Rough water and unseasonable humidity greeted the 30-boat fleet in the first race of the Offshore Powerboat Association yesterday in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., The Atlantic Ocean dished up solid four- to six-foot seas that made for plenty of big-air and fan friendly action.
RUFSTR prevailed in the first contest of the day. Photos courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
Starting at noon, the first race of the day included Classes 5, 6 and 7. The Class 5 race was heated right from the beginning with RUFSTR, Cisco and Coastal Boat Sales going at it. RUFSTR edged out a lead over Cisco by the third lap and never looked back. Coastal Boat Sales made a move on Cisco and were charging hard trying to catch RUFSTR but ran out of race.
Unfortunately, a GPS reading error disqualified Coastal Boat Sales, putting Cisco in second place.
“It was a great way to return to racing” said RUFSTR driver EJ Salamone. “We took a year off and I really missed it.”
The Class 6 race was also very tight from the green flag. Knot Guilty, with Rob and Ray Murk onboard. took immediate charge pulling out a lead over Smith Brothers and Liquid Addiction.
But slowly but surely, Smith Brothers started to gain ground on them, making their move with just a few laps to go.
“The boat ran great,” said Rich Smith, throttleman of Smith Brothers Racing. “I knew it had it in it, I just wanted to choose the right moment to make a move. We ran pretty easy the first few laps getting our wits about us. All in all, it felt great.”
Without question, Class 7 had the toughest time with the water conditions on course, but still delivered some seriously tight action. The seven-boat boat field put on an aerial show for the fans lining the beach and boardwalk.
Out front was Maximum Marine with Anthony Perry and Tom Maddalena battling with 17-year-old Nick Imprescia in NJI Motorsports competing in his first professional. A trim ram failure took Maximum out of it and Imprescia never looked back. Whoa Momma!—with Joe and Ed Reily—took second place with Dawson Custom Marine hanging tough for third. The NJI Motorsports cockpit duo of Imprescia and Ian Morgan ran their 21 Superheat flawlessly. Look for big things to come from those guys in the future.
Race No. 2 went off at 2pm and included SVL, Class 4, Class 3, Class 1 and Superstock fleets.
For more images from the OPA Point Pleasant Beach season-opener, check out the slideshow above.
Nick Scafidi—with Tom Maddalena on the wheel—throttled his Superstock Shadow Pirate catamaran to an uncontested victory, putting on a great show for the fans. Ed “Smitty” Smith with his son, Nick “Boomer” Smith, driving took their Wazzup 38-foot Fountain to victory as well, besting Louis Gioncontieri and Johnny Stanch in Strictly Business.
“I’m proud of my boy” said Smith at the award ceremony “He wheeled the heck out of that Fountain today.”
(Smith’s other son, Anthony, who usually throttles Wazzup, was in Coco Beach, Fla., running the AMH/Instigator Fountain with Aaron Hope in the SBI season-opener.)
Bounty Hunter was victorious in Class 1 with Lightning Jacks in coming second. An unfortunate bottom issue took Lightning Jacks out of the competition with only a few laps left.
The Super Vee Light class proved exciting as always with Typhoon jumping to an early lead and never looking back. Done Deal was in hot pursuit the whole race but couldn’t quite find the speed in the rough water.
Class 4 saw quite a bit of mixing and matching, with Brian Williamson of Team Perdition asked Jason Saris to throttle his boat for the day.
“I’ve been making so many setup changes and I’ve had to use a few different drivers over the past two seasons,” said Williamson. “I really wanted to drive it to know what to expect from them. Jason is one of the few people I trust in that seat.”
That put this reporter in the throttleman bolster of the Saris Racing Engines boat, and RUFSTR’s E.J. Salamone on the wheel.
“E.J. is Johnny’s best friend, and a heck of a good driver,” said Jason Saris. “I was excited to see how they would run together.”
With the two young guns running the boat and Verne French navigating, the Saris Racing Engines crew did its best to take down the veterans in Perdition. A really tight battle went on for four to five laps laps, Saris sustained propeller damage and had to call it a day.
“I think they would have won regardless.” said Verne French. “Johnny had never throttled the boat in the ocean, and E.J. had never driven the boat in the ocean. They did a great job working together, but you need a lot of seat time to beat a team like Perdition.”
Claiming second place in Class 4, Rob Lauer and Joey Meglino had a great run in the Cammo Ammo Scarab.
Editor’s Note: A veteran offshore racer, Johnny Saris covers the OPA circuit for speedonthewater.com and is a longtime contributor to the website.