By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Folks who travel Alabama 21 near Interstate 65 on Saturdays might wonder what’s going on in the vacant area behind the fast-food restaurants on the highway’s eastern side. Wonder no more.
It’s usually a group of about 25 local and area enthusiasts who race their radio-controlled cars against each other for fun.
Attempts to reach Justin Pace, Atmore RCL’s president, were unsuccessful, but club member Steven Lassiter said the group gets together, weather permitting, to enjoy their automotive avocation.
“We have small races just about every Saturday in town, at the end of the road behind Taco Bell,” Lassiter explained, noting that it’s not just the competition that makes the hobby such an important endeavor. “The great thing about RC racing is bonding with my son, Jase, and also getting together with a great group of friends that work together to make each other better racers.”
The local group has drawn plenty of favorable reaction from the Battle on the Blacktop event that was held here in late February. That event drew dozens of racers, from the local area and from across the country.
“Battle on the Blacktop was put on by an out-of-town promoter and it was a very fun race,” Lassiter said. “It brought the top racers in the country — from Hawaii, Canada and all over the country.”
Car owners competed for cash prizes in three categories — Outlaw, Box Stock and Bracket — during the three-day event, which was held on the vacant strip of asphalt adjacent to Hampton Inn.
Lassiter said another such local event, possibly to include a series of night races, is on tap for July.
Mayor Jim Staff was one of several local officials who attended the event. He was impressed with the cars, the racers and the economic impact it had on the city.
“I thought it was a great deal,” Staff said. “It was good, clean fun. We won’t know how much of a financial impact it had until the end of March, when we see the sales tax and lodging tax numbers, but there were folks from everywhere — Hawaii, Canada, Iowa, lots of other places. The community really supported it, too.”
The mayor said he is excited about the encore event scheduled for July and promised that proper lighting would be available if the night racing plan is carried out.
“They’re coming back in July, and they want to run night races,” he said. “They need two tower lights for that. We have one, and we can borrow one from the (Escambia County) sheriff. We can provide the lights.”