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Slot Car Drag Racing - Small-Scale Drag Racing

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Slot Car Racing.

By Rick Voegelin, Photography by Rick Voegelin

The slot car of choice for NTRA drag racing is the venerable Aurora ThunderJet chassis, produced by the thousands in Hong Kong. A surprising number of ThunderJets have survived since the '60s and '70s, and N.O.S. chassis and parts are still available, albeit at 21st century prices. The TJet's quirky pancake chassis design, with its characteristic horizontal armature and an array of spur gears, has been cloned and reproduced in modern times by Johnny Lightning and Auto World, making cars abundant and affordable. Modern inline-motor chassis from Tomy, Mattel, and specialist suppliers offer superior performance, but considerably less nostalgia.

Competition classes in slot car drag racing mimic real-world racing and range from box stock to highly modified. The axiom that speed costs money holds true in slot car racing, with performance-enhancing modifications adding to both the thrill factor and the bottom line expense. In slot car drag racing, voltage is like nitromethane-crank up the volts and the car runs faster. At 14 volts DC, a typical TJet is reasonably quick; at 26 volts, it's a bullet. The resistance of the armature windings is roughly analogous to displacement: If a stock 16-ohm armature is a nice 283 small-block, a 5-ohm arm is a torquey big-block, and a 1-ohm arm is a Top Fuel motor with a short fuse.

NTRA events are run as mail-in proxy races-racers send in their entries, which the host club drives on their behalf. The hosts aren't eligible to compete in their own races, heading off any potential conflicts of interest. The quickest car doesn't always win, as driver reaction times, redlights, and hole shots frequently determine the outcome in close matches. Links on the site and some creative web surfing will turn up many other organizations, clubs, and commercial tracks that conduct slot car drag races.

Previous rounds of the NTRA championship were held in Colorado, Florida, and Illinois. Fifty-one entries from across the U.S. competed in three classes at the NTRA World Finals: Stock, Gasser, and Nostalgia Funny Car (see the Nitroslots website for the complete lowdown on classes and rules). Since it's about modeling as well as racing, many of the entries had period paint schemes and were remarkably detailed.

Regardless of the size of the car, success in drag racing requires careful preparation, sharp tuning skills, and a killer instinct on race day. In short, racing on a smaller scale can be just as rewarding as the real thing-and a lot cheaper.

By Rick Voegelin
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