NB family has a passion for RC racing
When Tim Sletten’s two boys were growing up in their North Branch home off St. Croix Trail, they had the same hobby as many young boys their age: They played with radio-controlled cars.
“It started with Tony coming out here one day mowing the grass, and he and a couple of boys had some RC cars — they mowed the grass real short — that was the track,” Tim Sletten said.
As the years went on, a childhood hobby turned into a teenage fascination and then into an adult pastime.
Tony Sletten, 26, and his brother, Justin Sletten, 21, race high-end RC cars all around Minnesota and travel to other states such as California, Nevada, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin to compete.
The Slettens hone their racing skills at a 145-by-90-foot track they first built with the help of their father about 10 years ago at the family’s home.
“We tear that thing apart, push everything into a pile and design a new layout every year,” Tim Sletten said, noting it took about 70 truckloads of clay to build the first track.
When the Slettens started racing RC cars, there weren’t many places in Minnesota to do the activity competitively, but now there are seven, including their track.
The Slettens usually host three to four races a summer at their track — dubbed “Loosenuts Raceway,” a name Tim Sletten used for a former mud trucks racing team he was in with his brother — which attracts racers from as far away as the Dakotas and Canada.
Not like other RC cars
Tony Sletten said the cars they race are designed to be high-performance and would blow away any RC car from big-box retailers.
“On a longer straightaway, they’re going 45 to 50 mph,” he said.
He added that the cars are built by racers with parts they find from hobby shops, or some racers, like himself, are sponsored and get car parts from their sponsor companies.
Tim Sletten explained the RC races use the same technology as off-road races where the drivers are behind the wheels of large buggies and trucks.
“There’s a transponder in the car, wire looping goes under the track, and then that’s hooked to a computer,” he said. “The computer takes their name, the class that they’re in and it keeps tracks of the laps, position and time.”
Tony Sletten said he’s thoroughly enjoyed the competition of RC racing — last year he was state buggy and truggy (RC trucks) champion — and he noted it’s fun to build camaraderie with other people passionate about the sport.
“We’re kind of a big family now, pretty much,” he said. “You get to meet a lot of people.”