
TS: The best part of RC racing for me is the lifelong friends that I have made through the years. I would also say being able to travel and see some of the places that RC has brought me to is really cool as well. Like I said before, I am a bit of a competitive person when it comes to racing, so that’s another good part — but can be annoying at times as well when you don’t have a good day at the track.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
TS: My parents, for sure, are the biggest help from when I started to now. My dad has been and is generally my pit guy when it comes to 1/8-scale racing so he is a big help as well. Although my mom doesn’t really come to the track she is just as much of a help and has allowed me to do this sport for a long time now and both my parents continue to support me. The Tessmanns have also been a big help for me for the last couple of years, teaching their ways to me and helping me improve any way possible.
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TS: Yeah thanks for having me and thanks to all my sponsors: XRAY, RC America, Pro-Line, Hudy, Hobbywing, ProTek RC, A Main Hobbies, VP Racing Fuels, 110% Racing, and Stick It 1 Racing.