Vrooom – it’s a gas!

Junior Ceja, 13, watches in disappointment as his car runs out

– A mini version of Nascar 500 is happening Friday nights at
Hobby World. Racers from all over the area bring their
radio-controlled racecars to compete on this brand-new, indoor,
carpeted track.
GILROY – A mini version of Nascar 500 is happening Friday nights at Hobby World. Racers from all over the area bring their radio-controlled racecars to compete on this brand-new, indoor, carpeted track.

Hobby World Owner Guy Bassett said he created the store to give people in Gilroy something to do, and in the future he hopes to host major races at the track that will bring people from all over the United States into the community.

Hobby World completed its third Friday night of racing since it opened four weeks ago, and the sidelines are growing each week as new racers and fans come to see how the cars will compete.

People with day jobs as retail salespeople, chimney sweeps, construction workers, and even some tech people eagerly arrive at 5 p.m. with bright-colored cars, battery-charging packs and folding tables so they can create their own working space and mock pit.

For the next two hours the racers intensely check their cars to make sure the tires are in top condition and the motors are running smoothly.

“We’re out here to have fun, and this is the best quality carpet track in all of California,” said Kevin Jelich, a veteran RC car racer who has competed in the top 10 RC world championships in Europe.

The circular track fills the entire area where the old Gilroy skating rink used to be and is divided by a plastic track that the racers must expertly maneuver around.

Anyone watching will notice the drive in the eyes of the racers, as they begin to eye the other cars.

“I got addicted to the competition,” racer Jim Walls said. “Many of us do it for bragging rights against our competitors.”

The racers sign themselves up with a $15 entrance fee and compete in either the sportsman class, for less-experienced racers, or the expert class, for advanced racers.

“We love to race, because it is the cheapest version of having a real car in the Nascar 500,” said Dave Rogers, a racer and a board member for the local radio-controlled championship auto racers club.

However, some racers choose to spend a little more money on their cars to beat their competition. Jelich says he spends more than $3,000 to make his car run faster.

“Killer Keith,” as his fellow racers know him, is in his 17th year of racing and has even traveled to Japan to compete.

“My car is different than everyone else’s because it has brake lights that light up while it races on the track,” “Killer Keith” Hyatt said.

Many of the racers are able to travel to competitions all over the world because they receive sponsorship for their cars.

But not everyone has to spend thousands of dollars to still have fun at the races. Steve Mitchell, of Gilroy, says he bought his 15-year-old son a car for $700, and that the hobby teaches him about the basic fundamentals of electricity, geometry and engineering.

“What also makes this such a great hobby (is that) you can customize your car with its own decals and special parts,” Mitchell said. “My son got the graphics for his car off of the Porshe Web site.”

After lots of preparation the racers get to finally line up, while store manager and announcer for the evening Lee Hines sounds the horn and the racers are off. For five minutes, they use their remote controls to navigate their cars around the track.

“We are essentially just racing against ourselves, but trying to beat the other cars by getting the most laps in the five minutes’ time,” said Nancy Bui, the only woman at the track that night.

Upstairs from the main track is a beginner track designed for smaller cars and kids who want to begin racing.

“Kids start racing on the Tamiya track upstairs when they are 5 and 6 years old. Families show up, and once one kid sees the other racing they immediately want to get a car of their own, and they only cost about $10,” said Craig Gartman, an employee at Hobby World and a City Councilman.

“I brought my son and daughter out here tonight because I think parents need to get more involved with their kids, and it is a great way of keeping kids out of trouble,” Irma Garcia said. “They both love the racing and are constantly trying to get better parts for their cars so that they can beat each other.”

While kids line the upstairs balcony, they watch the adult racers below with admiration. Their cheers add to the racing atmosphere as the cars below zoom at speeds up to 40 mph. The cars themselves are not very loud, but the occasional crash and burn is met with loud “ahs” from the crowd.

The races end at around midnight. No awards given out, but most racers say it is enough just to know that they got to come out and show off their hobbies.