EDGERTON—Spinning rims and battered shins mean it’s Tuesday at 608 RC Raceway.
Buzzing like a swarm of tiny lawn trimmers, battery-powered cars fly unfettered around a homemade carpet oval on the second floor of the Tri-County Community Center, 112 Swift St.
Dodging each other with crude precision, it’s just a matter of time before two or more collide and leave at least one on its back like a doomed turtle. And as a Good Samaritan steps in to upright the disabled vehicle, fast-approaching rivals swerve to avoid the temporary obstruction—often unsuccessfully.
Actually, nobody’s getting hurt here—quite the contrary. At 608, competition is focused on fun, sportsmanship and continued improvement, and the smiles on racers’ faces show whether they are steering wheels or taping frames, it’s all good.
“There’s some kids that will bump and bang, but we try to steer them away from that,” said Tyson Trunkhill, who co-owns the raceway with longtime friend John Bronson Jr. “We try to encourage good sportsmanship for sure, and we stress safe conduct.”
This behavioral mantra is an homage to Dave Flood, founder and longtime president of the Edgerton Teen Center, 204 W. Fulton St. Trunkhill and Bronson were among the first youths welcomed into the center when it opened in 1993, and they credit Flood’s example as one of the reasons they started 608.
“Dave really brought our generation through, you know, working with the community and stuff,” Trunkhill said. “Now, we see this as our chance to kind of give something back, and it has been really gratifying.”
As teens, Trunkhill and Bronson raced RC cars in organized parking lot events at The Salvation Army in Janesville. They lost interest when the race program dissolved, but it was rekindled once they had kids of their own.
“Tyson has a kid about six years younger than mine, and they decided to go down to Monroe (Cheese City Xtreme Racing) and check that track out,” Bronson said. “After that, they just went all in. They bought everything and got back into it again.”
Things snowballed from there.
“Tyson is on the board for the building here (Tri-County Community Center),” Bronson added. “He called me one day and said, ‘Hey, there’s this space. I think we can make a track.’”
Soon, the resurrected hobby morphed into a fledgling “business” with not only a track but a series of individual workstations for repairs and upgrades. The men have since added a makeshift shop to provide tools, spare parts and car kits.
“We’re not making huge bucks, but we’re staying afloat,” Trunkhill said. “We started out with a small budget and low expectations. But then it was like, ‘Well, it’s this nice so far, right?’ so we just kept going. Next thing you know it’s ‘let’s do this’ and ‘let’s do that,’ and then we’re putting in a whole lighting system and thinking about the future.
“I admit, it kind of got out of hand.”
Currently, 608 is open three days a week: Mondays for open practice, Tuesdays for youth/parent races and Sundays for adult races. Practice is free, and racing is $12 for the first class entered and $8 for each subsequent class the same day.
Youth racers can win prize packages that include parts and tools, while adults square off for self-funded cash purses.
Those with little or no experience who want to give RC racing a shot are welcome anytime.
“We usually let people race for free if they want to come in and try it,” Trunkhill said. “I’d say about 80% of time, they come back and buy a car.”
608 RC Raceway is easy to find: Just enter the community center through its front middle doors, head up the central staircase and scale a few more steps to the right. If you wind up in the gym for the Jazzercise class at 6 p.m. Tuesdays, you took a wrong turn somewhere.
Among the regulars you’ll likely meet is Ben Remer of Milton, who travels here each week with his son, Ryan. Despite having more experience racing RC cars than his son, the elder Remer admits Ryan is quickly catching up in skill level.
“He’s close,” Ben Remer said. “I think his best time is a few fractions of a second away from mine. But once he gets better than me, he has to start buying his own parts.”
Remer estimates he has invested about $1,000 into his two cars but admits he tends to get “carried away.”
“You don’t have to spend that much, but you start slow and just keep building,” he said. “I’ve added some aluminum upgrades, which are more expensive but don’t break as often.”
Fortunately for Remer, the money and time spent on racing with his son hasn’t caused any rifts on the home front.
“(My wife) thinks it’s excellent because she gets Tuesday nights off,” he said. “We’re doing something with the boys, and she doesn’t have to cook supper.
“And she doesn’t get mad if we spend too much,” he added. “A while back, she wanted to get a new truck body so (Ryan’s RC car) looked different from everybody else’s. It was $50 because she wanted it to look different. I was OK with that.”
Trunkhill and Bronson realize RC racing isn’t cheap, but they argue it’s also not as expensive as things such as video game systems. For between $300-$400, potential racers can purchase an entire kit that includes everything needed to hit the track immediately.
“Of course, you’re going to add upgrades, like getting a better charger,” Trunkhill said. “But even most new parts aren’t that much. It used to be that if you damaged your car, you had to buy a half a kit to replace one part. Now most parts are available individually, and prices have really come down for those.”
And then there’s the social aspect.
Amber Linnerud of Milton brings her son, Avery, to compete each week. She likes seeing Avery, who also drives bandolero class vehicles (a level between karts and race cars), interact with others who share similar interests.
“I love bringing him here and seeing him have fun,” she said. “He’s making new friends here—not only with kids but adults. He’s having a good time, and it’s something to do on a Tuesday night. Plus he’s learning a lot about the cars.”
For those who don’t possess a natural aptitude for cars and racing, fear not. It’s not necessary at 608 RC Raceway, so there’s not need for newbies to feel intimidated.
Thanks to some generous donors, Bronson and Trunkhill have loaners on hand, and they are more than willing to answer any questions. And your fellow drivers will be more than happy to show you the ropes—even if that means serving up a few good-natured bumps during pre-race warm-ups.
“Everybody in this room is willing to help somebody else. We’re a community in ourselves because we help each other,” Trunkhill said. “If somebody is into trying this but they don’t really know what they’re doing, we will show them how.”