The popularity of carpet and turf racing is definitely on the rise and it makes sense. Without any doubts whatsoever, racing on artificial surfaces is clean, consistent, and you always have a good amount of grip. Often times you have too much. Factor in the quick and easy track changes that do not require track owners to invest in tractors and farm equipment to get things done… it’s almost a no brainer. Sure, it’s not dirt and it will never replace the feeling of driving on an awesome dirt track with natural dirt transitions and dirt grip. However, carpet racing is still a world of fun!
As the NCTS season 1 comes to an end, we’re convinced that the carpet wave will carry strong into 2020 and beyond. The speed, the thrill, the adrenaline, and emotion are all there. It’s not about the surface, but the battle you’re in while pushing yourself to your maximum potential. It’s the friendship you make and the bond you share with fellow racers fighting to always improve and progress. It’s the smiles, the handshakes, and unspoken respect we have for one another after it’s all said and done. Why? Because it’s racing and that’s who we are.
With the final stop of the inaugural JConcepts NCTS stopping in Waite Park, Minnesota, at the beautiful Thunder Road RC Raceway, we were beyond excited. The hype was high as many of the team drivers have been raving about the facility and they are completely right. For those who haven’t been to Thunder Road, it’s one of the best RC facilities in the US. There are so many things that Thunder Road gets right that it elevates the entire RC experience and makes it so enjoyable. The track, the driver stand, the lighting, and the awesome hobby shop are all just a part of the winning formula. But Thunder Road isn’t just a one-trick pony. It’s geared towards everything RC making it a true central hub for all RC enthusiasts looking to be a part of something more special.
Scaling has been on the rise for a while now and Thunder Road has you covered as they also have dedicated scale course that’s detailed, intricate, and extremely fun. Also, track owners Steve and Laura, really want to make a Thunder Road a destination for many hobbyists across many genres and not just carpet racers. So far, the pieces are really coming together and TR has now become a bolstering hub for all kinds of RC competitions and is great community resource.
The layout was actually very cool. It was a reflection of itself if you were to split it down the middle. With the jumps and features laid out in a manner that challenged drivers, it wasn’t an easy track to get around going 100%. However, cruise around at 80%, it was very easy. The double vertical chicanes haven’t been done in a while, but definitely, required precision and commitment to get the hot laps. The jumps were quite easy, which promoted close racing and many laps of battling on the track that ultimately made for a wonderful race experience. Overall, it was a fun layout that favored cars with balanced setups that inspired confidence and control.
Driving on the track was awesome. It wasn’t super high grip so that made the racing much easier and a little more forgiving. There were a lot of challenging obstacles on the track that opened doors for mistakes allowing cars to pass without too much drama. The high-speed camel hump was difficult to time consistently and definitely was a difference-maker in the end for many drivers. Strong brakes were a must, but if they locked up, you were sliding into the hump which could result in bad landings or crashes.
The wagon wheel was another prime spot to set up a good pass. With the line being fastest over the dot, it required immense accuracy that many drivers weren’t able to deliver lap after lap. With mistakes being made in the wagon wheel as it gave racers another area to look for a way around your competition.
Standing between Jason Ruona and Brent Thielke are track owners Steven and Laura Knutson, along with their two sons. The hospitality over the weekend was amazing and the friendliness felt upon arrival is what we need more of in the hobby. Racers were greeted with a smile every day that made the early mornings much easier to get through. Despite not having much big race hosting experience, the Knutson did a fantastic job and delivered one of the best race events on the NCTS calendar. Thanks to their commitment and their dedication, the area is very blessed to have such a wonderful facility and the locals are lucky to call this place home.