Feb 21, 2012 - By Christina George Staff WriterTom Riggin used to be an avid dirt bike racer.
But about three years ago, the Colorado Springs, Colo., resident switched gears, trading in two wheels for four miniature ones.
"It's clean, fun and family oriented," he said. "It's a healthy environment, and it's a lot cheaper and safer than dirt bikes."
Hunched over his pit table, Riggin worked on his miniature radio-controlled car that he would later race in the annual Ice Melter Mini-Z R/C Car Races on Saturday at Wind River Casino.
The event was part of this year's Wild West Winter Carnival festivities.R00;
Riggin and other radio-controlled car enthusiasts from around the state, Colorado and Utah gathered at the casino's entertainment room to compete in Saturday's qualifying matches.
"I try to come every year," Riggin said. "And don't let the little car fool you."
He traveled to Riverton with another enthusiast, Sam Pedregon, of Pueblo, Colo.
"Don't poke anybody with your antenna," the announcer said at the start of the match.
The morning's first heat of racers started shortly after 10 a.m. The five men stood on stage with remote controllers in hand. Below them on the ground laid an RCP track comprised of 20 sharp turns.
"I designed it so yes, I like it," said Brian Stanley, of Salt Lake City, about the racetrack. "It's a new track and a fun track."
Racers were timed based on the number of laps they completed in eight minutes.
With 40 laps at the bell, Stanley took first place in the day's first race. Pedregon came in at a close second with 37 laps.R00;R00;
Saturday's race consisted of random heats of cars. The top placers were given better positions on the track Sunday for the trophies.
"For the heats, they are racing the clock," said Ken Watts, of Riverton. "The secret is to run your car smoothly."
Watts attended the races to show support for his sons who have competed for years.
"Doing this, you have to take your mind and take it off the controller you are working on," he said. "Your mind has to be in the car."
As the cars zoomed across the starting line, an electronic strip underneath the track read the car's speed from a censor chip built into the car's undercarriage.
There were cheers mixed with gasps whenever a car crashed into the wall or flipped over.
Each time a car completed a lap, an automated voice came on the room's loudspeaker with times. The information was also displayed on a large flat-screen television.
"It's really fascinating to watch," Watts said, before turning his focus back to the action.R00;
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