Sprint boats revving up for national finals in Port Angeles
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Jeepers Creepers is one of the boats that will round the track at Extreme Sports Park in Port Angeles today.

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — More than two dozen jet-powered sprint boats will careen around the Extreme Sports Park track for the American Sprint Boat Racing National Finals on Saturday (Sept. 7).

Drivers and their navigators will take turns racing the clock beginning with time trials at 10 a.m.

Finalists will vie for season championships in three classifications well into the afternoon.

The stakes are raised in the finals, with twice as many points up for grabs.

Gates will open at 8 a.m. at the west Port Angeles venue at 2917 Edgewood Drive.

Melody Pozgay of American Sprint Boat Racing said she expected at least 6,500 spectators.

“We're hoping for 10,000,” she added.

Tickets will be available at the gate. They cost $25 for adults, $20 for military members and $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.

Race fans don't have to wait until Saturday to get a look at the sleek, high-powered boats.

The machines will be on display between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. today at a “Show and Shine” on Laurel Street between First and Front streets downtown.

“It gives people a chance to talk to the drivers and the navigators and the mechanics, and take a look, because no two boats are the same,” event promoter Doc Reiss said.

Sprint boats come in three classifications: the 600-horsepower Super Modifieds, 700-horsepower A-400s and 1,000-horsepower Super Boats.

Local race fans will want to keep an eye on the No. 2 Live Wire A-400 boat driven by Paul Gahr Jr. of Sequim and his daughter and navigator, Taylor Gahr.

With 874 points going into Saturday, the Gahrs are just 10 points back for the series championship.

“They're just doing gangbusters,” Reiss said, adding that Taylor Gahr, 17, has quickly become “one of the top navigators in the sport.”

Another local team within striking distance is the Sequim tandem of Dillon Brown Cummings and Teri Cummings.

Their No. 99 Jeepers Creepers boat is currently fourth in Super Modifieds.

The Gahrs and Cummings race for Sequim-based TNT Racing. Extreme Sports Park co-owner and Wicked Racing driver Dan Morrison was busy this week finishing a complete makeover of his Super Boat.

“He's working like crazy,” Reiss said in a Wednesday interview. “He may be able to get it finished [today].”

Morrison's Wicked Racing teammate Doug Hendrickson drives the first-place A-400 boat with navigator Nichole Muller.

Drivers and their navigators will whip around the milelong course, making as many as 35 turns in 60 seconds.

Sprint boats accelerate through corners to maintain steering and maneuverability.

A new timing system can measure laps to a thousandth of a second, and the new scoreboard can be seen from anywhere on the grounds, Reiss said.

Race day will begin with an honor guard tribute to 9/11 and the singing of the Canadian and American national anthems by the Sequim High School choir.

The choir will sell programs at the event to raise money for a trip to Carnegie Hall in New York, Pozgay said.

Weekend camping passes are available at Extreme Sports Park for $20.

A free shuttle will be running nonstop between the venue and Laurel Street downtown.

The national finals event will be broadcast on MAVTV and www.Ustream.com.

Pozgay expected as many as 28 boats for that event.

Organizers expanded the marketing campaign this year with a Pepsi promotion.

Last year's national finals drew an estimated 7,500 to Extreme Sports Park, which has hosted sprint boat racing for three years straight.

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com

Last modified: September 06. 2013 9:40PM
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