Welcome to the Rio Grande Valley, home of what seems to be the new NASCAR world of remote-control racing.
Possibly the hottest thing to come to the hottest part of the nation in years, RC racing has done more than taken the Winter Texan world by storm. It has consumed it.
The latest and newest development of the craze was celebrated last week as Ranchero Village in Weslaco as the park cut the ribbon on the Valley's first cement racetrack.
Just as in NASCAR, where there are shot tracks, flat tracks, high-banked tracks and more, with the addition of cement to its repertoire of track choices, RC drivers can do more than just go race.
Now they can learn how to set up their cars to maneuver the varying tracks, banks and surfaces.
When residents of the park left last March or April, the track that is now gleaming-white cement - similar to the high banks of Dover (Delaware) Motor Speedway – they left a dirt track in its place. Upon their arrival, the newest of the surfaces in South Texas was almost ready for what last week's culmination of work led up to.
“The owner (Walt Piper) said he wanted to have the premier track in the Valley,” said Jerry Hudson, who is originally from Missouri but lives full time now at Ranchero. “So, he went and paid for everything.
It's a top-notch facility and the only one of its kind down here.”
Sandy Piper, Walt's daughter, said that she will soon be taking over the area, and was pleased to not just hear about the park residents' excitement to have the additional track – they also have a grass track – but to learn that other parks wanted to check out the high-flying, high-banked cement track.
“We've had people move in just for this track,” she said. “There's a lot of excitement and the whole purpose is to have more options to have fun. And this is such a unique track, that is drawing a lot of interest as well. Its' a fun time.”
The track is approximately 240 feet long, measuring around the outer rim. The banks on either end look to be between 12-17 degrees. The higher the banking, the more speed a car can take a turn at. Last week, a few “drivers” were testing the different “lines” to see what the fastest way around the track is.
Of course, just like in NASCAR and other racing affiliations, fans are awestruck by the sheer speed and movement of the cars – but they're also waiting for “the big one” like at Talladega or Daytona Motor, the wreck that 10-15 cars are all caught up in. The difference is, lives are not at stake – except maybe some of the pieces of a banged up car.
“As far as speed, we don't know that yet,” said Hudson, vice president of the Ranchero Village Fender Benders. “But we do have a timer and as of today the fastest time is about 5.5 seconds. That's a pretty good time, but as we get better, you'll see quicker times. We're just getting used to this cement. It's fast.”