Off to the races
RIFLE — It started with around 10 guys almost five years ago. Now, as many as 60 people can be found at the Rifle Remote Control Park on race days. More than 100 people from across the state and their remote control cars are expected to flood the park for a two-day championship series race — one of two larger events the park will host this year — during the last weekend in June.
Located next to the Rifle Operations and Maintenance building on Highway 6 just east of downtown, the park is both a hidden gem offering competitive fun, and the lasting legacy of the man who established the park.
“It’s grown every year,” said Brad Church, one of the RRCP club members who oversees the park.
Still, the park is largely unknown among locals, Church said. That fact is even more surprising considering many of the regular racers at the Rifle park come from miles away.
“It’s unlike any place I’ve raced,” said Frank Godel, who travels from Grand Junction to race in Rifle. Even if you come in last place, he said, you still have a good time.
Travis Fiscus, of Carbondale, shared similar sentiments this past Saturday out at the Rifle park. For Fiscus, race days are a family event — a chance to bond with his sons Kobe and Cameron.
The blend of competition and camaraderie is what Frank Shaw envisioned when he created the park nearly five years ago, said Lois Polley, Shaw’s mother and a De Beque resident. He wanted a place where fathers and sons could have fun together at no cost, she explained
Shaw, a longtime Rifle Operations and Maintenance employee, died in August 2012. Since then, Church and several others have stepped up to fill the gap left by Shaw’s death.
Most decisions, such as keeping the park free and open to everyone, are made with Shaw in mind. A large sign with the number “734” — Shaw’s racing number — hangs on the fence when you enter the park. In August, RRCP hosts the Frank Shaw Memorial — the second of the two larger races in Rifle.
“Frank wanted it to be free and fun,” Church said.
By most accounts, Church and crew have succeeded in honoring Shaw’s memory.
“You can sit at home with the family and watch TV or you can come out here. This is a lot more fun than TV,” said Will Beresford, of Rifle. His wife Suzette and son Andrew agree.
“I got on the podium every time,” Andrew, who is in his first season, said beaming with pride.
Definitely not toys
While the regular group of racers are welcoming and willing to help those just getting started, Church and others are very clear that their remote control cars are not toys.
“They’re definitely not toys,” said Brook Loving, another club member and one of the more experienced racers. As Loving explained, the cars are serious machines — some travel up to 60 mph — that require maintenance and tinkering similar to an actual race car. A remote control car and all the adjustments can easily cost $1,000. Each one has a microchip detected by the park’s computer system, which tracks the number of laps each car completes.
“It’s so close to real racing, just on a smaller scale,” Church said.
Many of the regular racers came to the park with some level of past experience, but that does not mean first timers are not welcomed.
Steven Spevere first noticed the park several years ago when he was dropping off his recycling. He had no experience, but thought it could be a fun activity to do with his kids. Now he is one of the more experienced racers. He travels to competitions with a small group from the park, including Loving and Church.
“It’s addictive,” Spevere said. His son Ryan, who also races, said he likes beating the adults.
While the racing is fun, it’s the people who come to the Rifle park that have fostered Spevere’s interest.
“It’s a really good group of guys,” he said.
The racing does resemble a “guys club,” but that does not bother Loren Hofer, a Grand Junction resident and one of the few women who regularly races at the Rifle park.
“It’s just nice to hang out,” she said.
“Everyone helps everyone here,” Loving explained. “We have a lot of fun.”
In that aspect, the park is continuing Shaw’s original dream, and Church and others want to raise awareness with hopes of attracting more people.
“It’s probably going to break out … and it kind of already has in my mind,” said Tom Whitmore, Rifle Parks and Recreation director. “It kind of has a life of its own.”
Since RRCP is technically managed by the parks and recreation department — although the club is pretty much self sufficient — Whitmore has served as the liaison between the city and the club. Over the years, he has seen how much the park means to a growing number of people. “It’s a real escape for them,” Whitmore said.
For Lois Polley, Frank Shaw’s mother, the park is her son’s legacy, more so than anything else.
“It means so much to us,” she said. “It’s wonderful what they’ve done to keep Frank’s dream alive, and that’s what it was. His dream was to have fun.”
For more information on the Rifle Remote Control Park, go to the RRCP Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/RifleRemoteControlPark.
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