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Long Beach Sprint Nationals 2008

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by , 10-21-2009 at 04:48 AM (5209 Views)

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

Long Beach Sprint Nationals 2008

Link to my photo gallery

The Long Beach Sprint Nationals circle race event put on by the Southern California Speedboat club has become the one current bright spot with regard to the rich history of drag and circle boat racing at the famous Long Beach Marine Stadium. The first weekend of August is now the only weekend of circle racing at this historic venue. It’s location, central to millions of people living in Southern California, is unique in boat racing, allowing easy access to thousands of circle boat racing fans within a couple hours’ drive. The Long Beach venue is very cool in that it is a long narrow stretch of water that has a sandy beach down the pit side of the entire course where fans can view the races right up close. Sand chairs and shade tents are the norm and there’s plenty of room for the kids to play. The opposite side of the course is set up for RV’s. The pits are accessible as is the case with most all the circle and drag boat race events. Fans can walk right in and view the boats, talk with the crews and drivers, etc.

Having been on the east coast for the week prior to this event and due to airline delays resulting in a 3AM arrival home, we arrived at Long Beach a little tired and a little late missing some of the first heats on Saturday morning. The action quickly made me forget I was a bit travel weary though as the Super Stocks thundered down the front straight as we walked in the gate. I hustled over to the shoreline and ripped my camera out of my bag and started shooting pictures. Fortunately I’d remembered to charge the batteries before I left New Jersey the day before. It was a bit overcast initially but quickly turned to warm and then hot. The August beach weather in Southern California is hard to beat.

For those not familiar with circle boat sprint racing, a typical race day consists of a series of qualifying heats of different classes of boats and then a final race between the qualifiers in each class toward the end of each day. The big races of this weekend would be Sunday’s finals, which would determine the APBA Summer Nationals Champion in several of the following classes, which were present. PWC, J-Hydro, SST-45, Comp Jet (CJ), Cracker Box, Super Stock (SS), Pro Stock (PS), K Racing Runabout (KRR) and Grand National (GN).

The course at Long Beach is considered a tight one and has very tight turns. Turning these boats on this type of course is an art. Spinouts in the corners are pretty common, as the competition gets a bit crazy to get off the buoy first. Many races are won or lost right at the first turn. This weekend’s racing would prove intense and in retrospect the racers navigated the turns this weekend pretty well for the most part. The turnout of race teams and fans was great considering the high price of gas and the slowing economy.

The Super Stock class of flatbottoms is always one of the most exciting. There were enough entries this weekend to require multiple heat races. Those in attendance included Dave Rankin’s SS-80, Wild Child, which would be driven by Dave himself early Saturday, and then Ty Newton. I spoke with Dave about why he wasn’t driving the whole weekend and he told me “I sucked”, with a laugh, referring to the tight course. Dave is probably one of the most knowledgeable guys in the sport when it comes to building, rigging, and testing these boats for maximum performance. It shows with the consistency his boats produce in competition. Next is the always competitive SS-68 Loud & Proud boat owned by Jeff Brochheseur, and shoed by Tony Scarlata. This black rocket would prove to be tough in every heat. Skip Tuttle in his SS-711 is always a hard runner as is Hal Jones in the Ray Pauli owned SS-501 Pegasus hailing from Utah. Mike Darner was in attendance coming off some impressive races in Burley Idaho a few weeks before with his SS/PS-8 boat. The SS-15 of Denny Bertone, Chris Kenner in the SS-741, the SS-29 with Dan Bertone, and the SS-7 boat of Greg Shirley rounded out a very competitive field. Several of these Super Stock boats are also legal to run Pro Stock, as the Pro Stock engine limitations are less restrictive. So several do double duty in both classes. The Super Stock class is limited to single a carburetor and 427 cubic inches so to be able to compete in a higher class successfully is impressive. This weekend not only did they compete, they won both classes. The SS-80 driven by Ty Newton won both classes, both days, and the SS-68 driven by Tony Scarlata took second. Skip Tuttle and Greg Shirley would end up with the Super Stock third place slots Saturday and Sunday respectively. Mike Darner took the third place slot both days in Pro Stock. There were a number of other very competitive Pro Stock boats in attendance as well including the always tough PS-89 boat with crew chief big Ray (Moneypit on the Performance Boats.com forums).

