RLD15: The Fantasy League

redlinederby Wednesday, 2/21/2024
Site manager

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Redline Derby Racing, so I'm going to try and recount some of the chapters in the story that got things this far. Needless to say, it took more than just me to get RLD to where it is, and I'll do my best to remember the names and faces that were of big help along the way, but I'll most certainly forget some people and if you're one of those, just know I apologize for my memory holes. I'm doing my best to recall the evolution of Redline Derby Racing as I remember it.

Origins of a hobby

After I got married, got a house, and a career job, I started getting back into collecting Hot Wheels as one hobby among many. It wasn't very serious…just a few cars here and there; the castings I liked the most. They were shelf cars and that was it…I wasn't looking for anything more involved.

But then around 2007 or so, I read an article from a newspaper in Omaha, Nebraska. The story was about a local bar that started holding regular Hot Wheels races as a way to try and get people into the bar during the week. I believe it was just a blind-draw race where you paid a buck, got a random car, and then raced. The winner probably got Bar Bucks…I don't remember, but it was a spark that got me thinking of what more I could do with my cars besides collecting dust.

It motivated me to put together a very basic drag strip and start racing the cars I had in my collection to try and find the fastest. My first track was 2-lanes of orange track with a playset finish line. Quite possibly the furthest thing from the electronic awesomeness we have today…but it worked and it was easy. So I raced my cars and kept track of the winners.

Mind you, I was doing this by myself. I had no bar, no club, nor any friends that cared to join me. So me being a web designer by trade, I naturally decided to share my racing with the world on the internet. At this point, "Redline Derby Racing" was barely a thing. I had the name but it didn't even have its own website. It was also not a very interesting place to visit, and there was no expectation that anyone was actually seeing what I was producing (but they might!). Yet it gave me something to do for a bit on Sunday mornings.

But after a few weeks I really started thinking, "why is this interesting to people?" And honestly, I didn't think it was…so how could I make it something more entertaining? As it happens, another hobby of mine is making video games, so I thought "can I make this Hot Wheels racing thing an online game?" I wanted to take the physical fun of racing and the digital fun of online games and make something new.

Of course, this project needed a home so I got the RedlineDerby.com domain in 2009, giving folks an official place to go and play. Over the next several months I worked away designing and building the game. But know that at this point the fantasy league was pretty much all there was. There was no message board or forum to speak off and no mail-in stuff (that all came later). Redline Derby Racing was the fantasy league and it grew from there.

Pick 'em and race 'em

I combined two of my favorite things, video games & toys, into something other people like me could enjoy. I took a look at "traditional" sports fantasy leagues and found them interesting but at the time I couldn't figure out how to translate that into an online game…especially considering Hot Wheels drag racing was a somewhat silly thing that had no online fan base.

So I did the best I could and created an online game that was more along the lines of a March Madness pick'em bracket but with some more fantasy league-like aspects, like choosing cars and making predictions.

I put all the Hot Wheels in my collection into a database with stats like weight, body & chassis type, and a photo. I also grouped them into categories like American, Imports, Trucks, Fantasy, etc…just something to make searching and choosing a little easier.

Each race started with me setting the parameters and limits, and then players would choose which car from the database that they wanted to represent them in the race (kinda like a draft). The races were a 16-car bracket so only the first 16 players to show up got to enter a car. I always felt like this was a big flaw since it really limited who could enter a car, but in the long run it didn't seem to matter much. At it's core, this was a game about making picks and not drafting cars, so it worked out well.

After players entered cars, the bracket got seeded and then all the players (even those that didn't get an entry) got to make picks as to who they thought would win each match-up. There was a window of about a week for people to come and make their picks, after which I raced the cars and reported the results.

When the results were reported, every player got points based on how accurate their pick'em bracket was. Along with pick points, players would also unlock one-time achievements that would get them more points (a la Xbox games). I always felt the achievement model worked really well and made it so new players got easy points when they joined so they could compete against the more veteran players. Plus it was cool to see the little license plate badges by your player name.

