Following the last-minute cancellation of the fourth race of the 2019 NGK Spark Plugs F1 Powerboat Championship in Pittsburgh—an unfortunate turn of events that had nothing to do with the NGK F1 series and has even led to legal action against the local management company—the series organizers and teams rebounded to put on a remarkable show a week later at last weekend’s Springfield F1 Grand Prix in Ohio.
Ashton Rinker remained hot in Springfield, Ohio, last weekend, winning his fourth-straight NGK Spark Plugs F1 Powerboat Championship race of the season. All photos courtesy Kevin Pyles/MOTO Marketing Group
Although the victor was the same—Florida’s Ashton Rinker earned his fourth win in four races this season—the third annual “Wake the Lake” that took place on Champions Park Lake at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ohio, appears to have put the city back on the international boat racing map thanks to the privately held multi-use permanent powerboat racing facility.
“Winning in Springfield was awesome because it’s like the Indy 500 for our sport; but it was even cooler to see my cousin (Chris Rinker) finish fourth last weekend,” said Rinker, who has a chance to become the first undefeated driver in an F1 tunnel-boat season since his father, Terry, won every race in 2006. “Chris is a rookie driver and he continues to improve and climb up the point standings. It’s cool to see how much he’s developed and how well he’s competing with some of the best drivers in the country.
“Not at all—we’re in a great place right now and we’re going to continue to put the best possible boat on the water,” added Rinker when asked if he or his teammates are getting complacent after winning the first four races of the season. “For me, it’s been a great season, but we need to finish it off in Colorado in a couple of weeks. Besides the Pittsburgh setback, which was disappointing but out of our control, the series as a whole is going very well and the competition amongst the teams is the best it’s been in many years. We have some big-name sponsors showing interest for next year.”
Rinker made sure to thank his teammates, particularly his crew chief James Chambers, as well as his primary sponsors, which include Rinker’s Boat World and McLain Trailers. Obviously he is confident heading into the Roar of the Rockies season finale in Windsor, Colo. (Aug. 31-Sept. 1).
“We’re dialed in—it’s going to be hard for anyone to catch us,” Rinker continued. “We’re not skipping a beat and I don’t think the altitude of Colorado is going to affect us. We might lose some horsepower, but we have some tricks up our sleeves. We have good motors, a nice selection of props available and some other goodies in the toolbox. Our goal now is to get Chris on the podium and get him up there in overall points.”
Check out the slideshow above for more racing images from Springfield as well as the podium finishers for F1, F-Lights and J-Hydros.
Although Rinker was unbeatable again, second- and third-place finishers, Chris Fairchild and Jimmie Merleau, gave it a good effort. (Click here for full race results and overall standings.) The only real drama in the event was a blow over during the start of the second F1 heat on Saturday. The good news was Michigan’s Jake Alkema escaped the incident unharmed and, with the help of a host of other teams, got the No. 191 boat repaired overnight to participate and earn some points in the final race on Sunday.
Fairchild, a two-time American Power Boat Association Hall of Champions inductee, called the 2019 event the best one yet and thanked everyone from the sponsors and the fans to the fairground officials and the teams that made the trip to Ohio for the event.
“It was a great weekend with great weather, great fans and great competitors,” Fairchild said. “B2B Motorsports and UPPG cannot thank the Clark County Fairgrounds and Dean Blair enough for the fabulous facility. We had a massive field of boats in all the classes, including OPC and mods, and we had massive crowds. Champions Park is truly becoming the place to race.”
In the competitive Formula Lights class, Michigan’s Steve Merleau finished ahead of Texas’ Grant Schubert and Florida’s Carlos Mendana. In the J-Hydro class, Kentucky’s Alden Merrill edged out a couple of Texans—Shane Bulter and Jack Schubert—to claim the victory and move into third in the overall standings behind Butler (first) and Schubert.
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