TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Carson Wernimont
Tuesday, Jan 13, 2015 03:40pm
By Aaron Waldron
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!
When I met Carson Wernimont and his father, Russ, at an RC short course race a little over five years ago, I had a weird feeling that I was witnessing the start of something big. For such a young racer that I hadn’t heard of much before, it certainly looked like the Wernimont duo had their act together - a well-stocked and organized pit area, clean and optimally tuned vehicles, and a kid with driving talent and patience far beyond his years. It didn’t hurt that sitting in their pit area was one of the most successful driver/designers in RC history, Gil Losi Jr. It wasn’t much of a surprise that Carson did well that day, but his skyrocketing trajectory through the industry with stops on a few factory teams, a Reedy Race victory, and podium finishes around the world including last year’s 1:8 Off-Road Worlds in Sicily, has been fun to watch. Carson stirred up plenty of buzz this offseason when he not only cut short his time with Schumacher and Mugen Seiki to join Team Associated, but broke off a long-term deal with AKA to sign with Pro-Line Racing - so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to interview one of the biggest developing stories to watch in 2015. As it turns out, the story behind his career is incredibly interesting - and his perspective on what he has accomplished was equally refreshing.
Aaron Waldron: How did you get started in radio control, and how long have you been racing?
Carson Wernimont: As I’m sure a lot of people know by now, my Dad builds full size off-road trucks. In the late 90s, Team Losi sponsored the Pro-2 that he built for Scott Taylor. To make a long story short, he had a bunch of cars and I started playing with them around the yard as a young kid. Since we already knew some people in the industry I got quite a good jump start on my racing career. This will be my sixth year actually going to the track and racing.
AW: When did you decide to take RC racing more seriously?
CW: The transfer from RC as a hobby, to when it actually "counted" for something, kind of took place when I started running the Pro class and was nipping at making a few mains here and there.
AW: How long did it take for you to start attracting sponsors?
CW: Not too long, fortunately. I was able to progress way faster than I thought was possible - which helped out the situation.
Carson rejected the notion that he was a nitro-only racer at the 2013 Reedy Race of Champions, where he won the 2WD Open class and finished second in 4WD Open.
AW: You’ve been racing and traveling heavily for a few years now - has it been difficult to balance being a student with racing?
CW: Yeah, a little bit. During my sophomore year in high school I started taking classes online, which helped tremendously because I could kind of work the school in around my travel schedule. But it’s not exactly putting boots on caterpillars - you still have to do all the assignments and projects like real school! (laughs)
AW: You just turned 18 a couple of months ago. What are your future plans for your career? Will you be heading off to college?
CW: As of right now, I don't have any plans on going to college. I've got great resources right in my backyard, with my dad’s shop and the network of people we know. I know I’m choosing the harder path, but hey - I'm ready to get my hands dirty. As for a future career, I would really like to get into building full size race cars like my Dad did, but I'm still young and open-minded and I'll take a peek into any door that opens along the way.
AW: You proved that your first Lexan body design was legit when you ran it during your stellar performance at last year’s Worlds. Will we see more new products from you and your father this year?
CW: I'm not sure if we will be seeing any body shells produced under my Dad’s company, or my company, but with Pro-Line coming aboard you never know what all of us can come up with in the future.
It sounds unlikely that "Russ Wernimont Designs" will ever put the aerodynamically designed shell that Carson ran at the Worlds into production - but that doesn't mean you'll never be able to buy it.
AW: Of what races are you most proud?
CW: I'm obviously pretty pumped with my Worlds performance. There are a lot of good guys who have never been on the podium at the Worlds and for me to come into that race, completely off of everyone's radar and get up there was pretty cool. The EOS in Poland was a similar story, especially being a Yankee from the States - I don't think anyone expected to see me TQ in 2WD or get on the podium as well.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most in RC?
CW: Oh man - the list goes on and on. Obviously. my Dad has been my #1 from the start, and has pretty much taught me everything I know. Gary Kyes was the one who initially got me started with the whole racing scene. Gil Losi Jr. has pretty much treated me as a son, taught me everything I could possibly want or need to know about the cars, and how to drive. Mark Pavidis and Joel Johnson have helped me out tremendously with my driving skills. ‘Dyno’ Dan Hissam has helped me out a great amount this year with my engine program and helping out with setup, and Lee Martin and I actually worked pretty close last year as well, especially at the World Championships. Without all these guys, there's no way I would be where I am today. Period.
AW: What is your favorite track? What about your favorite racing class?
CW: My favorite track would have to be the 2014 Worlds track in Sicily. It was so much fun! You had all the grip in the world and averaged such high speed around the whole track. My favorite class to run is 1/8th Scale Nitro Buggy. There's always endless amounts of testing getting everything just right, and on top of that, there is no more enjoyable car to drive.
AW: After driving for Team Durango for a while, then last season splitting time between Mugen Seiki and Schumacher, you’ve signed with Team Associated for 2015. Did they approach you about switching, or did you start the conversation?
CW: It’s actually kind of funny. I've run for Reedy for a few years now, and I would always mess with the AE guys about me running for them but the opportunity never really came around. As soon as all the stars aligned, I pulled the trigger on it.
AW: What excited you most about joining Team Associated?
CW: I'm really excited to work with them because they have a great background and history. It doesn't matter what hand they have, they play their cards wisely and know how to go win races.
AW: You’ve been running for relative underdogs for your entire career. Do you feel any added pressure joining the most successful team in RC racing history?
CW: No, I don't feel any pressure at all. At the end of the day, I'm still that same kid out playing with his toy car, and if I'm enjoying myself and having fun, I will do well.
AW: Did you talk to any other teams about racing for them in 2015?
CW: Yeah, after the Worlds I had quite a few offers and it was hard. There are some really good teams out there. But at the end of the day I'm pretty content with my decisions.
AW: You’ve run for AKA for years - since the company started, really. Was it a difficult decision to make the switch to Pro-Line?
CW: Yes, it was very hard for me. Those guys supported me and were there for me when I was a nobody. I appreciate that, and can’t thank them all enough for what they've done for me. We had some really great results over the years, and I did the best I could to stay loyal to them and promote them as much as I could. I just had some amazing opportunities I couldn't pass up that will help me out in the long run, so I went for it. But the AKA guys are a great group and I wish them nothing but the best for the future.
AW: What’s your favorite part of RC racing?
CW: I really enjoy the traveling, which works well with my schedule right now: being fresh out of high school, no girlfriend, no commitments, just pack your bags and go. When traveling all over, you get to meet the coolest people and see really cool stuff. I must say though, traveling abroad to the international races are by far the most fun times I've ever had. I would travel every weekend if I had the opportunity.
AW: What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
CW: The struggle when you meet a hot girl somewhere and you have to tell her you traveled halfway around the world to play with a toy car! But that's when you pull the, "I ride dirtbikes" card instead. There's always a way around it.
AW: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything else you would like to add?
CW: Thank You LiveRC for the interview and all my sponsors for supporting me. I’m looking forward to an awesome 2015 season!