I grew up with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars but today I’m a loyal Hot Wheels collector and racer. You just can’t beat the wonderful Hot Wheels designs and frankly, the price. When people find out I’m a collector and they give me a little smirk, I remind them that my hobby only costs me one dollar at a time. While I might not stray from the Hot Wheels name, when it comes to racing I’m just happy to see cars roll down a track regardless of brand.
One of the more high profile diecast racing clubs in the country is the Johnny Lightning Race Club out of Rhode Island. Johnny Lightning cars may be a little bit out of my price range but that doesn’t make them any less fun to race. When the opportunity came about to talk to the JLRC president, Jeremy Morin, I didn’t hesitate to ask him a few questions about the club, the cars, the track and more.
Jeremy Morin, JLRC President
Redline Derby: Lets start with the basics. Tell us about your club, where you are located, what your role is within the club and maybe a little club history. Some info about what it takes to be a member of your club would be great too.
Jeremy Morin: We are located at the MacColl Field YMCA (Youth Center) where we meet the second Saturday of each month in Lincoln, R.I. My role has been the Clubs President since October of 2007 when the former President Steve Mink got out of the hobby completely. I elected at the time member Greg Wright to be the clubs Vice President and its worked out great since. We now have five club officers including President, Vice Pres. Treasurer, Secretary, and Race/Points Coordinator.
We work very well together as a team so we hope every January we are elected back in as our respective positions in the club. To be a member of our club is easy we charge $10.00 dollars for a yearly membership that includes a monthly on line newsletter emailed directly to the person each month along with a membership card.
RD: The Lincoln JLRC web site is well done and has a lot of good info and photos. There are also some good shots of your main diecast derby track. Tell us a bit about the race track…maybe some specs and how it was built. Finish lines, starting gates…all that good stuff.
JM: Our track was built by two cabinet makers and it took about 20 hours to complete from start to finish. It is 24ft. long at about 4 1/2 ft. tall at the starting gate. We use a Micro Wizard timing system that tells you how fast your cars are going. Also the start gate was custom built the track performs well each month. The end of last year after our December Finals we changed the washers that held the track down to the ramp and we went over to using Velcro for a much smoother track now. We just started this January racing on that and so far its worked out well.
RD: It also looks like your race events are well organized and managed. Give us a walkthrough of typical race day activities and events, and talk a bit about how you keep it all running smoothly.
JM: As far as how smoothly our monthly meetings work out I credit the club officers and some of the members that help out each and every month. I couldn’t do it by myself there is a lot of work that goes into running these meetings each month. It isn’t just running the track there is a lot of other work behind the scenes that goes on. Like I tell everyone, thank goodness for the officers and the members for helping out.
RD: It also looks like you’ve made a connection with official Learning Curves/Johnny Lightning too. How did that come about and what type of “deal” is in place, if any, with their brand?
JM: We have a Great relationship with Learning Curve. We do a lot of advertising for them at our monthly meetings, club newsletter, fliers, business cards, websites, etc. We actually have a Certificate of Achievement from Tom Zahorsky (Senior Design Manager) at RC2/Learning Curve. It says Johnny Lightning has teamed up with the Lincoln Johnny Lightning Race Club and has named the club the official race club of Johnny Lightning. That was great to receive this from the top guy in the company. I have that hanging on the wall in my office!!!
RD: Redline Derby runs pretty much all Hot Wheels when it comes to racing. How was it decided to go with Johnny Lightning as your primary diecast class?
JD: We decided to race Johnny Lightning diecast from the beginning that the club was founded in January of 2007. We wanted something different other than just racing Hot Wheels and Matchbox. I think the JL’s look very cool going down the track and they are very hard to judge when it comes to performance on the track. There is about 10 real fast JL castings and most of them are all the older Playing Mantis castings from the late 90?s. Like I always tell people everyone and their brother has a Hot Wheels club nobody but us has a JL club that actually collects and races them on a monthly basis. It just makes it very interesting knowing we are the only one doing this.
RD: And when it comes to straight up downhill racing, what brand do you think performs best? Hot Wheels, Johnny Lightning, Matchbox…or something else?
JM: I think Hot Wheels perform real well on the downhill tracks especially the older castings like some of the Hot Ones, Ultra Hots, Redlines, of course. The Playing Mantis JL castings of the late 90?s perform very well also. Especially on a shorter track like ours which is 24ft. total from start to finish. I guess its all in what you like and prefer better.
RD: It’s clear you have a great local following there in Rhode Island. Redline Derby members are all over the country and we’ve done a couple mail-in tournaments. Do you allow out-of-state car entries or have any mail-in events?
JM: We encourage people from out of state to mail cars in to race especially Johnny Lightnings. We get cars sent in from time to time what we do is we mail the cars back with a time slip so the person knows how fast their car went. People can send anything for race day Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Tiger Wheels, Johnny Lightning, etc. as long as they don’t cheat with oil, graphite, adding weight. That’s all we ask from people.
RD: What’s next for the Lincoln club? What would you like to see be added, improved or changed in your club?
JM: I am very content with the direction our club is going at this time. We are always advertising for our club more than ever now. I have a great team of club officers that help me each and ever month. Greg Wright is the clubs Vice Pres. Jerry Morelle is the Treasurer, Mark Harrison is the Secretary, and Mike Musotic is the Race/Points Coordinator. I would like them mentioned in this interview if possible for all the hard work they do. As far as improving maybe speeding up our meetings but that will come in time. We are officially 2 years old this month!!!
RD: Any other good stories you want to share about your club? Shout outs or anything else you want to share would be great to hear.
JM: I don’t have much more at this time other than thank you for allowing us to promote our club in this interview and on your website. Any interested racers can send cars to 7 Vista Drive Lincoln, R.I. 02865 attn. Jeremy Morin. We are on Facebook, Twitter and various diecast forums. Our club website is www.ljlrc.com
Get involved and have fun
I want to thank Jeremy for taking time out of his schedule to share a bit about the Johnny Lightning club. It’s always fun to see and hear how other clubs are run and managed. If you’re in the Rhode Island area and are interested in diecast racing, reach out to Jeremy through their web site and get involved.