Indiana slot car racing track is 1 of a handful left in US

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — It didn’t take long for the car to gain speed and then fly off the track while rounding a banked curve.

Of course, the car was being driven by an amateur.

This is not the Indianapolis 500, but a race on a smaller scale — a much smaller scale.

It’s slot car racing and the cars used at Real Speed Raceway are 1:24 scale. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting. There are colorful cars that go really fast, a large track, racers who are determined to win and yes, even crashes.

But admittedly, if you blink, you may miss a race, as it only takes seconds to get around the track. It’s far from the hours of endless laps that you see at the 500.

The track is operated by Mike Holley, who has been racing slot cars since 1967. “I’ve been at this a long, long time,” Holley says.

He says at one time Fort Wayne had six or seven tracks, eventually they all went away.

So Holley hopped on a chance more than 10 years ago when he discovered and bought four tracks. The tracks included a drag strip, figure 8, a hill climb and a king track, a 155-foot, eight-lane routed wood track.

The king track is what is at . It’s one of the few king tracks in Indiana and one of just 100 left in the U.S.

Because the track is so big, Holley stored it at a downtown business for about six or seven years until he eventually bought a building at 3404 Land Drive and moved it there. Now, the track is used for practices from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and races which begin at 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

Slot car racing is a competitive hobby of racing model cars around a track. The cars use a controller and are guided around a track by a groove in which the cars slot into.

Most of the cars racing at Real Speedway make it around the track in about 3.7 to 5 seconds. The world record for a slot car is 1.25 seconds, Holley says.

On a busy night of racing, 12 to 15 people usually show up to race, Holley says. The field of racers is usually split in half based on qualifying races. It costs $7 to race.

Most of the racers come from a three-hour radius of Fort Wayne, including Ossian, Auburn and Michigan.

“If you wanna play, this is it,” Holley says.

Matthew Dube drove from Battle Creek, Michigan, on a recent Thursday to race.

He started doing slot car racing in 1965. And while he doesn’t come every week, he makes his way to the track when he doesn’t have anything else to do.

Dube builds his own cars. “That’s the fun part of it,” he says.

He’s not sure how many cars he has, but estimates about 40 that range in different classes.

Dube is semi-retired, and he says that mostly the people who are involved in slot car racing these days are retired or don’t have jobs. He doesn’t see a lot of younger people involved, and that worries him. If others don’t come, the tracks may go away for good. “Once they’re gone ... ,” Dube stops and ponders the thought. “I just like racing.”

In addition to racers being mostly older — Holley says the ages range from 30s to 77 — they also are mainly men.

Darlene Jackson of Fort Wayne is one of the few women who race. She just resumed racing again. Jackson says she used to race with her father when he was alive. She now races with her son, who just started this year.

Jackson gets someone else to build her cars. But for most of the racers, they build their own.

Holley runs a parts counter inside the building where racers can buy items for their vehicles.

Most of the racers have about $150 in their cars, Holley says. However, there are some who pour about $400 to $500 into a vehicle. A high-end controller can cost about $300. There is even a mini lathe machine that is used for the cars.

So there are obviously ways to make slot car racing as expensive and high stakes as you want it to be.

“(You’re) not gonna make a ton of money, but it’s a hobby,” Holley says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Holley’s son also does slot car racing. The father and son used to travel and his son has several championships, including a few national ones.

There is money to be made in racing the cars, but don’t expect any endorsements or big checks at Real Speed Raceway. For these racers, it’s mainly for bragging rights.

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