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Domination and Attrition at SBI Clearwater National Championships

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Consistentcy made the difference for Cleveland Construction in Clearwater (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy/copyright Jay Nichols/Naples Image

The blessing and curse that are calm conditions provided for fast speeds and high attrition rates in the seventh annual running of the Brighthouse Clearwater Super Boat International National Championships this afternoon off Clearwater Beach, Fla.

In the Superboat Unlimited class, John Tomlinson and Jeff Harris came into the weekend with a huge lead in points over the second-place Envy team. Tomlinson and Harris got the Mercury Racing 1650s to come to life in Bob Bull’s 48’ MTI, CMS 3, long enough to log the laps that should bring the team the national title. (At the time of this writing we were still waiting for official championship standings.)

In the afternoon’s final race, Bull and throttleman Randy Scism ran the 52’ MTI, CMS 03, to a dominating wire-to-wire victory over driver Marc Granet and throttleman Scotty Begovich in the 44’ Victory, Miss GEICO, which finished second. After spinning out in the south turn on the second lap, owner/driver Randy Kent and throttleman Chris Hanley recovered nicely in the 44’ MTI, Marine Concepts/Speed Racer, to finish third.

In the Superboat class, attrition and a little bit of luck worked in favor of driver Ed Smith and throttleman Keith Holmes in the 38’ Skater, Cleveland Construction, which stood in second place in points coming into the weekend. Points leaders Billy Mauff and Jay Mueller in the 40’ Skater, WHM Motorsports, had been irritated by mechanical gremlins all season, but had still run well enough to maintain the points lead.

At the start, Mueller and Mauff jumped to the lead against their rivals J.R. Noble and Mark Kowalski in the 38’ Skater, Stihl, the defending national champion that was making its return to the sport at this event after an accident that caused the team to miss a race. Stihl’s lead, however was short lived when the team pulled out on the third of 19 laps. WHM moved to the front with Bob Teague and Paul Whittier giving chase in the 36’ Skater, Team AMSOIL, close behind in second. Veteran observers of the sport theorized that Teague would set up Mauff and bide his time until the closing laps. That didn’t materialize because WHM lost a propeller blade on the ninth lap.

Teague and Whittier moved to the front while Holmes and Smith waged a torrid battle with Randy Sweers and Danilo Zampaloni in the 40’ MTI, Sailor Jerry, for second and third. Installing the veteran Holmes in the throttleman’s position has helped Cleveland Construction make some strong gains in 2015 and he throttled the silver Skater to sole position in second place, which would be good enough for the national championship. The team ran consistently, keeping AMSOIL in striking distance should an opportunity present itself.

That opportunity came about when AMSOIL spun out at the north end of the course. While the team was regrouping and getting the boat turned around and running again, this opened the door for Cleveland Construction to move into a lead that the team wouldn’t surrender. The boys from Michigan claimed the checkered flag and the Superboat national title. AMSOIL came back for second while Sailor Jerry took third.

In the Superboat Extreme class, the 38’ Fountain, Twisted Metal/Boatworx, dominated the short oval-shaped course off Clearwater Beach, finishing 23 seconds ahead of Peter Meyer and John Stanch in the 40’ Fountain, Hooters-Instigator. Coming into the race, Meyer and Stanch were nearly 200 points ahead of Twisted Metal and Meyer had said that he would take a conservative approach to ensure that the No. 1 stays on the side of his boat. Joe Sgro and Steve Curtish finished third in the 40’ Outerlimits entry.

Sticking with the V-bottoms, in the single-engine Superboat Vee class, Steve Miklos and Jason McGonnel came into the weekend as the favorites in the 30’ Extreme, Sun Print, but the team might have missed its setup. At the start, the father-and-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl took the lead in their 29’ Extreme, Boatfloater.com. They only lasted four of the 14 laps before pulling off with mechanical issues. Then owner/driver Mark Niemann and throttleman Tom Maddalena took command in the 30’ Phantom, Phantom. Sun Print tried to make up ground, but came up short as Phantom won the race and most likely the national title. Brit Lilly and throttleman Ronnie Umlandt finished third in the 30’ Extreme, Lilly Sport Boats.

Matching the dominating performances by CMS 03 and Twisted Metal/Boatworx in the larger classes, Rob Nunziato and Dan Lawrence in the 32’ Doug Wright, The Hulk, put a hurting on their opponents in the Superboat Stock race, taking the lead from the green flag and keeping it all the way until the checkers flew. The day before the race, Lawrence talked about how important setup would be for this race and he and his crew chief nailed it. Kyler Talbot and Jay Mueller ran a strong second in Talbot’s 32’ Doug Wright, Talbot Excavating, but never challenged while Chris Schoenbohm and Taylor Chastelet ran a solid third in the 32’ Doug Wright, PatriotVapor.

The backstory of the Super Stock race was the tight points battle between Gary Ballough and Jimmie Harrison in their 32’ Doug Wright, FJ Propeller, and Scott Porta and Mike Fosse and their 32’ Doug Wright, Papa’s Pilar Rum. Basically, whoever finished ahead of the other would win the national championship. Ballough had been running 200-hp engines all season, but switched to the same 280-hp 2.5-liter engines that the rest of the class had been running, anticipating Clearwater’s calm conditions. Both teams were chasing pre-race gremlins during Saturday’s testing, but unfortunately Ballough and Harrison couldn’t make the start, which handed the S-1 designation for 2016 to the Papa’s Pilar Rum team.

In the P3 class, the 36’ Spectre, Second Amendment took the National Championship, while the P4-class National Championship went to the 30’ Phantom, Two Cruel.

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Editor’s note: The former editor of Powerboat magazine, award-winning marine journliast Eric Colby is a regular contributor to Boating magazine and boattest.com. This is his first article for speedonthewater.com. For complete results from the 2015 Super Boat International National Champions visit the SBI website.