Archive for August, 2003

ROAR Modified Off-Road Nationals in Dayton, Virginia August 21st- 24th

Steel City Hobbies visits Tiltyard, located in Dayton Virginia.

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Steel City Hobbies visited the Tiltyard this past weekend. The 120 mile drive was beautiful as I took the back roads all the way from the store. The Shenandoah Mountains are incredible and a lot of fun to drive through. It was an interesting experience since this track is literally in someone’s back yard! “Tiltyard” seems to be the name of the so-called dirt road they live on. The track layout was great I thought. Lots of turns and jumps to challenge any driver. The best way to sum up the condition of the track would be to say it was “hard”. When I say hard, I mean the surface was hard packed dried out treated dirt. It was almost as hard as concrete but with many cracks. That made for decent traction and a surface that was not all that dusty. I did not really hear any complaints from too many drivers, but some said there were too many cracks and the hardness of the surface was causing parts to break after the one large jump at the finish line.
I met people from Puerto Rico, New York City, Illinois, California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and many other places. It was a pleasure to meet Gil Losi, Matt Francis, Adam Drake, and other top-notch drivers from all over the country. All were great people and nice to chat with.

The Race
Jerry Durst drove down to Tiltyard on Thursday to get a few qualifying heats in before the big day. He broke a few parts on the large jump because of the hard surface. Click here for Tiltyard Results. I think Jerry did a terrific job!

Steel City Hobbies and the Tribune Review – Great Article!

Child’s Play: Radio control cars keep Steelers entertained

By Joe Starkey
Sunday, August 17, 2003

LATROBE — When the white pick-up arrives at their dormitory at St. Vincent College, Steelers players react like kids to an ice-cream truck. They gather around it, chattering like magpies, eagerly awaiting their treat.
Only the treats are not 50-cent Popsicles. They are customized, radio-control cars that cost anywhere from $500 to $3,000 or more. And those are discount rates.

The cars have become the rage at this year’s camp, where players race them in the parking lots, on the grass and along the sloped roads outside their dorm.

“They’re addictive,” said punter Josh Miller, who plans to buy a radio-control (R/C) truck with his children’s names painted on the doors. “They go like 50 miles an hour (usually between 30-45 mph). You race one another and make little side bets. It’s a blast.”

There are side benefits, too.
“I have a dog at home that’s like 12 pounds overweight, so I’m going to chase the dog around the house until she gets back to normal,” Miller said. “The kids will love it.”

Running back Jerome Bettis — a.k.a. “The Bus” — wasn’t interested in this newest training-camp fad until he learned that he could get a custom-made, black-and-gold bus built for $600.

“It turned out to be incredible,” Bettis said. “It’s an expensive toy. You don’t want to tear it up.”

The ice-cream man — or, in this case, the radio man — is Mike Rooney, nephew of Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and son of Steelers vice president Art Rooney Jr.

Mike Rooney, 36, got into the R/C car business in May when he started a company called Steel City Hobbies. He opened a store in Deep Creek, Md., and plans to open one in Pittsburgh in the near future. He also plans to build an indoor race track for year-round racing.


Rooney is a self-described “entrepreneur” who remembers when Steelers training camp was twice as long as it is this year. In the early 1980s, he would come to St. Vincent and set up his own side businesses.

At age 14, he remembers earning a few hundred dollars per week doing players’ laundry and washing and waxing their luxurious cars.

“I learned to drive a stick on (ex-running back) Walter Abercrombie’s Porsche 911,” Rooney said, laughing. “I don’t know if he knows that.”

Through his undergraduate days at Washington & Jefferson College and graduate school at New York University, Rooney dabbled in various other independent pursuits. He currently works as a volunteer fireman in Mt. Lebanon and does side jobs for the Steelers, assisting the team’s video and film director, Bob McCartney. When Rooney was laid off from his job at a project management company, he turned his energy toward building an R/C car business.

He never dreamed it would get off to such a blazing start.

The first spark came about a year ago, when Rooney marveled at the technology that went into an R/C car given to his nephew as a gift. He attended some indoor races in Columbus, Ohio, and contacted his friend Jerry Durst about going into business together. Rooney put $25,000 into a hobby shop in Deep Creek that included R/C accessories.

He also put a time-frame on success.

