By Aaron Waldron
It didn’t take long after the bombshell news that Adam Drake’s twenty-year relationship Horizon Hobby ended for speculation to begin about the former TLR frontman’s next destination. In fact, The Drake himself may be responsible for igniting the first flame, posting this Novarossi teaser to his Facebook page the day before:
The 234 Likes, 36 comments, and three shares were nothing compared to what happened after the big news hit.
Factory-sponsored keyboard cowboys and Kool Aid-drinking diehards for nearly every manufacturer expressed their desire to become teammates with The Drake, even going so far as to fan the flames burning down the rumor mill.
Some even resorted to Photoshop with varying degrees of artistry:
The day after our story was published, this photo was uploaded to an Internet message forum called “OffroadRC.net” with the following message:
in a statement to orrc adam is quoted as saying:
"i just wanted to be in a good place, a place where i could buy my traxxas a-arms and maybe a tv or fridge. access to traxxas parts at bestbuy or futureshop is one of the reasons traxxas is the great brand in rc”
While clearly intended as satire (and no, that quote isn't real at all), it seems that at least one response seemed to take it at least semi-seriously. By the way, the username for the account that posted this story was, and I’m not making this up, “ThatGuy.”
The next day, another image popped up on the Internet that was perhaps only slightly less silly:
German news site Buggy Sport posted this digital disaster, alleging that someone had provided the hint linking Adam Drake with Mugen Seiki - but after a second or two after the shock wore off, it was easy to see that an old photo of Adam had been doctored (poorly) to change the logos on his t-shirt and trademark black hat, and the background was one originally created for Chris Chmielewski of Ashtabula, OH.
The rumors cooled off a bit for about two weeks after that, until the “selfie seen around the RC world” was posted to French site “RCnews.fr” showing Drake with an SWORKz representative with a caption indicating that the deal was already done.
As that cell phone shot circulated RC’s slice of the Internet, this photo posted by Neobuggy seemed to corroborate news that Drake had in fact spoken to SWORKz, perhaps even at a previous event:
I wasted more time than I’d like to admit looking for the original source of that photo, or even a race that Drake had attended where an SWORKz team large enough to need their own pit tent was necessary, until I found this photo from their coverage of the 2013 Dirt Nitro Challenge:
Hey - I thought that red tent looked familiar!
Besides, that wasn’t the only photo of Adam from this year’s Nuremburg Toy Fair. Peter Gray (@rrci_madpete) from Radio Race Car International tweeted this photo of Adam standing in the Carisma booth:
In the weeks since, the emergence of new rumors has all but stopped - and while we don’t exactly see The Drake moving to Texas and settling down with Traxxas, it turns out that both the Mugen Seiki and SWORKz rumors have legs…
…and by “legs” I mean that multiple RC racers have messaged LiveRC over the last week, indicating that they’ve seen Adam at Revelation testing different cars. Though it’s 100% hearsay, with no photographic proof, it’s alleged that Drake tested SWORKz vehicles with AMain’s SoCal-based team manager Marty Korn present.
As we’ve already documented, Korn and Drake have history as friendly racing rivals, and Korn’s position as the AMain.com team manager includes representing SWORKz as well. Though AMain.com currently sponsors big names like Jared Tebo, Atsushi Hara, and Lee Martin, having a driver of Drake’s caliber all to themselves would be a first - and Drake’s experience in product development with Horizon Hobby and TLR could not only unlock a new world for AMain and perhaps their in-house ProTek R/C brand, but the large online retailer could provide the kind of career stability that Adam, whose racing exploits were part of a larger full-time position within the offices of Horizon Hobby and TLR in SoCal, may be looking for.
On Monday morning, it was reported that Drake was back at Revelation Raceway - only this time driving Mugen Seiki vehicles with, from what I could gather from the description from our avid fan on Facebook, was Tim Long.
Long’s RC career spans many years and several different manufacturers, including a stint with Team Losi Racing - here's a shot of him from our broadcast of the 2012 IFMAR Worlds, where he served on Drake’s pit crew.
Long provides an interesting link between not only Drake and Mugen, but he has a history with Steve O’Donnell as well. Here’s a shot of him from RedRC wearing an old t-shirt of O’Donnell’s namesake brand of engines and fuel while driving a TLR buggy at a 2011 JBRL event.
Here he is again, wearing that same O’Donnell shirt (or a different one of the same kind - that thing must have some serious miles on it by now!) at the 2012 KO Propo America Nitro Grand Prix. This is Long's RCTech profile photo:
Tim Long’s past relationship with O’Donnell provides a very interesting link between where we stand now, as it seems The Drake may have narrowed his choices down to the two parties, and the original Facebook post from Adam himself - suggesting that his future may stem from his present arrangement with Novarossi, especially with the brand’s new U.S. importer started by Steve O’Donnell.
Of course, Steve also worked alongside Drake while developing the latest version of the 8IGHT platform at TLR.
Once I had put this whole story together, I was too excited about it not to say anything - so I shot Adam a text message to ask if he was going to Nitro Challenge, and when he responded “yes” I called him right away.
“I didn’t even know who that was!” said Adam about the Buggy Sport photo that allegedly confirmed the SWORKz deal in Nuremburg. “Someone came up and asked to take a selfie with me, and the next thing I know I’m going to SWORKz,” said Drake, who said he then made it a point to take pictures with many other companies to prove there was nothing meant by it. (See the Carisma photo above)
I told Adam what I heard about him testing with Mugen’s Tim Long and Marty Korn with SWORKz, and he laughed in disbelief about how everyone is so excited to learn what’s coming next. At first, Drake said that he tried to keep everything hush-hush and go about it as quietly as possible, but it quickly became apparent that wouldn't be possible. “Now with everyone running more often getting ready for Nitro Challenge, I’m surprised there haven’t been more pictures and stuff,” he continued, while going on to list other companies with whom he has tested or spoken while putting together his plan. “I’ve tested cars on my own, and tested with a lot of different people,” said the three-time National Champ, who made it clear that he would be choosing cars, radio equipment, and fuel, but that engines and tires (presumably Novarossi and Pro-Line) were set in stone.
Even as he felt that negotiations have started wrapping up and that he’s pretty confident that he can start wrapping up decisions, Adam was approached by yet another brand at a local track over the past week who expressed their inability to reach him and a desire to discuss their options if he hadn’t yet committed anywhere.
“The last thing I want to do is hear, two days later after I’ve made my decision, someone say ‘oh, I wish you would’ve called’ and pass something up. If it takes a few extra days to iron everything out and I don’t end up racing Nitro Challenge, it’s not the end of the world.” He understands the magnitude of the decision and what it means for him and his family going forward, so it makes sense why he wants to do it right.
After a month of guesswork, sorting rumors, and laughing at Photoshop touch-ups, we may finally be closing in on our answer. Adam responded to a text message earlier saying that he will, in fact, be attending next week’s The Dirt Nitro Challenge in Phoenix, AZ, and while nothing is yet set in stone he hopes to iron out the details over the next few days.