As expected, the penultimate round of the American Power Boat Association Offshore Series delivered plenty of action yesterday at Race World Offshore’s Hooters Clearwater National Championship in Southwest Florida. Thousands of spectators packed the beach, waterfront hotels and the municipal pier to enjoy all three races, and the fans in the spectator fleet outside the backstretch of the 4.36-mile course were treated to close competition in the Super Stock and Bracket classes.
CR Racing/X Insurance finished ahead of seven Super Stock teams to take the checkered flag. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
But perhaps no one enjoyed the action more than Larry Bleil, the head of Key West, Fla.-based Race World Offshore, which hadn’t been able to produce an event since the 2019 Key West Offshore World Championships because of the pandemic.
“The event was perfect; our team picked up like we hadn’t missed a beat since Key West in 2019,” he said. “Everything started and finished on schedule—the teams appreciate that. The town was packed and I received compliments from everyone. It was a home run. I’m totally excited for our future plans.
“The only hiccup was the broadcast (carried on the Race World Offshore Facebook page) went down during the final race,” he added. “But it was all taped and will be playing it on our Facebook page shortly.”
Started in two waves, the Bracket classes filled the first race of the day with the Bracket 200 (two teams), 300 (solo) and 400 (four teams) competitors leading off, followed by Bracket 500 (six teams), 600 (four teams) and 700 (solo). The Developer/Wix Filters team of throttleman Eddie Tambarino and driver Scott Brown prevailed over Team Woody’s Bill Shipley and Chad Woody in the Bracket 200 contest.
The Bracket 400 class competition featured the return of an offshore racing fan-favorite duel between Cigarette Justice League piloted by Don Urfer and Richard Davis, and the Predator Apache with Dean Stahlman driving alongside throttleman Nate Hunt and his wife Connie, who navigated. After GPS data was reviewed, race officials determined that both Cigarette Justice League and Predator exceeded the class speed limit, which promoted SRS Racing’s Joe DeJohn and Rusty Stahlman to first place, with GNS Motorsports driven by Grant Greytok and throttled by “Lil’” Bill Reeves taking second and Cigarette Justice League landing third.
As it had all season, the Bracket 500-class competition delivered a dogfight with a race-long, deck-to-deck battle between Brent Appiarius and Joey Reilly in Shoreline Plumbing, who again crossed the line first, and Bulletproof’s Craig Belfatto and George Ivey, who placed second. Team Woody, throttled by Micheal Stancombe and driven by J.J. Turk, came across the line in third.
Yesterday’s competition began with action in the Bracket classes.
But according to a Race World Offshore representative, the Bracket 500-class official results are being protested and will not be available until the conclusion of that process.
(Editor’s Note: Official results from Race World Offshore were provided Friday, October 1, and Team Woody was moved into first place with Shoreline Plumbing taking second.)
“We knew it would be a battle at the start,” Appiarius said. “We were able to execute our game plan and hold our lead despite facing some mechanical gremlins. I am very happy with our performance and look forward to the final round in Fort Myers.”
With eight teams in the mix, the Super Stock-class race was the most anticipated contest of the day. And when the green flag flew, CR Racing/X Insurance throttled by Casey Boaz and driven by Rob Unnerstall flew with it and jumped into the lead.
Throttleman Shaun Torrente and driver Eric Belisle gave hard chase down to the first turn in their CMR Roofing boat, holding onto second. A multi-lap contest for third ensued between Performance Boat Center’s Myrick Coil and Rusty Williams, and Reese Langheim and Ricky Maldonado in their 32-foot Victory dubbed Jackhammer.
Enjoy more images from the 2021 Hooters Clearwater National Championship in the slideshow above.
Coil and Williams ultimately had more pace and moved up into third, with that order remaining until the checkered flag. FJ Propeller, throttled by Gary Ballough and driven by Sean Conner, was locked in a spectacular battle for sixth place with Wicked Powerboats’ Todd DeFilipps and Mike Bethan, but it was Ballough and Conner in their 32-foot Victory that would prevail at the finish line.
“It was awesome,” Boaz said. “It was toe to toe all the way to the first turn and we had a great setup. We hit a cruiser wave and stood the boat up to the moon, which is when CMR started catching up to us, but we regrouped and held them off. It’s a great feeling going into Fort Myers.”
The day’s final race was a mix of the Supercat class, the solo-entry Factory 450R Stock class with Taylor Scism and Johnny Tomlinson in a 39-foot MTI catamaran, SV Racing representing Class 1, the four-boat Stock V class and the three-boat Mod V class.