“I said, ‘I’m giving it one summer,’ ” Rooney said. “I went from buying a car in November to owning a store in May.”

The two men decided to use Steelers’ minicamp in June as a test run for the cars. Rooney, whose business is not affiliated with the Steelers, simply placed a model car in the locker room one day at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex on the South Side so the players could observe it.

Next thing he knew, a panicked team official tracked him down and said, ‘Mike, you better get down there, because those guys are going crazy.’ ”

Players surrounded Rooney and peppered him with questions such as, “Can you get chrome wheels on that?” On the last day of minicamp, Durst brought up some test cars from Maryland. The players went nuts.

After practice, the parking lot became a whirl of speeding chrome. Problem was, nobody knew how to control the cars.

“They wrecked everything I had,” Rooney said. “But it was OK. It only cost me about $30 to fix those cars.”

Soon, web surfers who went to the Steelers’ official Web site saw an article on Rooney’s visit to Steelers minicamp and a link to Rooney’s site, Rooney got 50,000 hits in a month.

The players placed orders for custom-made cars that arrived on the first day of training camp. The cars were RTR — ready to ride — and were packed in large red duffel bags. Within two weeks, Rooney had sold 25 cars, including one for $2,900 to a linebacker whom he declined to name.

“He got all titanium and aluminum,” Rooney said. “It was very cool.”


Even though this camp is unusually short this year — it started July 25 and breaks Thursday — the players are always looking for ways to break the monotony. Their choices are limited, because team meetings run until about 10 p.m., at which time they are fed a snack. Their curfew is 11 p.m., except when they practice at night, in which case it’s midnight.

Players look to fill down time with some sort of activity earlier in the day.


Miller likes to read books, play Yahtzee and argue with roommate Mike Schneck. He’ll drop $500 for his R/C car, which will not only have his children’s names emblazoned on it but also a “U of A” insignia for his alma mater, the University of Arizona. His wife wasn’t pleased with the price tag.
“I look at it like this,” Miller said. “For 500 days, I’d pay a dollar a day for it.”

At any time of day, players are engaged in pro and college football video games. The rule in EA Sports College Football is that a player must use his alma mater.
“I got into that my second year, but I was getting beat by everybody, so I don’t play anymore,” said offensive lineman Keydrick Vincent. “Some guys’ teams are stacked. I was Ole Miss, and I was getting beat all the time. I mean, we were good — we were ranked No. 23 and had Eli Manning — but I got beat all the time, and I got mad.”

Vincent likes to sit around and listen to his entertaining roommate, Marvel Smith.
“He’s always telling jokes and making fun of people,” Vincent said. “He’s a pretty funny guy.”

Vincent is debating whether to buy an RC. “They look pretty fun, but I’m one of those guys if I buy something, I play with it once or twice and then just put it in a closet.”

Guard Alan Faneca likes to play DVDs and video games. He doesn’t understand the R/C car craze.
“I don’t know what they’re doing, man. It looks pretty boring just to ride around in circles. It’s just an expensive trip in a circle,” he said.

Quarterback Tommy Maddox likes to read and relax.
“I’m not really into video games,” he said. “I watch some TV and read a little bit and try to stay off my feet in my down time.”

Maddox was thrilled when his wife and kids arrived Wednesday for family day. It was the first time that he’d seen them in about three weeks.

The biggest craze by far is the R/C cars. Wide receiver Hines Ward got a Cadillac Escalade with his name printed on the windshield. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress and nose tackle Casey Hampton each got a ’52 Chevy. Burress has an ‘S’ on one car, representing his alma mater, Michigan State. Rooney said that Burress, not an excitable sort of guy, was like a kid on Christmas Day when he opened his red duffel bag.

The cars run on nitromethane or electricity. If they are fuel-powered, they can run for 10-15 minutes between refills. The players get plenty competitive racing around traffic cones. At a recent after-dinner race, Ward, Bettis and linebacker Joey Porter lined up with serious looks on their faces and radios in their hands.

The Bus won easily, prompting Bettis to raise his index finger to the skies.

“I’m a lot better driver than a lot of those other guys, and I got mine a lot earlier than most of those guys, so my skills are a lot better,” Bettis said.

Porter crashed during the race. Later on, linebacker James Farrior wrapped his Traxxas T-Maxx four-wheel drive truck into a tree. Rooney said it can be expensive to repair the mini vehicles.