The K Class would prove to be no less exciting even with only a field of five boats. Unfortunately Steve Sequeira in the K-24 boat had mechanical difficulties on Saturday and would not return to Sunday’s competition. Tony Scarlata would take the seat this weekend in Dave Rankin’s “Freedom Child capsuled K entry. John Guthrie in the K-16, Ty Newton in the K-66, and Wayne Herbert in his immaculate “Ghost of Coldfire” K-50 would round out the field.

These teams have some real past racing legends within their crews. The Rankin K-69 entry includes Gordon Jennings Jr. as the engine builder and long time tuner John Avery. Gordy (the Real K-boat King on the Performanceboats.com forum) is a past “real” K boat king having won many championships in his “Freedom” open K-boat, K-69, and holding the Kilo record for the class. He recently briefly exited retirement and showed everyone the way home in Dave’s SS-80 Super stock at the shootout in Burley. He also won the Lake Irvine event in his K-69 open cockpit “Freedom” boat. Then there’s the K-50 crew, anchored by renowned K-boat engine builder Bubby Wilton, and one of the original K boat kings, driver and boat builder Julian Pettingill. I watched Julian many times on this same course back in the 70’s in the original K-50 Coldfire boats. The K-50 of Wayne’s is an exact replica of Julian’s original “Coldfire” which dominated K-boat racing 3-4 decades ago. A lot of K-boat talent was present in the Long Beach pits this weekend to say the least.

The K racing was intense and some of the best and tightest competition I’ve seen recently. Wayne Herbert in the K-50 boat drove his heart out and came very close to besting some of the best in the business, referring to Scarlata, Newton, and Guthrie. Wayne races only a couple events per year he told me… Burley and Long Beach. Both his driving and boat’s performance were impressive given his limited racing program. After some great racing John Guthrie took Saturday’s honors and Scarlata in Rankin’s K-69 “Freedom Child” won a very intense battle in Sunday’s final. There were several points within the first three laps where one error on Scarlata’s part could have easily put Wayne or Ty in the lead for good. It was a very tight back and forth battle with both Wayne and Ty right on the K-69 transom or side by side in some cases for three laps. It was not until the last couple laps that Tony opened up a substantial lead and claimed the APBA Summer National Championship title. Wayne Herbert was second and Ty Newton third.

The Cracker boxes are always one of my favorite classes to watch. Long Beach would draw about a dozen teams and many of the best in the class were on hand. These boats approach 100 mph and are like bucking broncos as they are front engine and direct driven rather than rear engine and v-drive driven. They are small block powered and have a two-person crew, driver and rider. They put on quite a show. The pictures of these machines pretty much tell the story and many are available in the online version of my Long Beach Blog on the Performanceboats.com website. I have several dozen pictures posted on the site that wouldn’t fit on these pages. At the end of the day Sunday these were your winners of the APBA Summer National Championship… First place was Jerry Ross/Nick Granger/Tom Sampson in the P 69 "The Enemy" out of Rolling Hills, CA. Second Place went to Mike Leach/D. F'Mayer/Dwight Moody Sr. in the P 66 "Mr. Magoo" out of Lake Havasu City, AZ. Third place went to Richard Rucki/Bob Williams/EJ Abner/Garland Privitt in the P111 "Quackers Box", out of Garden Grove, CA

The Grand National (GN) class is always a fan favorite. The blown simi-vee bottom boats haul ass in the 100 mph range and run a 20 lap main event. Sunday’s final and the National Championship went to Skip Tuttle in the GN-711 entry. Second was Greg Gluck in the GN-113 from Florida, and third was Ted Kolby’s GN-24 “Body Snatcher”. Joey Cucci and Dave Rankin shared driving duties in the GN-24 this weekend.

The Comp Jet class winners Sunday were… First place, Harold Bruce, CJ 313, out of Cerritos, CA. Second place to Ralph Brunt, CJ 812, from Long Beach, CA. Third went to the unique stationary rudder entry of Toby Clark, CJ 53, out of Lake Havasu City, AZ

If you’ve never been to the races at Long Beach you owe it to yourself to attend next year if you’re in the Southern California area (of even if you’re not). It has developed into a very nice event drawing many of the top teams from across the nation. Ross Wallach, who runs the SCSC events along with many unsung hero volunteers, is doing a very respectable job. They have good food vendors, several parts manufacturers and related booths that the fans can visit along with open pits to view and talk with the race teams. Mark your calendars for “The Beach” in the summer of 2009.

Link to my photo gallery

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