By Aaron Waldron
Many indoor clay tracks require very little maintenance, but the track crew at the Cactus Classic a couple of weeks ago may have been one of the hardest-working groups many of the racers had ever seen. The trio of CJ Jensen, Lucas “Sweet Lou” Duncan, and Michael Blose not only watered the track by hand between every race, but they often stayed late at night patching holes, smoothing bumps, and packing the track for added traction. It was their hard work that kept the track in such great shape after tens of thousands of laps over the course of the week, providing the platform for such incredible racing - especially during the main events. After everything wrapped up Sunday evening, I sat down with the guys and talked to them about the event.
Aaron Waldron: What was the toughest part of what you guys had to do this week?
CJ Jensen: Maintaining traction!
Michael Blose: Pleasing the drivers and keeping them happy.
Lucas Duncan: Especially during the middle of the day when the temperature rose, it was difficult to keep the moisture in the clay.
AW: What is your background in racing?
CJ: Michael and I started in motocross, and I started racing RC cars about five years ago.
LD: I started way back, when I was eight years old. I grew up in NorCal and raced at Hobby Warehouse and Capital City.
MB: I just kinda stumbled into it really, about seven or eight months ago. I just needed something to do - I was bored and not riding much. I was into RC racing when I was about sixteen years old, but got away from it because I had to choose between RC and motocross. Now that my moto career is done, this is where I’m at.
AW: Do you work here at the shop?
CJ: We all do. And I do all of the race directing. I started last October, so I’ve been here about a year and a half.
MB: I spend most of my time in the shop. I started about two months after the official grand opening, so about six months ago.
LD: I’ve been with Hobbytown/SRS for three Cactuses, so I started about two and a half years ago.
AW: How did you take hearing criticism about the track conditions?
CJ: At first, it wore on us a little bit.
LD: I think it compounded the lack of sleep and general fatigue.
CJ: Wednesday was when it dried out a lot, so we were down that day.
LD: We were chasing it for a while after that.
MB: I think it upset us because we knew how it was going to go, and then it threw a curveball at us with so many laps on that track.
CJ: The biggest club race we’ve really ever had was twenty heats, so we were able to do our regular water schedule. With so many more cars running, though, it changed a lot.
LD: And we club race at night, so it’s never that hot. I think the temperature swing of spring time in Phoenix played with the conditions a lot. It dried out during the day when it got hot, and then it cooled off again at night.
AW: Michael, did you have any idea RC existed at this level?
MB: I did, I was just never a part of it like I am now. It has given me a whole new perspective on the industry, and it’s cool to be a part of it.
AW: Did you have a nightly routine of what you did to the track?
CJ: The first two days we were packing the track.
LD: Which brings the traction level way, way up.
CJ: It’s called capillary rise. When you compact the dirt continuously it brings the moisture way up.
LD: If you pack the same section over and over, the packer goes from sliding across the surface to sticking - that’s how gummy the track gets. The problem is that it lost all consistency. In the morning people were flipping everywhere because there was ultra high grip. And then within the first couple hours it would fall off and people were chasing that and it wasn’t coming back.
MB: The track was never what it was like in practice. Each day had highs and lows.
LD: That’s when we went away from packing the track and just watering it heavily. We’d scrape the acceleration bumps with a hula hoe. We could scrape off the ultra-hard packed areas, as well as acceleration and braking bumps that formed near the corners.
The hula hoe.
AW: What kind of experience did you guys have building RC tracks before this?
MB: I’ve been building jumps since I was five years old. I’ve built super cross tracks, moto tracks, minibike tracks, bicycle jumps, everything.
AW: Is there anything you think you’d do differently next year?
CJ: Making sure we have misters! Honestly, I loved how the layout flowed and how the competition was tenths of a second apart. The only thing I would change is having a better watering system, which is already in the works.
LD: Just with the misters we would’ve shaved a ton of time.
CJ: It would sure make our lives a lot easier. Running up and down the stairs every other heat during club races burns me out!
MB: But it makes your calves look huge!
Michael, Lucas, and CJ standing in the middle of their masterpiece.