Tri-City radio-controlled racing enthusiasts head to the fairgrounds during winter

BOB BRAWDY HERALD PHOTO EDITORJanuary 27, 2013 

KENNEWICK -- It's known informally as the "Carpet Series" but it has absolutely nothing to do with vacuuming or steam cleaning the floor coverings in your home. The only dust involved is what's kicked up in competition.

And there's not much because race organizer Jereme Rogers uses his leaf blower to clean the floor before setting up the track for Tri-Cities Radio Controlled Racing's indoor races.

The group's members are racing highly detailed cars powered by electric motors and rechargable batteries around a 40-by-96-foot track this winter in Building 3 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick.

Some of the more powerful cars are capable of reaching speeds of about 50 mph on the right track and with proper gearing. The indoor series has been fielding about 40 entries a race, and the group's been around for about 10 years.

But don't call it a club. Race organizer Neal Koustrup's mantra is: "No clubs, no dues, no hassles."

"What we have here is a group of guys with one guy making sure everything is in place," said Koustrup, 61, of Richland, who has been with the group for 10 years.

He's been known to sleep on the work tables in the building to keep it secure overnight. He said he's seen lots of clubs come and go since getting into RC, or radio-controlled, racing in 1986. He says they usually fall apart because of squabbles about money, personalities and lack of involvement.

He says that's not the case with Tri-Cities Radio Controlled Racing. Racers simply pay a fee to practice or participate. Fees per event for the winter racing range from $5 to $15.

Before each race, special anti-static carpet is rolled out across the concrete floor. Sections of plastic pipe rings the outside and specially designed "guard rails" allow the track to easily be reconfigured as an oval or a road course for the different classes.

The RC cars have working suspensions, and some are even all-wheel drive for better handling on the course.

The price for getting started is about $300 for a basic car and goes up from there.

And just like any racing endeavor, the cost for this hobby goes up depending how serious you get about the equipment you choose. Just like in full-size racing, a driver can choose from a range of open-wheel cars to NASCAR bodies to off-road racing trucks.

Once the weather warms up, the group moves to its dedicated outdoor location in Franklin County which has two tracks, an off-road course and a paved tri-oval that's a scale replica of the former Tri-City Raceways in West Richland.

The outdoor season is scheduled to start in early April.

Indoor racing ends Feb. 2 and it's likely several series championships will be on the line. There won't be million-dollar sponsorships at stake -- just bragging rights until next year's season.

* For more information, go to www.tricitiesrc.com/rc.

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