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Black Friday going nitro

Not into shopping? Try out Lugoff’s RC Pit Supercross for a full day of race action

Posted: November 22, 2011 3:37 p.m.
Updated: November 23, 2011 5:00 a.m.

ways and byways --- not to mention the parking lots --- on Friday to kick off the holiday shopping season, there will be those cars which will take to the dirt and the air while weaving their way around traffic.

Welcome to the inaugural Black Friday Bad Dog Nitro Grudge Match at The RC Pit Supercross, the newly opened Radio Control Racing (RCR) facility located along Highway 601 South in Lugoff.

The layout, a labor of love, sweat and tears undertaken by three generations of Tommy Grangers, has yet to host a sanctioned event, but it is already playing to worldwide rave reviews. Earlier this month, the following article appeared on www.neobuggy.net, the London-based leading dispensary of RCR information in the world:

"This past weekend was highlighted by the grand opening of a tremendous racing facility in the southern United States. Just outside of Columbia, South Carolina, a facility has been built that will quickly become a racer favourite after just one visit. The awesome racing surface, great drivers stand, and central location are just a few of the features that provide the "WOW" factor. Look for this to become a racing venue that may one day host a National event."

Since that piece of information appeared on the Internet, Tommy Granger Jr.’s phone has been ringing off the hook with drivers trying to get as much information as they can as to the new facility.

"We’ve had calls all the way from California asking what’s going on over there on the east coast," Granger said on Tuesday morning as the finishing touches were being put on the track in preparation for Friday’s kickoff event.

No stone has been left unturned and no expense spared in the construction of the Tommy Granger Jr.-designed course which measures 1,120 center line feet, making it the largest track in the southeast. The three Grangers used half-inch thick piping to outline the course as opposed to less-expensive plastic drainage pipe. They built the table top, double and triple jumps themselves through the hottest days of summer and the cold of the winter.

The design also includes an automatic sprinkler system; assuring even conditions throughout the course should it get too dusty. Other courses use a hose, after which, some portions of the track will dry out before those areas to which water was applied last before racing resumed.

"Most all of your outdoor, off-road courses are built out of clay. And when it rains, a lot of the tracks have to cancel their race," Granger explained as to the racing surface. "We have such a tremendous grade here that even if it comes with a downpour and rains for three or four hours, it will take us two to three hours to get this track cleared and ready to race on. There is no spot that holds water on this track.

"The track has been set up and been completed for about two months now, and for as much rain as we’ve had, we’ve done zero track prep."

To those drivers who have been given a sneak-peak of the course, the initial reviews have been more than satisfying.

"We put on a race last Saturday and had pro racers come in from different areas to test for a big race at Myrtle Beach. We had a real good turnout and it made international news," Granger said of the neobuggy.net article which followed the testing.

"We’ve received a lot of recognition from pro racers. We have had guys from Charlotte, Myrtle Beach and Georgia who have come out and tested the track out and fell in love with it. We’re shooting to be one of the top tracks in the Southeast. We want to hold some national events. We’re trying to bring a lot of people in here."

The Granger family has been involved in racing for nearly half a century. Tommy Granger was a member of the Boykin-based, NASCAR championship team headed by Bondy Long and had Ned Jarrett as their primary driver. From there, he and Tommy Jr. have been involved with racing go-karts, motorcycles and dragsters. "Pretty much, anything with a motor on it, we’ve been involved in," Tommy Jr. said with a laugh.

"I never thought that I’d ever be involved in RC racing, but it’s a real neat deal just with little Tommy because it gives us time to share together and it teaches him to work on these cars."

Tommy Granger III, better known to friends and family as "LT", is the latest of the family to be bitten by the racing bug. Now 14 years old, he has been involved with RCR events for more than 18 months. A family friend and 20-year RCR driver, Camden’s Glen Davis, introduced the Grangers to the sport. It did not take them longed to get hooked as LT and his father made trips to tracks in Rock Hill, Charlotte and Atlanta, among other spots.

