It’s Good to Be “King of the Streets”

It’s Good to Be “King of the Streets”

No-Prep Street Outlaw RC Drag Race Earns Winner Over $18,000 Cash

Photos by Robert Bauer | Words by Wally Armstrong

For as long as RC cars have existed, there have been RC car races to put drivers’ skills to the test. Winners usually get a trophy, a title, and bragging rights. They rarely go home with pockets full of cash.

In February, however, one driver did just that — earning over $18,000 after speeding his way to the top at the biggest winner-take-all cash prize race in RC history, King of the Streets.

King of the Streets represents a fast-growing segment of RC competition called No Prep Street Outlaw Drag Racing. No Prep means that the racing surface is left unprepared to simulate normal street conditions (although blowing it off is acceptable). Street Outlaw means that each model must have a body that mimics an actual car you could drive on the street. In each elimination round, two cars line up behind the starting lights and go on green. The winner is the one that arrives first at the end of a 132-foot long scale drag strip that would stretch 1/4 mile in real life.

Easy enough, right? Horizon brand manager Paul Willhite, who attended this year’s event, says, “The King of the Streets RC Drag Race is THE race to attend. The energy level and passion for racing at this event are second to none.” It’s quickly emerging as the favorite event for drag racers to test their skills, show off their cars, and maybe walk away a little richer.

King of the Streets 2021 was held on February 27 in the parking lot of the SPEEDVEGAS Motorsport Theme Park in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was only the second year for the event, but attendance swelled to 500 compared to 42 last year, and 256 drag racers signed up to participate.

King of the Streets is planned to last one day, but with so many individual races to complete that seems impossible. Nevertheless, they pulled it off. Here’s how.

No second chances

Like full-scale drag races, King of the Streets follows a single elimination-style ladder. All racers are organized into one of eight groups to compete in eight elimination rounds. If you win your race, you advance to the next round. If you lose, you’re done. As the event goes on, fewer racers move forward, and the rounds become faster. At Round Eight, only two drivers remain.

The structure is easy to understand and has an undisputed winner at the end. There are no second chances. With just one pass on the strip — about three seconds of drive time — each driver has a 50-50 chance of advancing or going home. Becoming the champion requires eight consecutive winning passes. Statistically, every racer has a 0.4% chance of winning it all and a 99.6% chance of losing.

To boost their odds, King of the Streets competitors look for creative ways to increase performance, traction, and top speed. The biggest problems for drag racers are losing grip and pulling to the side. Driving skill is almost secondary to being able to set up and tweak your vehicle well.

Of course, there are rules, defined by the NPRC “No Prep RC Drag Racing” Sports League, and vehicles are inspected before each run for two main criteria. They must weigh at least 4.54 pounds, and battery voltage cannot exceed 8.44V on a 2-cell LiPo. Vehicles failing the inspection cannot race. Any RC car motor commonly available over-the-counter can be used. Tire prep is allowed, but a burnout is required before cars can be staged at the race line.

Thanks to a computer-controlled sensor system, the winner of each pass is never in doubt. Some finishes are so close it would be impossible to determine who won without it. And with $18,000 on the line, King of the Streets needs a winner.

Show me the money

King of the Streets has many sponsors supporting the event and staff, but that’s not where the prize money is generated. The racers themselves provide the $18,000 purse. Everyone who enters pays a $100 fee. That’s not cheap by RC standards, but it does make sure the event is filled only with serious racers.

In a way, King of the Streets is the first crowd-funded major RC event. The odds of winning might seem slim, but this is Vegas, baby. You can’t win if you don’t play!

Horizon Hobby’s Brian Nunez staffed the Losi® booth at this year’s race and was impressed by the camaraderie between competitors. “Even though there was over 18K on the line, the sportsmanship was still high if not higher than at other events,” he says. “Drivers fist-bumped each other before the race, wished each other good luck, and then congratulated the winner afterward.”

“The event was run super-smoothly thanks to the team at RC Dragtalk,” Paul Willhite adds. “They chose an excellent venue at SPEEDVEGAS. The big money on the line kept the competition level very high. What more can you ask for from a race event?”

There was a chill in the Las Vegas air on the night of February 27. Round One had begun with high hopes and 256 racers. Throughout the elimination rounds, the number steadily fell: 64…32…16…8…4…

A full moon cast its glow over SPEEDVEGAS as the last remaining drivers, Jacob Lieder and Clay Keates, lined up for the final, eighth round of King of the Streets. In a few seconds, one or the other would be $18,000 richer — more, once sponsor money is added.

The light went green. And suddenly, Clay was flush with money and surrounded by media.

“You just won almost $19,000!” someone said. “What’s the first thing you’re going to buy?”

Without hesitation, Clay answered, “I’m gonna buy my wife some cabinets for the kitchen.”

And there you have it. In the world of No Prep Street Outlaw Drag Racing, dreams do come true. Who will win next year’s King of the Streets? Maybe you. And if so, how will you spend your prize?

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