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Round, round get around at Motown Raceway | Bartell's Backroads

Modesto's slot car race track isn't just for kids. Adults embrace their childhood love for tiny hot rods.

MODESTO, Calif. — If you were a kid and felt the need for speed in the 1960s, '70s, or '80s you got yourself a slot car racing set from toy makers like Gilbert or Arora AFX. Today, the nostalgia of yesteryear lives on at Motown Raceway in Modesto.

Gene Brahn is the owner and when he and his wife bought the place in 2010 their main goal was to give customers a real racing experience. 

“This kind of racing is as close to real racing as you'll get because you're going to have to work on the car, you have to prepare. It's a lot of little things. The car has to be good, the body has to be right, and the motor has to be good,” said Brahn.

Of course, racing comes at a 1/24 scale size of a real race car and track. Slot cars run on an electrified track. The metal slot in the middle sends power to the cars and it’s the driver's job to increase or decrease power as they round the corner. The main track is 155 feet long, or you can go one-on-one and really pour on the speed.

“We got a scale drag strip, 55 feet,” said Brahn.

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Rules are pretty simple. Racers are three minutes long and the driver with the most laps wins. Just like real racing, slot cars require repairs. Good thing Gene has a mechanic shop in the back room. Gene may take care of the damage for you, but your accident may be put on display. 

Brahn pointed to the Motown Raceway Wall of Shame. 

"You can see what's left of cars after big accidents,” said Brahn.

Slot car racing may have started out as a kid's toy and it still is, but today big kids play too. John Wilbur has been racing slot cars since he was 12, and since then, he's racked up quite the collection. 

“I came home and told my dad I wanted to do it so he said 'you'd better get a job,' so I got a paper route so I could start buying slot cars,” said Wilbur. “I still have some of those old cars that are worth quite a bit of money.”

Slot car racing has changed a lot over the years but for those grown-ups who still feel the occasional need for speed, Motown Raceway is just the place to get back in touch with your inner 12-year-old.

Motown Raceway is open Thursday through Saturday.

MORE WAYS TO GET AROUND ON THE BACKROADS: See what's below Lake Tahoe in a clear kayak. The beauty below the water is just as good as at the surface.


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