SCSC Thanksgiving Regatta, 2008
Ah, Thanksgiving in Parker, AZ. Can it get much better than this? Well I can envision a few tropical islands perhaps. Actually it was Thanksgiving in Havasu for me this year with my brother. Very enjoyable time spent. And a cheap hotel to boot, which was helpful after covering the Phoenix IHBA race the prior weekend. After driving out from So Cal Thursday afternoon, we stopped at Bluewater, the race site, on the way to Havasu. It had rained pretty heavy the night before so the pit area was a bit flooded. I navigated my two wheel drive Suburban through the pit area carefully so as not to incur a tow truck charge pulling me out of the mud. Not too many teams were staged, but a few diehards were out there testing and tuning.
Forty hours later on Saturday morning much of the mud was dried up and the beach at Bluewater was alive with race boats. The driver’s meeting was underway when I arrived so we slipped into the pits to talk to the racers and shoot some pit photos. While a few photos are here in the print magazine, dozens more can be found on the Performanceboats.com website. My forum screename is Rexone. Just click the blogs section adjacent or access them from the home page. I’m not a pro photographer so don’t expect platinum or gold… silver perhaps, with a sprinkling of bronze.
Ok back to the subject at hand, the Parker 2008 Thanksgiving Regatta put on by the Southern California Speedboat Club (SCSC). Although at the end of the calendar year, this race is actually the first race for points of the SCSC 2009 race season. As a result it’s generally pretty well attended, not to mention Parker being a popular racecourse in the world of circle boat sprint racing. I was pleased to see a lot of boats there as I’d been concerned with the poor economy it might affect the attendance dramatically. I believe it was down a bit from 2007 in boat count but there were plenty of boats for good racing all weekend. The one notable exception was the absence of the blown alcohol burning K-Boat class. They were missed.
Following some of the hydro class heats the Grand National (GN) boats hit the water for their warm up. It was a good field of boats assembled and the racing was superb all weekend in GN. A friend of mine, Ben Marrone, returned this season after taking 2008 off, to race the “Plan-B” GN-305. The 1959 wood-deck 20 foot Rayson Craft is in great condition considering it’s age. Paul Grichar, is the oldest active driver, pilots the oldest boat racing, the Plan-B, like few others could. A little side story about Paul or “Grich” as he’s called in racing circles. Since Ben purchased the Plan-B boat in 2004, he has completely re-rigged the boat himself. They went out and won the 2005 Parker Enduro overall, and were 2006 & 2007 GN High Points Champions. Also in 2007, at Burley, Idaho, Grich and Ben won the Moyle Mink & Bill Faulkner trophy running 108% of the previous course record. Grich was inducted into the Hall of Champions in 2006 & 2007. He has a long history of winning and has raced just about every class of circle boat in existence including a brief stint in Formula One. I’m not sure if he’s the driver with the most wins in the history of circle racing but I’m certain he’s near the top of that list. And at over 70 years young, he’ll still go out and beat many guys forty years his junior on any given day. Grich is an amazing and highly talented racer.
In GN race setup mode, the Plan-B sports a 461 c.i. Chevy with an 871 Mooneyham Blower, a HUGE injector and 43% gears inside a 12º Casale box. This old boat flat hauls the mail.
There was a great field of GN’s beyond the Plan-B entry and the racing was intense. Duff Daily brought the GN-333 clear across the country to race Parker and hoping to qualify for the kilos the following week at the Salton Sea. Ted Kolby’s “Body Snatcher” with Joey Cucci at the wheel was present as well. The GN-47 piloted by Robby Devine, the GN-113, the GN-724, and the GN-790 of Lanse Haselrig. The first heat would have Greg Gluck in the GN-113 pitted against Joey Cucci in the GN-24 Body Snatcher up front. Greg would take the win with Joey second this round.
The Comp-Jet class had at least six entries in the first heat. The CJ-53 external rudder entry driven by Toby Clark was there. Harold Bruce in the CJ-313, Lance Nicholls in the CJ-426, Scott Dayley in the CJ-637, Jim Rich in the CJ-72, and the CJ-21 rounded out the field. Again, the photos will be online.
One of the premier and favorite classes is the Super Stocks. This weekend would not disappoint. The first heat would have Dave Rankin driving the SS-80 “Wild Child” in close contention with Skip Tuttle in the SS-711, and Paul Fitzgerald in the SS-24 “April”. Paul traveled from the east coast and Mike Smith brought the boat clear from Maryland to race Parker. Rankin got out front on the second lap and Paul and Skip duked it out for second and third in the heat. Rankin came back later in heat two and walked away with that one as well solidifying his lead for the weekend.