If a tree falls in the forest…

The fantasy league game went on like this for a while and it was pretty fun. I was amazed at how many people played and returned week after week…even people that didn't really collect Hot Wheels or race otherwise. You could be as hardcore or casual as you wanted, so it invited a good mix of people.

But here's one thing to keep in mind: there was no video of the races!

YouTube was not as friendly back then and having hi-res cameras in your pocket was not the norm. I didn't have the equipment nor the means to produce videos for every race. People trusted that I was racing the cars…or they just didn't care and were just happy playing the game anyway. But this meant I could spend time on the racing and improving the game rather than producing videos, which was nice.

Season after season

After every "season" of racing I would add more cars and features to the game to keep things fresh and interesting, both for the players and myself.

One feature was unlocking new cars (in addition to the achievements). As I bought new Hot Wheels, I added them to the game as unlockables. Players could use their points to unlock a car and then they would get first dibs on using that car in a race. Each player had a "garage" to hold cars and it too could be upgraded with points. Later, I added the ability for players to group together and form a team, competing against other groups.

I think one standout feature of the league was the stats per car. Yes, the game tracked wins and losses, but since every race was head-to-head, you could run those numbers through a math machine and get a ranking for each car. I used the same Elo calculation that chess rankings used and after a few seasons, cars had some solid rankings that could reasonably predict how well they'd do against other cars. Sure…the Evos and such were easy picks that everyone learned but there are a ton of cars in the middle that had no reputation and that's where the stats came in handy. You could find that diamond in the rough!

Showing the public and sharing the fun

The fantasy league even went on the road to the 2011 Hot Wheels Collector Experience convention in Nashville. I had connected with Jason from the Texas Diecast Racing Association who ran DiecastSpace.com about racing and track building to discover he was taking his 50-foot monster track to the convention. He gave me the opportunity to piggyback on his efforts and thus Redline Derby Racing and the fantasy league were on display. I was updating fantasy league results from my hotel room!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the fantasy league also had sponsors and legit prizes! I had a deal with DiecastX magazine to give out subscriptions and even tickets to various conventions, plus sponsorships from various online diecast retail sites that provided collector cars as prizes. It was all just trading for exposure which was fine by me. I was just stoked that people were playing the game and having fun with it!

At one point, the fantasy league racing got popular enough that folks around the country that had their own tracks started hosting races, giving players a new challenge. Since I was only racing stock cars, all the host needed was a track and the same cars in their collection. No shipping or extra cost required.This remote racing came with its own challenges but it worked out well and people enjoyed it. It was a true sign that there was something to this whole diecast racing thing.

Honestly, the fantasy league got pretty involved after a few years but I take pride that players could be as serious or casual as they wanted. I know some folks came back weekly just to fill out a bracket and that was it…they just liked the chance of it all. While other folks started making their own spreadsheets to track cars and do analysis.

Rolling into the sunset

The fantasy league ran for about 5 years, give or take. It ran weekly which meant I was rolling cars every Sunday morning and getting results posted. It got to be a grind but it was fun since the overhead was minimal. I loved constantly evolving the game with new gimmicks and interactions. But as will happen, life intervenes and plans have to change.

My daughter was born in 2012 and then shortly after that my family moved to a new house, so with all that chaos in a short amount of time, the fantasy league suffered and eventually had to be shut down in late 2014. With free time at a premium, running cars got to be more of a nag than it was something I looked forward to. Plus I was a bit burned out and being a new dad was more fun than anything else anyway. Racing would have to wait a bit.

It was always my intention to restart the fantasy league once I got more free time back on my weekly calendar. Every year people would ask when the league would return and every time I'd say, "hopefully this year," but that never happened. It was hard for me to get back into the saddle with the league, whether it was time, motivation, over-thinking (bingo), other hobbies (also bingo), or a combination of all those things.

