Blue sky, green grass and the roar of 500-horsepower-plus sprint boats.
What could be better?
For the more than 8,000 fans who took advantage of a beautiful summer day at Extreme Sports Park in Port Angeles Saturday, very little.
Throw in a few dramatic but injury-free crashes and the folks on hand to witness race No. 4 of this year’s six-event Sprint Boat Series were provided with a treat.
Local racers turned in rockin’ performances, but found the competition tougher than ever — a new fact of life in the expanding competition.
In 2011, Dan Morrison, a mover and a shaker in every way in American Sprint Boat Racing, took every trophy in the Super Boat class, locking down the title before the last race of the year. This year Morrison and navigator Cara McGuire, competing as Wicked Racing, turned in a second-place finish at the Port Angeles track, confirming their second-place rating in the overall standings behind Cory Johnson and Gary McNiel. The two Canadians race in their boat Liquid Courage.
Morrison, who is also one of the sport’s biggest promoters, said he welcomes the improved competition.
“That’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s called racing, not winning.”
Morrison said the Saturday race was particularly difficult for Wicked. The team blew out the boat’s engine during the “Field of Dreams” race in Tangent, Ore., on July 28 and was operating with “a loaner.”
Morrison said the new engine is designed for boat drag racing. “I could go real fast but not throttle,” he said. “Either shove it to the floor or it’s off — but you need to feather the throttle. We made it to the corners and it just went all bad.”
Morrison said Wicked will try to work with the engine to get through the season, which ends with the Nationals on Sept. 8.
Then the team will decide what to do about a new engine. Morrison said replacing the original 480-cubic-inch small-block engine will be tough — and expensive.
“It’s a two-month project,” he said.
Nicole Brown, of Port Angeles, has extensive experience in navigating and on Saturday pointed the way for both Phil Miller in Fat Buddy #22, a Super Modified boat, and Wayne Brown in Twisted Racing, which competes with the A-400s.
Nicole also took the wheel of Twisted Racing for her first-ever turn as a driver.
Dillon Brown Cummings and his stepmother, Teri Cummings, both of Sequim, took Jeepers Creepers to a second-place finish in Super Modified racing, boosting their overall rank to third on the season.
Paul and Taylor Gahr, a father-and-daughter team from Sequim, narrowly missed a first-place finish in the Group A-400 class.
The team, which was blanked in the first event of the year, rose to seventh overall.
Go fast or go home
Jim DeFord and Jeff Schlagel, who are both key pieces in United States Sprint Boat racing, say the sport first showed up in New Zealand, “spawned from marathon river racing, which began in New Zealand in 1970.”
In the 1980s the late Brian Scott and four of his buddies came up with the idea for sprint boat racing. Scott was the father of Konrad Scott, the CEO of Scott Waterjets, the company that makes the jet pump that powers most of the boats.
The sport was introduced to the U.S. in 1990, with races held in ponds and in lakes, often with floating buoys.
In 1997 the first in-ground track was dug in Marsing, Idaho, along the banks of the Snake River.
U.S. sprint racing now consists of three classes: Superboat, Group A-400 and Super Modified. The United States Sprint Boat Association is the sanctioning racing body.
The engines in the boats range from 500 horsepower to well over 1,000 horsepower in the Superboat class. These boats approach straight-line speeds of up to 80-plus miles per hour and can pull 3-7 g’s in the tightest corners.
For more information, see http://ussbaracing.com/