Cubby Interview With Carlton Eppes of the RC Pro Series (Part 1)
Cubby sits down and chats with Carlton Eppes of the The RC Pro Series for a great several part interview.
Cubby– For our readers, let’s start off with a little background info Carlton. Where are you from, when did you get into the sport of RC and where did you get your start in rc race promoting?
Carlton– As most everyone knows I’m from Texas. I got into RC in ’96 when I built my track in Rockport Texas. I had that track for 5 years. After closing the track I was kind of lost not having something that took up all my spare time so I volunteered with ROAR on the Promotions Team. I spent 6 months with that and then moved over to help my friend Frosty with RC Pro in early 2002. The promoting came from having the track and previously racing full scale dirt and paved oval cars. I’ve always tried to bring some of the promoting style from full scale into what I do.
Cubby– For big question number 2, how about some stats. In 2008, how many members did RC Pro Series have?
Carlton– About 1200 full memberships, most of our racers option for the Weekend membership of $5.
Cubby– In 2008, how many races were sanctioned under your banner?
Carlton– We had 53 state races, 58 International Series races and 4 special events.
Cubby– How many total entries did you at your events in 2008?
Carlton– I haven’t stopped to count them but a close guess would be 11,500 between all series worldwide.
Cubby– I’m not particularly well versed on the RC Pro Series, but having the word “Pro” in the title, and handing out cash money to winners is the first thing that separates the RC Pro Series from ROAR. Some may argue that racing rc cars for money is a bad thing, bringing out the worst behaviors in people. Obviously, you feel differently, or you wouldn’t be paying out raw cash to race winners. So just what are the upsides to paying out cash?
Carlton– Paying out cash can at times bring out the worst…… depends on how much cash it is! I’ve seen just as bad behavior over a little trophy! Yes we pay out cash to some classes but I don’t use that when promoting our events. If I constantly pumped that factor it might make for problems with some racers which is why I don’t. At the level most of these guys race at and as much money as they have invested most of them are tired of the trophies so we do cash for some classes. We DON’T pay the Sportsman/Intermediate classes though that is only trophies.
Cubby– One of the coolest things originally about the RC Pro Series was the motocross style starting gate. How did that come about, and where have they gone?
Carlton– The gate was an original from the minds of the originators of RC Pro, Richard Saxton, Frosty St. Clair and Mike Battaile. Yes they are cool for spectators! At the end of 2005 I had heard so much whining about the gates and how it was deciding races based on who didn’t get wasted on the start that I dropped the gate before the finals that year. Personally I want to see the winner decided by racing not the luck of a start on the gate. Now that being said I would like to see the gate revisited at some point for special events, read that as an event we can get a large audience for. I have a design for one that will take out some of the luck part and make it more skill on the start but it’s still going to depend on people to use their head going into the 1^st turn and since they aren’t in the car that’s usually not a part of their plan. I’ve said before if they thought they were going to get hurt they would use some sense which is why it works with motoX. I have suggested at times shock collars that go off when you crash or hack someone. LOL Needless to say I got some strange looks.
Cubby– You have been holding your nitro off-road finals in relatively huge arenas. Myself and many others admire you taking the sport to a new level in this manner. So just how much does it cost you to put on your finals?
Carlton– 2006 we went big……. too big it cost me almost $60,000 to do that race and I lost $30,000. So we scaled back kind of to what we have done the last 2 years and now the finals costs between $25 — 28,000 to do. We use everything we get entry wise plus some to do that race. Since 2005 I haven’t broken even on a finals yet.
Cubby– Some say you are making millions off promoting all these races. This is America, and making enough to pay the bills should be perfectly acceptable. My question is- have you broke even yet?
Carlton– If making enough money to pay bills and myself is the benchmark then no I haven’t! I’m sure everyone reading this wouldn’t work for a company that only paid them minimum wage or less? Figure in 12-16 hours a day 7 days a week with at best 1 week off during the year and being paid between $18-20,000 a year, that’s probably less than minimum. During race season I usually leave for an event on Thursday and get back on Monday. Right now I’m doing a 7 week stretch which includes me not coming home for a week and a half, then almost a 2 week section at the RC Pro Australia event, I get back from that and 3 days later I have to be in Michigan for a TORC event before I get any time off. I think I need to shoot the guy who made this schedule (me)! At best I’m usually only home 2 days a week. The part that gets me down in this industry is the attitude that it’s my hobby — the track owners and promoters and hobby shops shouldn’t make money on it. If no one makes money it won’t be around for long. The manufacturers are making money, count on it, or they would do something else. A lot of the shops and tracks do it for the love but it eventually burns you out to work your butt off and have people accuse you of making millions when you’re barely covering costs. Even when you try to tell them what it costs to put on events they just don’t want to hear it. One person even made the statement my travel to the events shouldn’t figure in to costs……….????? WHAT? If it wasn’t for going to officiate the event I wouldn’t be going.
Cubby– So what does it cost to put on an event?
Carlton– The typical division level event costs are as follows. Event shirts – $500-1200. depends on how many early entries are paid. I used to send 100-150 shirts to each event but with the economy the way it is I just can’t do that anymore and have to stick to ordering shirts just for the paid early entries. Cash payout to the racers – $500-2,000. depends on entries in the pay classes. Awards – $400 Travel for the official — airfare $300 or more depends on if there is a major airport or regional one. Hotel – $100 — 200 a weekend depends on local rates. Rental car – $100 — 200 a weekend depends on local rates.
Carlton– The majority of this, like the shirts, hotel, car, airfare, awards and food have to be paid before RC Pro gets any money from entries because all those are sent to the tracks. So until a race is over we don’t get anything and then we may lose money if the turn out was low. Pay for the official if it’s not me also figures in to that. I do have several races I can’t make because of having so many so I have different people that cover them for me. Of course they get paid whether RC Pro makes money or not.
Cubby– I’ve seen several comments on forums about RC Pro getting 50% of the entry fees for state events is that true? If not what do you get?
Carlton– Yes I’ve heard that too and in a couple instances there have been a couple state directors who did that without our knowledge. They aren’t with RC Pro anymore. RC Pro gets $5 per entry on state events. Half of which goes to the state director to help cover his travel costs. The other half is split between the national state series director for the time he spends coordinating everything and RC Pro. So by the time it gets to RC Pro it’s about $1.50 per entry which goes toward website costs etc. The sponsors that the individual state directors get for their states are for product to give away at the events or to help pay for trophies for a class in that series none of that goes to RC Pro.
Cubby– If you’re not making money why do you do it?
Carlton– I love racing of any kind but I also love meeting people. I’ve met a lot of good people in this sport and some real pain in the ass people but that goes with anything doesn’t it? I think RC has a big future if we can get it into the mainstream. There are several people who think the way I do but it seems there are more people in the industry who don’t. I’m hoping at some point I can make money.
Cubby– You introduced RC Pro Products this year, why? Doesn’t that conflict with getting sponsors?
Carlton– We decided to start RC Pro Products when we had a number of sponsors not renew this year with the excuse of budget cuts because of the economy. The sponsor money makes it possible to get the season started each year plus pay off anything left from last year so we had to find another way to help fund RC Pro now. The problem is the time it takes to get it rolling so it really hasn’t helped yet this year. Yes, RC Pro Products could conflict with potential sponsors, but we picked products (tools) which we never had a sponsor that was primarily a tool manufacturer so hopefully it won’t be a problem in the future.
(End of Part 1… coming up in Part 2)
Cubby– What’s the biggest problem you see with ROAR?