Race Report: JConcepts Nationals 2014
Date: Oct 10th – 12th
Location: RC Excitement, Fitchburg MA
Last weekend RC Excitement hosted the 2014 JConcepts National series. Amazing drivers from across the country attended and with 450 entries the lead up to the race found many ‘Driver Driver Divers’ turning wrenches late into the night. After long contemplation, I elected to not race the event myself, but focus on announcing the races. With Ed Sahm as the race director and the RC Excitement staff on full alert, I was able to let them handle the issues common to most any race.
Starting with a check in on Thursday, 12 hours of controlled practice on Friday, 13 hours on Saturday and 18 hours on Sunday it was an experience I’m not likely to forget. With 3 backup systems ready to go on Thursday, multiple resources for tech, full schedules and pits ready to go, we went into the weekend with great energy.
Friday practice was surprising for the fact that while we did not separate the classes on the track, everyone seemed to get along very well with minimal assistance from the booth. Quick reminders that ‘Buggies have the right of way’ when driving with Short Course Trucks and practice went very well. Gentle reminders for marshals yielded multiple people volunteering for long periods of time, which truly added to the value of practice. I believe that everyone got plenty of time on the track and once we cut rounds down from 5-minutes to 3-minutes, the stand was nearly humming with the changeover of drivers.
At the end of the day, we ran 1 round of 3-minute heats to pre-seed everyone for the qualifiers. Taking a page from Scotty Ernst, we sorted by the best 3 back to back laps verses overall pace. It was nice to relieve the pressure of having to get a full 3-minute pace. You could have traffic trouble and still qualify high. Lap times were in the mid-teens so you only needed less than 1-minute to put in a good run.
With everyone sorted we went into Saturday with 2-minute shakedown practice. To the minute, we started the driver meeting with all in attendance. Some shaky hands and nervous voices in front of a large crowd were met with applause and a general sense of unity regarding the schedule of the day and responsibilities of the drivers. Going into the first round of quals, check in was quick and the ‘broom broom broooms’ were flying right off the start keeping the track in outstanding condition. It would prove an impressive note that the track was very consistent all weekend and held up remarkably well.
Saturday went ‘almost’ perfect with a little more than 1-hour delay playing into the mix. However, once we were back up and running we still finished just under 30-minutes off schedule. I credit the racers for being GREAT with marshaling and ready to hit the stand quickly. The racers kept it very smooth for the most part and those who made contact while driving were quick to pull over and show respect. I believe there was only 1 ‘stop and go’ requested. For the most part it was a matter of letting the racers race and alerting lap traffic of leader runs and position. We ended the day within 30-minutes of the schedule and the smiles in the pits were constant. Early on Maifield, Gay, Mitch, Olson, Alex K, Hartson all made their presence felt, but it would be a newcomer that would highlight the weekend.
Sunday started with no practice as time for prizes/raffles and sponsor thanks needed to be made. It was fortunate, as a hard systems issue would force a long delay making for a very long day. Through a combined effort with LiveRC, the race was put back on track and we absolutely burned through the runs. I was again humbled by people who had issues making their marshaling duties constantly making up for it by volunteering at first request. Not every race went perfect, there were other issues, some with transponders, some repeat calls for marshals, but all in all, the community of drivers was outstanding.
Going into the Mains, it would be Caleb Jennings who would steal the hearts and minds of the crowd and run the best race of the event. Young Caleb, who showed up with his father just around a year ago. Kind Caleb, who was not used to talking with so many others when he came to the RC community. This amazing, wonderful example of the best possible outcome for the hobby industry not only TQ’d and won stock short course but ran with the big dogs in Mod Short Course nabbing 5th.
The most inspirational aspect to this is that he won stock SCT running against one of the local drivers who took the most time to mentor and help Caleb grow more comfortable with the hobby and the environment. Peter Bartlett who himself is a relative newcomer to the hobby has gained quick respect on the scene, first as a driver, then as a wrench and now as an ambassador and mentor in the hobby. Watching this beloved, shy kid run door to door, nose to bumper, lap after lap and take it down in a ‘master vs. student’ race was the kind of thing that pulled tears of joy from many in the crowd and nearly blew the roof off with the applause it so generously deserved.
Then, to watch Caleb creep up to 3rd in the Mod run and NOT fall apart when factory drivers came up on him, making them work around him, was a truly inspirational thing to witness. Granted, my voice was so broken by then that no one could understand what I was saying, but I was cheering for him the whole time. At each success he achieved, it was Peter Bartlett, quietly, patiently waiting in the background to ensure his protege had the best possible experience.
There were outstanding battles all weekend with all the names you would expect. Sponsors were well represented, RC Excitement pulled off the largest race in New England history if not one of the largest races in the world, but for me, I give thanks to the drivers, sponsors and attendees who provided the stage for one of the most meaningful and beautiful wins I have ever had the honor to watch.
– Peter Bartlett