One thing those sites had in common is they were all tucked away out in the middle of nowhere. It was then that the Grangers and Davis started talking about building a track closer to home and accessible via major highway.

"Glen Davis and I got together and said that we were going to build our own track because we had to travel so far," Granger said. "About eight months ago, we made the decision to start putting it together and now, here we are."

From the facility located on Highway 601 South, you can hear the buzz of traffic coming from nearby I-20.

"This track is centrally located," Granger said. "We look to bring in 200 to 300 people and bring them in to these hotels and restaurants. A lot of these tracks that are built are out in the woods; there’s nothing near them. You had better bring your own food or you’re going to be traveling 30 minutes to get something to eat. This location couldn’t be any better."

Location is just one benefit racers will get from the RC Pit Supercross. Those who get involved in the sport, especially young men and women, learn responsibility, as well. On Tuesday, LT, who has a second-place finish in the sportsman’s truck class in the Summer Sting at Myrtle Beach, brought out his pro buggy and pro truggy (truck and buggy) and opened the hand-painted shell to display the inner workings of the vehicles which run on a mixture of nitro and fuel oil.

His father then explained the detail which goes into the cleaning of each part of the car, down to the smallest screws and bolts, which must be cleaned of any dirt and dusts. And the tires are also subject to being changed out, depending on the condition of the racing surface.

The sport is not one where you just go out and race and put the car on the shelf until the next race. That, Granger said, is the beauty of it for young people who need to learn to care for their equipment.

"This is not just something that you just buy and say, ‘I’m going to go out and run this electric car or this nitro car," Granger said. "For every hour that LT has on track time, we’ll put eight hours working on that car. They have to go through every nut and bolt. The shocks have oil in them, just like a race car.It’s a full race car chassis.

"It teaches the kids a lot about working on things with their hands and gets them involved. If a kid wants to come out here and race, they can. We’ve had fathers come out here with their kids and have purchased a ready-to-race, short course truck and for around 400 bucks, they can get involved in this sport."

Nitro and fuel oil cars are not the only ones which are run over the track. There are the ever-popular electric cars. In fact, 10 youngsters have already registered to compete in the electric car class on Friday.

The facility, Granger said, provides a safe environment for both competitor and spectators, especially the younger set, which will pay $20 to race their car against other drivers.

"What is there to do for these kids around here where they can pay $20 and stay from 8 o’clock in the morning until 12 at night?" Granger said. "And, it’s all supervised. We have adults out here and take care of these kids like they’re ours."

Friday will see the gates to the RC Pit Supercross opening at 8 a.m. with a three-hour window for practice beginning at 9 a.m. The racing, which includes 20-to-30-minute heats, will follow. Drivers and their one-person pit crews will make three to four stops on the elevated pit road for refueling. There is a maximum of 15 drivers per class and they will have 15 pit people and cars will be timed for the main event. Drivers are coming in from the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida for Friday’s races.

The entire day will be free and open to the public and will be followed by another major event at the facility on New Year’s Day.

"When the public comes out here and see these racers and has a question, ask them," Granger said. "They are more than happy to talk to them about the classes, what they’re running and give them ideas. I’ve seen some of the pros come here and kids will come up to them and ask, ‘What kind of motor are you running?’ Or, ‘What kind of shock are you running?’ They’ll stop everything that they’re doing to sit down with them and help them."

Granger hopes this will be the start of something big, not only for the race course, but for businesses in Kershaw County.

"We hope we can get this pumped up and get a national event out of it," he said. "Typically, in your pro races or national events, there will be anywhere from 300 to 600 people racing. There is a lot of interest in the sport."

Come Friday, Tommy Granger Jr. hopes those people who are not interested in fighting the crowds at the stores will find their way out to The RC Pit Supercross in Lugoff and experience a sport which may be new to them.

"While the women are out shopping, we’re going to be out playing," he said with a laugh. "That’s a good deal."

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