In it's heyday in the 1960s, there were more slot car racing facilities in America than bowling alleys. And, the races were televised nationally! It's a sport that went dormant for a few decades, but is now making a resurgence, including a commercial track right here in Tyler. Anyone over the age of 50 probably has some recollection of slot car racing, whether seeing it on TV, or participating in it themselves. Today, a new generation of fans has re-discovered the sport. Wings and Wheels Hobbies in South Tyler is making that a little easier with a commercial track set up inside the store.
"We wanted a place where kids of all ages could come and race slot cars," said store Chris LaFaille, who co-owns the store with her husband.
The competition is tough on club night. A computer tracks the speeds and laps as these racers compete in several heats, with different classes of cars.
"It is all about speed," said LaFaille, "who is the fastest, who can control their car at these high speeds, because proportionately, these cars, if they were a real car they are going over 300 miles an hour. If you're not quick, and your reflexes aren't fast, your car is going to come off the track and you are going to get rammed into. It's a great equalizing sport. Kids have just as much of a chance as adults."
Physical limitations are not an issue either. Just ask Chris Tanner.
"I had a diving accident when I was 13 years old and broke my neck and been in a wheelchair ever since then," said Tanner.
He's paralyzed from the neck down, except for just enough use of his left hand to dominate the sport.
"Like I say, can't play baseball, but I can do this as good as anybody else can."
Slot racing is fairly inexpensive. Cars range in price from $25 to $45. You can buy a classic figure-8 track for around $100. Or, you can take your car to Wings and Wheels and race it on their track.