They'll Slot You In

60s racing sensation returns to popularity

Lisa de Felice, photos by Frank H. Robinson |

A LITTLE FAST, A LITTLE FURIOUS. Slot car racetracks, like this one set up at 1st Place Apparel in Chippewa Falls, are appearing in more and more locations around the Chippewa Valley.

Move over video games, slot car racing is making a comeback! Slot car racing is a fun pastime hobby where tiny electric-powered cars race on mini tracks with grooves in them so that the cars can stay in their respective lanes. Popular in the 1960s in America, the hobby only lasted about two decades until it died with the rise of more technology-centered toys.

Although slot car racing has stayed popular in Europe, it is just now becoming the hype again in America, mostly on the east and west coasts. Some places are sprouting their own slot car tracks in the Midwest though, even right here in the Chippewa Valley.

Todd Blaeser, owner of 1st Place Apparel, located on 300 N. Bridge St. in Chippewa Falls, just finished putting together his own slot car racetrack in the main level of his store.

The cars and four-lane track is 1/32 scale to the real thing, said Blaeser. With fake grass surrounding the slot car track and a computer hooked up to record the number of laps and fastest laps, as well as add sound effects while racing, it is easy to see why slot car racing is become popular again.

Blaeser was inspired to put a slot car racetrack in his store because he used to race slot cars when he was a kid, and even used it to bond with his son years ago, said Blaeser.

According to Blaeser, he wanted to bring this old hobby back to the Chippewa Valley and make it new again.

Although it is not new for some adults, as they grew up with slot cars, many have found their way into 1st Place Apparel and enjoy reminiscing with the racetrack.

“Everyone has a great big smile on their face when they do it,” said Blaeser.

    Younger kids are getting into it as well, and Blaeser even has a race car-themed party room in the lower-level of his shop for kids’ birthday parties.

Rates for using the slot car track are about $3 for every 10 minutes.

But slot car racing isn’t exclusive to Blaeser’s business. They’re also revving up at Shari’s Chippewa Club in Durand.

Owners Shari and Rob Edwards bought the bar in September of 2005 and immediately put the slot car racetrack in it. Rob played with slot cars when they were all the rage in the 60s, he says, and continued his love of slot cars by having a portable track that he set up on the top of his car for people to play.

“They just flipped out,” Rob said.

Nowadays, the bar is taking up too much of their time for Rob to take his mobile track around, but eventually he would like to build another mobile track and take it around to kids and senior citizens.

For now, though, the slot car racetrack at Shari’s Chippewa Club is open to patrons of the bar, and is free of charge.

People who use the slot car racetrack range from groups of guys in their 20s, vying to see who can go the fastest, to families with their youngster who like to go to town on the track, says Rob.

So next time you think about picking up the controller to your latest video game, think instead about going to Shari’s Chippewa Club or 1st Place Apparel for some good old-fashion, slot car racing fun!