Once again, a well-rounded group of individuals who have impacted the event in a variety of ways is going to be inducted into the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Bob Morgan Memorial Hall of Fame class this year. The seventh annual Hall of Fame ceremony, which will recognize six new members, is scheduled to take place Tuesday, August 20, at The Stables at Cannon Smoked Saloon in Sunrise Beach, Mo., starting at 6 p.m.
Longtime Shootout participant and 2019 Bob Morgan Memorial Hall of Fame inductee Don Onken (holding the event’s Top Gun trophy), has been blessed with an incredible family and dedicated crew behind his racing efforts. Photo by Jason Johnson
Leading the way for this year’s inductees is longtime participant and four-time overall Top Gun champion Don Onken. The owner of Onken’s Inc. and Onken’s American Recyclers Inc., which manufacture steel equipment used in the grease and oil collection, storage and recycling industry, Onken is the driving force behind American Ethanol, the incredibly powerful 51-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran that has claimed the overall Top Gun title the last four years with speeds of 208 mph in 2015, 217 mph in 2016 (the last year of the one-mile course), and 204 mph in both 2017 and 2018 on the new three-quarter-mile course.
While his racing career began with drag racing in the late 1950s, Onken evolved into offshore powerboat racing in the 1990s in the Mr. Goodwrench 38-foot Bertram. After an unfortunate crash during a race in 1997, he and his wife, Bonnie, agreed that top-speed shootouts would be a safer alternative to offshore racing so that has been his focus since. The rest is history as Onken has been involved with the Shootout starting with the second event in front of Shooters 21. He and his youngest son, JD, have earned numerous class wins over the years, ultimately leading to his current consecutive Top Gun award streak with throttleman John Cosker and a few different drivers running his Mystic powered by his team’s exclusive V-16 engine development program.
Two more competitors who have poured their heart and soul into the Shootout over the years are also being recognized—Brad Rowland and Charlie Schaefer. Rowland is best known as the crazy pontoon guy because he’s driven his Forest River-built South Bay triton well beyond 100 mph several times over the years. Even Rowland, who said he couldn’t do any of this without help from his friends and family members, has a hard time imagining how far he’s come since his first Shootout in 2003 when he ran his twin-engine Odyssey up to 80 mph. His current best top speed is 117 mph on the one-mile course, while he ran 110 mph in 2017 and 106 mph in 2018 on the shorter course.
As best as Schaefer can determine, the Illinois performance boater has competed in the Shootout 19 or 20 times. He has 16 class-winning plaques hung on his wall to show for it as well. Over the years he’s driven a 1999 Hustler Powerboats 388 Slingshot that competed in offshore racing’s F2 class, a Cigarette Racing Team 38 Top Gun and a Cigarette 42X with twin Mercury Racing 1350 engines that he rocketed to 122 mph and 121 mph in 2017 and 2018.
Taken in 2018 by photographer George Denny, who is a member of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Bob Morgan Memorial Hall of Fame, this image includes organizer Ron Duggan, right, who is joining the Hall of Fame this year, and Speedonthewater.com’s Jason Johnson, who joined the esteemed group last year (click image to enlarge).
A few dedicated volunteers—including the main man behind the Shootout for the last 12 years—round off the second half of 2019 Hall of Fame class. Whether he agrees with the committee’s decision or not, Ron Duggan of Captain Ron’s Bar and Grill fame, is as deserving as anyone else who has their name on a plaque on the Bob Morgan Memorial Hall of Fame statue located on the Captain Ron’s property.
With his dedicated wife, Nicole, by his side, Duggan took over the Shootout 12 years ago and has facilitated its growth into the community’s largest fundraiser of the year. The owner of a title insurance escrow closing business, Duggan purchased the run-down Kula Bay restaurant and its surrounding property in 2006 and turned it into the impressive Captain Ron’s facility it is today.
“It’s been amazing to see a plan carried out and the growth realized from what this event could be,” said Duggan, who also coaches high school basketball at Macks Creek. “Everyone from the event’s board of directors to many other influential members of the community have worked so hard to make the Shootout into the vision that we all had in the beginning. Now with more than 750 volunteers, it’s turned into a monster. A big wonderful monster, that is.
“My favorite part of the Shootout is and probably always will be the look on people’s faces who are impacted by the checks that are handed out,” he continued. “You know you are part of something really special at that moment.”
Another integral member of the Shootout’s board of directors is getting his well-earned time in the spotlight as well—Kent Morris. The board secretary and owner of the Deepwater Inn and Pirate’s Point Gas Dock, Morris is in charge of safety on the racecourse, which includes setting up the course, closing the course when it is unsafe for boats to run and opening the course to racers. He handles it all by communicating with the water patrol, the race command center, the start boat and the radar officials. Part of that responsibility includes handling anything that arises with the massive fleet of spectator boats.
Last but certainly not least, Dave Leathers, the driving force behind Showcase Publishing, a Lake Ozark-based company that has started 29 different magazines since it was originally founded in Kansas City in 1985, is heading into the Hall of Fame thanks to his dedication to producing an incredible program for the event for the past six years. Not only has the compelling, tastefully done magazine brought significant attention to the local businesses and dedicated racers that make the event what it is today, the publication has propelled the fundraising aspect for the 34 charities that benefit from the nation’s No. 1 unsanctioned boating event.
Needless to say, everyone in the class of 2019 is excited to be part of the exclusive Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Bob Morgan Memorial Hall of Fame. Tickets for the celebration and dinner can be purchased in advance for $35 online or by calling 573-374-8400. Tables of eight can be purchased for $350, which includes two bottles of the Shootout-labeled wine.
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