Even without the fantasy league, I continued to manage and grow Redline Derby as best I could. The game was the seed for everything that came later…the forums, galleries, and mail-in racing scene that would put RLD into overdrive..but that's a whole other chapter.

Will the fantasy league ever come back? Never say never.

As mentioned, Jason from Texas Diecast Racing Association was key in helping me grow my racing and the fantasy league, but others along way include Jim Carlson, Bryan Jobe, Peter Greyy, Carl Owen, Cooper Siebers, Chad Osborn, Bill Pearce, Mathew DeAngelis, Chris Taylor, Bill Middleton, Jeremy Morin, Bill Hicks…and the many others that played in the fantasy league, had fun, made suggestions, and otherwise showed their support.


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EnZedRacing 2/22/24

Fantasy League sounds like fun!!  If you bring it back I'm sure that there are a few fans here that will join in  :)

That was a Cool read!!! Thanks for sharing your start in such a Great hobby.... Im glad I was able to find your site thru a follower of yours that shares just as much Passion you do....

  • and happy aniv to redline! — dr_dodge
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dr_dodge 2/23/24

wow, that's amazing

as a second year racer, and after the enjoyment of my rookie year,

It seems "a simple thank you" is, well,.... a bit small in relation to what ya'll built,

The fact we have a platform to interact together based on such amazing history.....what can ya say

please share more history

and to all the creators from the past please do, too

Thank you to all,

dr dodge

  • Thanks...but don't oversell it, lol - it's been a ride, that's for sure. More stories from the past will be coming... — redlinederby
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JDC442 2/26/24

Brian ~ I remember how excited I was to have found your website.  I was turning over a new leaf in my life - finally finishing up a four year degree that took over 7 years ;) and having some extra time on my hands, I looked up how to build a downhill race track and low and behold I found REDLINEDERBYRACING!!!!  "What? There are other grown men out there that still play with Hot Wheels??"  I had found my people.  Eventually building my own 4 lane race track I pulled out ALL my cars and raced and raced until I had found my 12 fastest cars. 

My 2009 Total Collection TOP TWELVE Cars

When I participated in the Fantasy League, I used what I had learned racing my collection to study the entries and make my picks.  It was such a blast to pick the cars and then wait for Sunday afternoon to see if my Hot Wheels racing knowledge paid off.  It was so much fun to post in the threads and talk Hot Wheels with other diecast enthusiasts.  

Thank you so much for putting this site together Brian - I have incredible memories of the early days of Fantasy Racing and eventually competing in all the mail-in tournaments. And of course taking the chance to compete with the other diehard diecast racers and maybe even earn bragging rights whenever I'd win a Fantasy League or mail-in tournament.  

  • Thanks, Jim! It's great you have that photo of those 2009 cars...I still consider that "my era" since that's when I bought tons of cars for the league. FTEs were the stock all-stars. That Nova and Vette were quite fast. — redlinederby
  • And that purple Demon! That was one of the first really fast cars I found when I started racing. I sought them out and still have a good collection of them. — redlinederby
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JBlotner42 2/27/24

Wow, amazing history. Thanks for everything!

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WorpeX 2/28/24

Man I loved the Fantasy League! I won one of the seasons and still have the trophy and car that I won from it! Then as the seasons went on I got to run a few of the Fantasy League events. They were so much fun! I still have the videos of them up on my youtube channel. If anyone wants to check out a few of the Fantasy League races:



Would love to see this come back one day but I can totally understand the time commitment it would require. If it does, I hope my new track can host again!

  • a sweater (or some other knitted think) for a stop box...love it...history! — dr_dodge
  • Your mail-in races were some of the most exciting races I remember watching. Short but nail-biting excitement! — JDC442
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Big_Poppy 3/3/24

Great read and a great event! I wished I had found it at that time. I was thinking about the same type of thing........

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Numbskull 3/3/24

I do love your website.  Much.  

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