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Great Lakes Grand Prix: Taking (Super) Stock In Michigan City

Of all the classes currently competing in the six-race American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series produced by the Offshore Powerboat Association and Powerboat P1 outfits, Super Stock has one of the most—if not the most—compelling storylines. Consider this: Currently first in the point standings with two second-place and two third-place finishes, the Performance Boat Center/AutoAlert team has a rookie driver, Rusty Williams, behind the wheel of the its 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Williams shares the cockpit with throttleman Myrick Coil, a veteran offshore racer who also drives the team’s Supercat-class MTI raceboat with throttleman John Tomlinson.

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Consistency through the first four races of the APBA Offshore Championship Series has been crucial for the points-leading Super Stock-class Performance Boat Center/AutoAlert team (click image to enlarge). Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

In tomorrow’s Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., they’ll be taking on seven other Super Stock teams. (The Super Stock class consistently had fielded the largest fleets of any class in the series and had a 13-boat season-high turnout at the Lake Race, the second event of the season, in Central Missouri in June.) Though conditions were flat for today’s Class 2, 4, 5, and 7 races and practice sessions, they are predicted to be slightly rougher for tomorrow’s four races, which are scheduled to begin at noon with the Super Stock contest slated to go off a 1:30 p.m.

Williams has proven to be a quick study on the racecourse, according to Coil.

“I scream at him a lot, and sometimes he yells back,” Coil said, then laughed. “But he understands how it all works and he’s not scared. You want the guy who says, ‘Go, go, go,’ not, ‘Wait, hold on.’ Rusty is a quiet guy in the first place, so I have to encourage him to give me feedback.

“The key to our success so far has definitely been consistency,” he continued. “We’ve had a lot of high-speed races that were relatively flat, and in those races a breeze usually comes into play. You really have to set up the boat when you leave the turn so the wind will take you where you need to go and you’re not ‘steering’ the boat. Rusty has gotten good at that.”

Currently in place just 19 points behind Performance Boat Center, FJ Propeller throttleman Gary Ballough is running a 32-foot Victory catamaran this season and alternating between drivers Darren Kittredge and Loren Libel. (Kittridge will run with Ballough in the Michigan City contest tomorrow.) Ballough said that both drivers have performed exceptionally well and that the team’s challenges have all come from his own setup decisions.

“There’s nothing wrong with my boat or my drivers—they’ve all been awesome,” he said. “I’ve definitely had some learning curves, especially with picking propellers. I just haven’t had any luck with that or the conditions. But I’m sure everybody else is happy that’s happened.”

Ballough paused to chuckle.

“Our main goal is to get the boat ready for the world championships,” he said. “Loren won one with John Tomlinson and he wants to win one again.”

Currently running second through fourth in the Super Stock-class point standings, the FJ Propeller, Team Allen Lawncare and Landscaping and CR Racing are all within striking distance of the Performance Boat Center team.

Asked if he meant the Offshore Powerboat Association World Championship in Engelwood Beach, Fla., or the Race World Offshore Key West Championships—both scheduled for November—Ballough said the team is likely to do both.

“We have no problem running both of them,” he said. “We just want to race. Key West is ‘the legend’ and everybody wants to run in the legend.

“I also have to say that Smitty (OPA president Ed Smith) has been absolutely wonderful to work with,” he continued. “He has open ears and open eyes, and he is willing to listen to and help anyone who can help the sport or his organization.”

Both based in the Midwest and each with a first-place result to their credit this season, the third-place Team Allen Lawncare and Landscaping team and the fourth-place CR Racing team remain well within striking distance of the points leaders. Team Allen Lawncare trails Performance Boat Center by 34 points, while CR Racing trails the points leader by 47 points, according to the most recent OPA standings.

Editor’s Note: Starting at noon (CST) tomorrow, the second round of races for the Great Lakes Grand Prix will be broadcast live on the OPA Racing Facebook page.

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