In Pro Stock once again Rankin and Fitzgerald would square off pulling double class duty and running close for several laps. Rankin and the Wild Child would prevail in this heat, out accelerating “Fast Lane Fitzy” as we call Paul, off the turns. A short side note here, Paul and I go way back as Paul used to work with an early partner of mine, Mike King, at Rex Marine in about 1981, rigging boats. Paul was also involved heavily in ski racing during the same era I was. We hung out a lot back then. It was good to see Paul again in Parker and he definitely hasn’t lost his touch as a driver. A bit more power in “April” and Rankin might have seen some transom in this heat. But it wasn’t to be in heat one. However Paul returned the favor later in the day beating Rankin in heat two in a hard fought battle. It would be the only race Rankin would lose all weekend and a tribute to Fitzy’s driving ability.
The Cracker boxes would have the 44-P “Sparkler”, the P-550, the P-9 of Scott Schatz, the P-100 of Tony Lombardo Sr. & Jr., and the P-87 of Robert Arnold and Scott Dayley. Scott Schatz and Sheldon Ogg in the P-9 easily won the first heat with the Lombardo’s taking second.
Sunday morning we arrived a few minutes late and the Pro Stock class was just starting. I grabbed my camera and sprinted over to the beach at the north turn to get some shots. As had been the story on Saturday it was Rankin and “Fast Lane Fitzy” goin head to head in the lead. Paul had the inside and they went back and forth for several laps. It was close. When I say close I mean really close. The boats actually touched at the south turn putting a small hole in the side of the SS/PS-80. Rankin went on to win the heat. Unrelated to the minor collision, the SS/PS-24 boat called “April”, that towed all the way from Maryland, went in a hole and up on the chine hard and separated the deck from the hull for several feet. After the race Mike and Paul elected to not try and repair the damage on scene. So their race weekend ended here. Rankin on the other hand quickly patched up the small hole in the “Wild Child” to race again.
The Crackers would hit the water again shortly after and a repeat of Saturday would produce Scott Schatz in the P-9 the winner again with the Lombardo’s in the P-100 second.
With Fitzgerald on the trailer broken, the first heat of Super Stock would find Dave Rankin going head to head this time with Skip Tuttle in the SS-711. It was very close back and forth. Dave got a little lead though with the off-the-turn acceleration of the SS-80 and Skip couldn’t quite catch him. Rankin scores another heat win.
The GN final would prove to be one of the weekend’s best races. A 20-lap race allows a lot of time for change of position and attrition. The GN boats have to be able to not only run fast, but also be capable of going the distance. You can’t win if you don’t finish is the old saying. Shortly into the race, the GN-790 of Lanse Haselrig and the GN-47 of Robby Devine would emerge as a 2-boat race out front. These two went at it for what must have been over a dozen laps, trading leads, and trading lanes. I had not witnessed either of these boats run at this level and was impressed to say the least. Lap after lap these guys couldn’t have been separated my more than a second. In the end, Robby got a little break and the lead. He prevailed and took the win for the weekend.
The Pro Stock final would see Dave Rankin slip Tony Scarlata in the SS/PS-80 for a spin. It was all Scarlata from start to finish and the Wild Child took the weekend Pro Stock title.
The Super Stock final came shortly after and Dave would resume the driving duties. It was almost a repeat of the earlier heat with he and Skip Tuttle in the SS-711 running a very close race from start to finish. The acceleration off the corners of the SS-80 ultimately would help Dave secure the Super Stock title also, outrunning Skip to the finish line.
The Crackers final would also be a repeat of their earlier heat with the P-9 boat dominating and taking the win. The Comp Jets were the last race of the day and unfortunately for me my camera batteries ran out of juice with the boats going in the water. It was a great race though with rookie Lance Nicholls challenging veteran Harold Bruce all the way. Bruce ended up with the win for the weekend but it was a close win and Lance drove like a pro in that one.
This was my second Parker Thanksgiving race in recent years. 2007 was great racing as well. At that race I was practicing with a new camera and also helping Scarlata with the K-5 boat. Well, maybe helping is a stretch. Probably more getting in the way of progress might better describe my role there at the time. This year with the K Boats not in attendance and the K-5 boat retired, I did a lot of camera time and chatted with the racers.
With the 2009 season just about upon us, check the website for race scheduling and come on out and watch these guys get it on. Most the circle races are free or very inexpensive to enter. You will see some serious hardware and meet some real nice folks.
Pictures are presently being re-hosted and will be posted here soon (10/22/09)
I have been a boater for the better part
of 40 years and owner of Rex Marine
since 1981. In my blogs I will attempt to
tell a story of each event I cover,
from my perspective and through my
photos. I hope more people will become
involved as spectators or racers as a result
of my coverage. Enjoy
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