That standard cliché “aged to perfection” totally defined this year’s Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix as the third stop on the six venue 2019 APBA Offshore Championship Series celebrated 35 years in high powered style.
The boys of summer took offshore racing to a new level, boasting a fleet of 67 teams from around the planet that delivered the season’s most exciting competition to date.
The event that lays claim as “The Indy 500 of Offshore” sported an expanded 6.17 mile course stretching just North of New Pass down to the Sandcastle Resort on Lido Beach as fans packed the beaches despite intermittent rain.
The day’s final race showcased highly fueled competition among Class One with the fastest boats to hit the liquid track and finished with a surprise ending that no one saw coming.
Taking the green flag, driver Salem Al Adidi and throttleman Elsa Al Ali powered Victory Team ahead of the pack, followed by driver Darren Nicholson and throttleman Giovanni Capitella aboard Triple 2 Offshore.
Driver James Sheppard and throttleman Steve Curtis positioned Miss Geico into third.
Taking maximum advantage of the clean water on the back straightaway, Sheppard and Curtis took Miss Geico into second. And within a few laps, the heated 11 lap contest between Victory team and Miss Geico was game on.
Heading into the final turn on the final lap, Sheppard and Curtis made a costly move that flipped the 41’ Miss Geico, while seconds later Victory Team did the very same thing down the final straightaway.
Miraculously, none of the four racers were injured.
The mishaps moved Triple 2 Offshore up the ranks to clinch their first US win, driver Jay Johnson and throttleman Nigel (Captain) Hook in Lucas Oil Satcom Direct took second, while Victory Team rounded out the class podium.
The Super Cat clash belonged to M-Con as Tyson Garvin took the wheel alongside throttleman Tyler Miller.
The AMH Motorsports team of driver Aaron Hope and throttleman Anthony Smith followed, as driver Wayne Valder and throttleman Grant Bruggeman in Pro Floors rounded out the top three.
However, mid-way through the 10 lap chase, mechanical issues forced AMH Motorsports out and moved driver Myrick Coil and throttle ace John Tomlinson of Performance Boat Center into third.
M-Con held their lead to capture the checkered flag, while positions never changed for second and third place.
Class leader and 2018 National Champion, Nick Scafidi of Shadow Pirate summed it up on his Facebook post a few weeks prior to the Sarasota event:
As we enter Round #3, the Super Stock fleet is expected to be over 12 boats…a good start, good prop selection and a bit of luck help along the way.
Unfortunately, for Scafidi luck wasn’t on board his Shadow Pirate as a sensor shut down the motors early in the chase, leaving the top three slots held by FJ Propeller, Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping and Performance Boat Center.
Driver Larry Pinegar and throttleman Billy Allen wasted little time as they piloted Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping ahead of FJ Propeller driven by Loren Leibel and Gary Ballough at the throttles.
Pinegar and Allen stayed the course, taking their 32’ Doug Wright catamaran across the finish line first.
FJ Propeller placed second, while driver Rusty Williams and throttleman Myrick Coil took third in Performance Boat Center.
The father/son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl wowed their Sarasota fans with a flawless performance aboard Boatfloater.com.
The pair accelerated to the front of the Super Vee Extreme fleet and never looked back as the hometown heroes captured a win that was extra sweet: Steve also scored perfect attendance with his impeccable record of competing in every Sarasota race, and his son told me:
It’s always great to win in front of the hometown crowd.
Being the 35th anniversary for the event and my dad made it even more special.
All the racers gave him a standing ovation at the awards ceremony…it was a special moment for him and our team.
Sun Print Management with driver Steven Fehrmann and throttleman Steve Miklos finished second, followed by last year’s winner Mr. Technology driven by Will Smith and Jimmy Deitch at the throttles.
While covering the races these past 30 years, I’ve always made the Hyatt “my place to stay” for a strategic reason: it’s the unofficial, yet official gathering spot.
During race weekend, I talked with Stuart Halley, General Manager of Mercury Racing:
I’m here building relationships… looking at other opportunities with the P1 and OPA framework.
And you just can’t leave out the fund-raising aspects of the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix as it speaks volumes for the community, Suncoast Charities for Children’s Executive Director, Lucy Nicandri stated:
Every year we hope to ensure that a significant amount of net proceeds are generated to continue to fulfill our mission of supporting five local nonprofit agencies which provide programs and services every year to over 5,000 local children, teens and adults with special needs.
Powerboat P1 CEO Azam Rangoonwala and OPA President Ed Smith shared their goal for the newly formed series:
We want to stage events that excite and entertain, ensuring enjoyment for spectators and TV audiences with great sponsor value and a real economic impact for host venues.
With last year’s event generating an economic impact of $21.9 million, the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix is a win-win for everyone.