TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Alex Sturgeon
Tuesday, Aug 9, 2016 07:24pm
By Aaron Waldron
Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!
This week’s ROAR Electric Off-Road Nationals, the official North American qualifying race for the 2017 IFMAR World Championships, will put dozens of racers under tremendous pressure - but perhaps no one will be as nervous as Alex Sturgeon. Though he’s a Team Losi Racing driver when he hits the track, his main gig is managing the Hobbytown USA HobbyPlex shop and racing facility that will host a capacity crowd starting tomorrow morning. Learn more about Alex’s RC career, what it takes to put on such a huge event, and more in this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Alex Sturgeon: I am 37 years old and have lived in Omaha, Nebraska since I was four years old.
AW: How did you get into RC?
AS: Well, it was the eighties. I was in the third grade, so it must have been 1986 or 87. I remember catching that famous "Punky Brewster" episode which lead me to discover RC Car Action magazine at the local Walgreens. After that, I found out that a lot of kids in my school had hobby grade RC cars - including my life-long best friend, Chris Cattlett, whom I still race with to this day. It took a couple of Christmas seasons of asking for nothing but a "real" RC car before my mom took me to Bel Air Hobbies and bought a Tamiya Falcon.
AW: When did you decide to start taking racing more seriously, traveling to larger races and acquiring sponsors?
AS: I drove my mom's 1988 Ford Festiva - without cruise control, by myself - to the 1996 ROAR Stock Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota. That race opened my eyes to that side of our hobby. From that point on I started going to more large races with the sole purpose of building a resume.
AW: When did you decide to pursue a career in the RC car industry?
AS: I just sort of fell into it. After our last indoor off-road track closed in 2000, I started running the outdoor off-road track in Lincoln, NE for the HobbyTown USA corporate store. It was the only place to race off-road at that time. I was hired as assistant manager for the Hobbyplex in December of 2004 and tasked with starting our off-road program, which has grown into the monster that it is.
AW: Can you describe your current position and responsibilities at the Hobbytown USA HobbyPlex?
AS: I am store manager and off-road race director. I manage the store about half the week and then run the off-road program the rest of the time. I make the racing schedule, build and maintain the track, and run the races.
AW: Have you had any other jobs in RC? What was your previous background?
AS: Before the Hobbyplex I worked the meat counter at a grocery store. I was also working on a lifetime membership at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in creative writing and have the student loans to prove it.
AW: What are your proudest career accomplishments so far?
AS: Being a part of the growing and consistent off-road race scene in Omaha is something I'm definitely proud of. Representing TLR, the company that sponsored so many of my RC heroes, is an important and humbling part of my life as well.
AW: What are some of your most notable on-track finishes?
AS: My racing career can be divided into two groups; pre- and post-marriage with children. I made the Stock Truck A-Main at the 2000 Cactus, Stock Buggy A-Main at the 2001 Florida Winter Champs and then finished second behind Matt Chambers at the 2004 ROAR Stock Nationals. Winning the Hobby Haven Shootout a couple years in a row was pretty rad. I've won the mod buggy title at the Team Associated/Reedy Summer Series at the Plex every year since the indoor track was built in 2011, and I finally won mod buggy at the Novak Off-road Race this year - which became especially meaningful to me when the news broke they were closing their doors.
AW: When you’re not at the track, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
AS: I really like to ride my mountain bike. I try to ride three to four times a week on our local trails.
AW: What’s the best part of working in the RC industry? What about the industry annoys or bothers you?
AS: The best part of our industry is its accessibility - especially now with social media. The part of the industry that annoys me the most is people not supporting their local hobby shop and the companies that enable them.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
AS: My wife, Gretchen, puts up with some really crappy hours and idiotic spending habits, yet still supports just about everything I do. Tim Szczepanski, the general manager and on-road race director at the ‘Plex, pretty much got me hired way back in 2004 and has been regretting it ever since, LOL. I also can't leave out Sonny Brown - he saw the potential of the Hobbyplex early on and also opened the door for me at TLR.
AW: What advice would you give someone looking to work in RC?
AS: Have fun and enjoy what you do. Even though it's a lot of work, I really enjoy building tracks and putting on races. If that joy ever disappears, it'll be time to move on.
AW: What’s the most difficult part of preparing to host a marquee event, like the ROAR Nationals?
AS: Getting everything together on time is stressful. I've mulled over the track layout for a year.
AW: How much of a relief is it when the final trophies are handed out Sunday evening and you know the hard work is over?
AS: It will be a huge relief to pull this one off. We hold several large races a year, but the ROAR Nats has a higher level of scrutiny, and with it comes a higher level of pressure. Luckily for me I don't have to actually run the race this time.
AW: Do you have any predictions for this week's race?
AS: Well, I can't give any solid predictions, but Jared Tebo has spent some quality time up here and I know he is really motivated. Ryan Maifield always does well here, same with Spencer Rivkin.
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
AS: Thanks for offering me and the Hobbyplex some pub!