As they’ve been all season, Supercat-class winners Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil were the models of consistency in their Skater raceboat.
For one of the few times this season, the Supercat class race saw three teams takes the green flag—for any number of valid reasons, the class has struggled to attract more than three teams to any given race. The M CON team of owner/throttleman Tyler Miler and driver Myrick Coil, which has made it to every race so far in the eight-contest APBA series, was joined by class rookies John Emmons and Jimmy McIntyre in Chariots of Fire and—for the first time since the 2019 season—Canada-based CJ Grant/Graydel Racing, a 42-foot MTI manned by throttleman Billy Moore and Canadian owner/driver Chris Grant.
A thrown propeller blade ended CJ Grant/Graydel Racing’s delightfully welcome return to the sport, and M CON ran away—as it has all season—from the promising Chariots of Fire team. Still, fans of the Supercat class were pleased to see three boats on the course in what has been the most challenging season for the class in more than 20 years.
“The race course was flat and fast and we were super-excited to have Chris Grant and his Graydel Supercat team back in action from Canada along with the Chariots of Fire team,” Miller said. “Our Sterling Performance engines-powered Skater 388, as well as the entire M CON team performed phenomenally.”
For Miller and Coil, who are sharing the cockpit for the first time this season, it’s been a great learning year.
“We are really starting to be able to anticipate what each other’s going to do and with the calm water conditions we were really able to rip into the turns,” Coil said. “The crew has the boat running flawlessly. All in all, I’m extremely happy with how it went. It’s a great team to run with.”
Shocker Racing, a 30-foot Phantom driven by Chris Colson and throttled by Patrick Romeo, took their maiden win in Stock V. Class newcomers Pete Riveiro and Richard Garcia took second place in The Firm/MSP Recovery Activator, followed by Travis Pete and Rob Hartmann of Relentless in third.
The Stock V-class Shocker team delivered a breakthrough performance yesterday in Clearwater.
For the Stock V cockpit duo of driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Kevin Smith in LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness/Rev-X Oil, this season’s string of rotten luck continued with a broken propeller blade, which landed them in fourth place. Lilly and Smith were the early leaders with Shocker in chase until LSB fell off the pace. Despite two spin-outs, The Firm/MSP Recovery managed to recover and stay ahead of Relentless.
“We had a great start which we typically don’t, and realized we were gaining on Brit and Kevin on the straight,” Colson said. “It was funny—Patrick told me I was losing them on the turns and I had to apologize for not keeping up with the best guys in the business. I knew better than to push too hard too soon. We kept on their tail and were looking forward to a battle later in the race, but unfortunately they lost a propeller blade and we passed them.
“One thing was made perfectly clear to me this season,” he added. “There is no other sport where you will not only be welcomed with open arms but the competition will do everything they can to help you become competitive.”
Despite two spin-outs, the rookie The Firm/MSP Recovery team notched its best result to date with a second-place finish in the Stock V class.
The Mod V competition saw Sun Print, throttled by Steve Miklos and driven by Steven Fehrmann jump out to the early lead, but a sterndrive failure forced them into a premature retirement. Sheriff Lobo took over the lead and claimed the checkered flag at the end of the race. Boatfloater/Scott Free Racing placed third.
“We were hanging in there and were running fairly smoothly, but found some side swells out there,” Sheriff Lobo throttleman Mark Niemann said. “The team has been working on the balance of the boat by changing the CG (center of gravity), and since then we have been able to keep our speed in the turns.
“The passion and appreciation that this team has for the sport is amazing,” Niemann added. “Of course, they want to be competitive and act as such, but they have such a love of being here and enjoying the moment that I think is very admirable.”
Said Race World Offshore head Larry Bleil, “Our team picked up like we hadn’t missed a beat since Key West in 2019.” Photo by Cole McGowan copyright speedonthewater.com.
Back in Kansas, the M CON team’s home state, Miller reflected on the Clearwater event.
“Even with the previous pit area under construction, the Race World Offshore team organized an amazing event and accommodated all of the race teams,” he said. “Being in the construction business, I understand how complex that can be and they adapted very, very well. And they kept all of the races on time as scheduled, which is very much appreciated.”
For complete official results as they become available, visit the Race World Offshore website. The final race of the APBA Offshore National Championship Series is set for October 7-9 in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.
Editor’s Note: Official results from Race World Offshore were provided Friday, October 1, and Team Woody was moved into first place with Shoreline Plumbing taking second.