The players figure it’s worth it.

“Football can’t be all day long, or it gets monotonous,” Ward said. “You have to have some fun.”

Joe Starkey can be reached at

August 14th, 2003 Race Results

August 14th Race Results

Thursday. Another great fun evening! If you were not here for this race, you missed out. We were next to the Demolition Derby and had a greater audience. Thank you to all who participated and donated to the local charities!

Monster Truck Class Winners
Jerry Durst 1st
Mike Hauser 2nd
David Wildesen 3rd
Michael Bowser 4th
Oscar Uphold 5th

Stadium Truck Class Winners
Jerry Durst 1st

1/8th Scale Buggy Winners
Brian Uphold 1st
Mike Hauser 2nd
Dan Nordeck 3rd
Oscar Uphold 4th

August 12th Race Results

Tuesday – Not our typical day to race, but this was a special Race and all monies will be given to local charities such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. Today’s turnout just got better as time went on. We had at least 200 spectators by the end of the racing event. The freestyle event was incredible thanks to R/C DCL’s Dan Nordeck!

Here is the list of winners, well, the ones who crossed the finish line first. As we all know, everyone is a winner when it comes to charity!

Fair Pictures

Monster Truck Class Winners

Jerry Durst – far right (1st place) • 2nd – Mike Hauser • 3rd – Dave Finzel (far left) • Other Participants: David Wildesen, John Myers and Oscar Uphold

Stadium Truck Class Winners

1st – Jerry Durst

Jerry raced with the Buggy Class to stir the pot! See picture below.

1/8th Scale Buggy Winners

1st – Dave Finzel (far left)

• 2nd – Brian Uphold (middle) • Jerry Durst with Stadium Truck (on right.)


Steel City Hobbies and Garrett County Fair working on R/C events

A Charity Race has been approved so Steel City Hobbies will be promoting a race on two days during the Fair this year. The decision came today when Store Manager Jerry Durst visited the site and was able to demonstrate that we can put on a good show and provide entertainment for everyone while raising money for local charities.

Money raised by the drivers, and by donations collected at the event, will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters local charity for kids.

~~ Drivers Wanted ~~

If anyone is interested in participating in Thursdays race, please contact the store ASAP. What we will need is your name, class you want to run in, and a charity you would like to represent. It would be very helpful for you to find people and/or businesses to promote your car. Please contact us for further details. There will be an $10.00 entrance fee for the racing event as it is all for a good cause.

If you can not get in touch with the shop, just bring your R/C Car or Truck and you can sign up on site!

SCH will also be providing entertainment throughout the Fair by means of racing on Tuesday and Thursday, August 12th and 14th. On other days, freestyle events will be going on at any given time. If you are interested in running in any freestyle event, please contact the store as we need drivers! The Freestyle event will be for show only, will provide a great time for you to show off your talent driving in front of a crowd. There is NO entrance fee for this event.

Steel City Hobbies recognized again on Steelers Website, August 14, 2003

SCH makes the Steelers website which talks about the craze on R/C cars provided by Steel City Hobbies.

Steel City Hobbies and Garrett County Fair will be holding a R/C Race and Freestyle event

Steel City Hobbies is pleased to announce two great races last week, Tuesday, August 12, and Thursday, August 14th. We had a terrific turn-out with over 200 + spectators at each event.

These races hosted three events to watch which included these classes:

Monster Truck
Stadium Truck
1/8th Scale Buggy
The Races and crowd raised over $240.00 which was donated to the local Big Brothers Big Sisters charity.

Archived information:

The Race
Each car racing will be representing a Charity, and racers have been out campaigning for companies and people to sponsor their car. There will be no losers in this race. The car that crosses the finish line first will be the theoretical winner of course, but all the charities are winners. The charity of choice is the local Big Brothers Big Sisters and we have presented a check on the Sunday Raceday of August 17th.

Freestyle Event
The Freestyle Events will happen before, during, and after the race, as well as every day in between events hosted by the Fair. This will provide great entertainment as these car drivers get into crazy situations such as jumping, flipping and sometimes crash and burn situations. It is amazing to watch these cars do the things that they can do. Stop by the Steel City Hobbies booth located near the track for more details!