TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Joel Eaton
Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016 10:16pm
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!
I met Joel Eaton ten years ago, when he traveled to the Reedy Truck Race of Champions at Hot Rod Hobbies in Southern California - and returned home with three open-class trophies, as well as a major sponsorship with Team Losi Racing. He was already racing full-size cars back home in Utah, and embarked on the start of an RC car career that has taken him through every aspect of the industry: manufacturing, online sales, research and development, and now - having taken over Addiction RC in Ogden, UT - owning his own hobby shop and racetrack. I contacted Joel on Facebook to learn more about his RC racing past and new business venture for this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Joel Eaton: I am 32 years old, from West Valley City, UT.
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
JE: My dad bought a Tamiya Clod Buster in '88 as something to do after knee surgery. We found Intermountain RC Raceway shortly after and have been racing RC nearly every winter since. We (my family and I) have been full-scale racing since long before I was born.
AW: When did you start taking the hobby more seriously, traveling to races and looking for sponsors?
JE: I never really took this hobby too serious until probably 2006 when I picked up my first sponsor Team Losi Racing after a triple win at the Reedy Truck Race of Champions at HotRod Hobbies. I had no idea I could get sponsorships at that point because in those days only the very best racers received them. Until that happened I had only really done club racing or local major events - very few major out-of-state events. Until that point I was more focused on full-scale oval racing and only saw RC as something we did as a family and for fun.
AW: How long have you worked in industry? What are some of the other jobs you’ve had in RC?
JE: I have worked, for the most part, my entire adult life in the industry - which is about 10 to 12 years now. I was a machinist and ran injection molding machines as my first job at Team Cobra. After that I started working for RC Planet several years later; there I did every thing from shipping, pulling orders, to answering tech calls and did all the categorization and web development. From there I went directly to HRP Distributing where I wore many different hats. The best hat I wore was a technical R&D specialist. I've touched just about every aspect of this hobby now, so owning was a logical next step for me anyway.
AW: What kinds of full-size racing have you been involved in, and in what capacity? How did you get into it?
JE: I have been short track oval racing my entire life. My nickname, Focus, was actually from people in the full-scale oval world that I now use for my custom RC body painting I do called Focus Lidz. I have worked on just about everything that has a purpose of turning left and doing it as fast as possible. My dad built them and I was his minion - best time of my life. Nothing is better than making something and doing it your way. I spent a very short time as an actual racer. In 2003, I started in train racing and by 2004 I was the track champion in that class with my good friend Zach French in my dad's second train car set. A few years later I bought and raced a super mini cup. All in all, I won several main events, two Rookie of the Year awards and a championship in full-scale racing and built dozens of race cars with my dad.
AW: What led to your decision to take over Addiction RC? Had you ever thought about running your own facility?
JE: It was a combination of circumstances. When I realized I didn't have the means or time to dedicate to beating the Ryan Cavalieri's of the world consistently, or enjoyed that pressure to perform at that level, my goals to be a world class RC racer quickly turned to owning something in the RC world. I found that I thoroughly enjoyed announcing races and seeing people improve from race to race and being able to help people with setup advice and knowledge. Owning a race track was a natural option to go after at this point. I enjoy helping people much more than I enjoyed being the best or the fastest racer or just being a racer for that matter. Although I still have that racer spirit and still want to win every time I hit the track, I am just no longer burdened by the “second isn't good enough” mentality I used to have in racing. The only thing better than winning is getting beat by someone you helped get to that point - that is special and drives you to get better.
AW: Your announcement included that the previous owner let you “test drive” the business for five months before you made the deal official - how was he able to help you with the transition?
JE: Beazer asked me to buy the business a few months before it all happened because he was getting too busy with his other business to give the racetrack the attention it deserved. As discussions continued he decided not to sell it - at least, he didn't want to - for another year as he just couldn't imagine himself moving on and asked me to run it. So instead, I test-leased it as an employee, basically, and ran it entirely on my own my way and was going to buy it possibly in July of 2017 to give him another year to let go as owner. A few months later, with added growth from his other business, we sat down about ten days ago and hashed out the details of the take over. I didn't get to see the flow of sales through the full year and see the scale like I hoped I would, but I feel I got through the slowest part of the year for the RC industry so why not get the ball rolling 7 months earlier than originally planned?
AW: What were the biggest surprises you encountered in your first few months of running the place? Was there anything you weren’t prepared for?
JE: The only surprise, so far, was shortly after committing to this venture my wife and I decided a baby boy would be a good wrench to throw in the plan. We discovered we were pregnant with our second child about a week or two into the start of running the track.
AW: Do you have any big plans for changes to the business?
JE: I will be listening to the customers as our biggest focus. Until I learn the market flow I’ll be playing it as safe as possible while improving and updating the things that need attention continually through this first year. From there, it's onward and upward. We'll have our own product line with which I'll finally be able to get these ideas out of my head, and a race tour to get our racers to experience tracks around us and other types of racing as a group. We even have the opportunity to expand by adding additional tracks to the facility. A rock crawler course is in the potential works and a massive outdoor dirt track could also be possible if all goes to perfection later on as well.
AW: Other than Addiction RC, obviously, what’s your favorite track? What about your favorite racing class?
JE: My favorite track is Hot Rod Hobbies - I love that place, although sadly I haven't gone for a few years. My favorite class is anything dirt oval.
I'll go further to add my favorite event I've been to is IIC. The tracks I'd love to visit would be XRAY’s facility, the HUDY Arena, and the Yatabe Arena. The event I've always wanted to participate at is the RC Chili Bowl.
AW: What are your most proud RC moments?
JE: Those are yet to come. I look forward to the day my three-year-old son, Tucker, and my son-to-be take interest in racing. I also look forward to them racing with me and beating me - although that last one will come sooner than I'll want it to, I'm sure.
AW: Do you have any goals for your RC career, or for your company?
JE: I want to leave a legacy worth remembering and to pass it on to my children if they want it. I am very simple in that way. I'd work to my last breathe so long as it makes me happy and supports my family, rather than work toward making millions and hating every minute of it.
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
JE: I literally eat, breathe and sleep racing - so if I am not with my family or playing with my son, I'm thinking of ways to go faster, things that need rebuilt, or ideas of things to build and usually watching some sort of racing while doing all the above.
AW: How do you explain to non-RC friends what you do?
JE: There is such a person?
AW: What’s the best part of RC racing? What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
JE: For me, I do it with family and that's the best part. Being able to do something with family is awesome. While my dad and I argue like the father and son of the American Choppers TV show it’s the best being able race with him.
The worst is that manufacturers sign anybody and everybody these days, it seems. There should be one race per year, per discipline, that you race at here in the U.S. If you race it you have to have a local track backing you. Then you have to place within the top certain percentage to be pursued by manufacturers directly for sponsorship. Then the right and deserving people get support and dealers don't have to compete against the very brands they carry on price. Without sales most, if not all, tracks will close. Without tracks most, if not all, manufacturers will close. It seems foolish to not designate your own try-out race for sponsorship or require a certain finish at an event that racers with endorsement from a local track are required to do before sponsorship offers go out. That's the worst thing I see happening. Selling $500 more this month to Joe Somebody directly sure doesn't seem like a good strategy for the future. But that's just me.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
JE: My wife and parents. There are many who have helped me, certainly, but to not forget any I’ll play it safe - and besides, family is who have helped the most by far.
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JE: Thank you.