Helena home to state’s first indoor dirt track

Ryan Lopez, Shane Ogden and Cole Ogden from Georgia show off their R/C cars brought to compete at Warehouse Indoor Raceway. (Contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

On a crisp January evening, chilly air inside and out did not deter the throng of competitive racing enthusiasts gathered for R/C (Radio Control Car) action at Warehouse Indoor Raceway at 204 Rolling Mill Street, just in front of Loading Dock South.

Owner Alan Burton has installed Alabama’s first indoor dirt track, with a drivers’ stand and electric charge-up bay area to work on cars. Two to three monthly events are planned. The all-day events include practice and qualifying rounds for $25 per car. Practice days are held on Monday and Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. and cost $12.

“These cars can cost anywhere from $200 to $2,000. We run the following classes: 1/8 Buggy, 1/8 Truggy, 1/8 Electric, Short Course (4wd & 2wd), Open 1/10 and Open Novice,” Burton said. “We have competitors come from all over the Southeast and beyond.”

As much technology is in the 1/8 cars as in a full-sized racecar.

Vann Huey from Hueytown got into the sport two years ago as a father-son activity with son Jesse, 13. They have tried out seven or eight models, and this evening were racing a Mugen MBX-6 with a Novarossi motor.

“We love this sport, it’s very family friendly. If you break something there will be someone willing to loan you a part,” Huey said.

Ryan Lopez came from Loganville, Ga., and has, at age 20, nine years of racing experience. He began as a hobbyist and now has three cars — 1/8 Scale Nitro, 1/8 Scale Electric and 1/8 Scale Truggy. Lopez was the Pro Buggy winner that evening.

At the adjacent charger station is Shane Ogden with wife Paula (wrapped in her Snuggie) and son, Cole, from Atlanta. Ogden is a former jet-ski and motorcycle racer. He came in fifth at the IJSBA World Finals at the Crazy Horse Campground in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. in 2001.

“You can do the same acrobatics with an R/C car as with a dirt bike,” Ogden said. “It’s the same thrill as if you are actually racing when you have that radio control in your hand.

“Obviously, people who enjoy this sport are very competitive by nature. “ he said.

We didn’t drive three and a half hours here not to win!”

Prizes at events include trophies or cash or sometimes just bragging rights.

Alan Burton himself is a professional R/C Racer sponsored by Serpent, J Concepts, Absolute Hobbyz and Tekin and posts scheduled events at: Rctech.net.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e-mail at labro16@yahoo.com.