With American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series titles on the line at the 14th annual Clearwater Nationals—produced Race World Offshore and presented for the first time this year by XINSURANCE—in Clearwater, Fla., on September 24, the points leaders in virtually every class charged to the front and never looked back. From Super Cat to Bracket 700, the boats that captured the early lead took advantage of the calm conditions in the Gulf of Mexico and ran their preferred line to dominant victories.
In virtually every class at the XINSURANCE Clearwater Nationals, the winning boats dominated the competition en route to convincing victories. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
In the Super Cat class, owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in the 38-foot Skater, M CON/Monster Energy didn’t have the lane they wanted, but it didn’t matter when they roared to the lead. They maintained the position at turn one off Pier 60 on the five-mile course along Clearwater Beach and, as the old saying goes, they never looked back.
“As we took off from the start, in the last quarter mile, it started packing some air and we pulled away,” Miller said.
The M CON team’s performance locked down its second Super Cat national championship in as many years. Next stop is Key West, Fla., in early November where Miller and Coil hope to become back-to-back world champions.
“We are super-pumped to have won the 2023 national championship,” Miller said. “The season was full of highs and lows and action-packed racing.
“We woke up this morning and started our game plan and discussing strategies for the upcoming world championships in Key West,” he continued. “We’re looking forward to defending the title against a very talented and stacked group of Super Cats.”
Giving chase in lane two were owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller in the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports, and owner/driver Chris Grant and throttleman Billy Moore in the 38-foot Skater, Graydel.
With a second-place finish in Clearwater, the Graydel team continued to prove it is a Super Cat-class force to be reckoned with on the racecourse.
Just under 60 boats made the trek to Clearwater for the final race of the 2023 APBA offshore season. For some classes, the national championship was already decided, but for others, this event would decide the title.
In the Super Cat points chase, M CON/Monster Energy had a lead over Grant Bruggemann and owner Wayne Valder in their 40-foot MTI, Valder Yachts/Pro Floors Racing, but at the last minute, the popular Kiwi/Aussie combo withdrew from the event citing much needed engine preparation for the upcoming Race World Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla.
This left five boats in the Super Cat class and the defending champs as the team to beat, but Graydel, which had been dominant in rough water, found some calm-water speed recently.
As often happens in calm-water races where the throttlemen are holding the sticks as far forward as they will go, attrition played a role. While trying to chase down M CON, WHM had an engine lose rpm.
“We had two great first laps,” said WHM throttleman Jay Muller. “One motor lost rpm and we slowed down six to seven mph on the second lap. We were lucky to finish where we did.”
Graydel showed its newfound speed early, moving around WHM and pulling away from the remaining boats in the Super Cat fleet to run alone in second place. Moore said that if his team had been closer in points and there had been more laps, he might have run harder to reel in M CON.
“It boiled down to it wasn’t going to change the national championship and we didn’t want to hurt the boat going into Key West,” Moore said, adding that the team had fresh motors for Clearwater, didn’t hurt them and should be a serious threat in Key West.
Enjoy more images from the Super Cat, Super Stock and V Extreme races.
Finishing fourth, owner/throttleman Vinnie Diorio and driver Matt Jamniczky in the 39-foot Outerlimits, SV Offshore Racing/Rolling Transport, were at a disadvantage from the start with some tired engines. Remaining positive and looking forward to his new Scorpion Racing engines, Diorio said the team is ready to make a move.
“I think we’re where we need to be,” he said. “We just need to get our new engines for Key West.”
Rollin Transport was followed by Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall in the 38-foot Skater, CR Racing.
Running with the Super Cats, the three V Extreme class teams in some loud, fast canopied V-bottoms took to the course. The 42-foot Fountain, Wix Filters, with driver Scott Brown and Eddie Tamberino, pulled off early with mechanical problems leaving the remaining two boats in the fleet to battle for the checkered flag.
Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims took the checkered flag in the V Extreme contest.
Early on, throttleman Bill McComb and driver Ed Wendt, both of Sarasota, Fla., led in their 40-foot Skater V-bottom, Race Winning Brands. Driver Christian McCauley and throttleman Jay Healy gave chase in their 42-foot Fountain, Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims.
As the race wore on, it was evident that McCauley and Healy were getting more comfortable in the boat, picking up speed in the straightaways and making much smoother turns. They pulled around Race Winning Brands for a solid victory.
The five-mile course may looked straightforward to the casual spectator, but anytime you throw a fixed structure like Pier 60 into the equation, it makes things interesting when a handful of evenly matched boats are heading into a turn at the same time.
The seven boats in the 450R Factory Stock class were on the course with the lone entry in the Extreme class, the 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing.
The race officials set the milling circle at the north end of the course with the intention of having the boats sorted out in their lanes by the time they reached the first turn. Because of its speed advantage, JBS Racing was clear of the boats in 450R, but as they entered the turn, the 38-foot Doug Wright Powerboats catamaran, Doug Wright Powerboats/Waves and Wheels, with throttleman Ricky Maldonado and driver Logan Adan, got caught in some wakes and wash and wound up upside down.
“We had nowhere to go and I had to make an evasive maneuver,” said Adan, who is 18 years old. “It was my first instinct.”
The most important thing is that Adan and Maldonado emerged from the incident unscathed. Adan said the team is undaunted and will have a new 450R Factory Stock-class boat and a new Class 1 boat at the world championships in Key West in November.
Kudos to the RWO officials for getting the flipped boat cleared quickly and getting the weekend back on track. The race re-started and defending national champions throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Taylor Scism in their 39-foot MTI, TS Motorsports, moved to a lead they would not relinquish.
Neither Adan nor Maldonado were injured in the solo-boat Doug Wright Powerboats/Waves and Wheels rollover.
“We gambled on prop selection at the last minute and knew we would be hero or zero,” Scism said. “We threw on the big props and hoped for the best.”
For 16-year-old Caleb Mead, the driver of the 39-foot MTI, Mead Family Racing, the dream 2023 season continued as he and throttleman Shaun Torrente continued to collect podium finishes, taking second place. Torrente explained that he set up for acceleration and decided to stick with that setup.
“We stayed the course and did what we wanted to do and it almost worked—if we could have held them tighter,” Torrente said. While some competitors have come into offshore after having run motocross or raced cars, he explained that his 16-year-old driver had one goal. “(Racing an offshore boat) is all he wanted to do,” Torrente added.
Alongside veteran throttleman Shaun Torrente, young Caleb Mead continues to impress.
The same could be said of the young guns running the 39-foot MTI, 151 Express, throttleman Nick Imprescia and Ian Morgan. The duo took a well-earned third place in Clearwater. Their crew chief Ramon Vera brought the boat down to the STR shop in Fort Myers and Morgan and Imprescia, who work for Shaun Torrente Racing, huddled with their boss, identifying small improvements that could be made to their boat to improve performance.
“We definitely earned that one; there wasn’t one thing that woke it up,” Imprescia said. “More importantly it was being able to show what we could do when we’re not getting cut off and we’re not having mechanical problems.”
One of the closest points battles coming into Clearwater was in Super Stock. The 32-foot MTI, Allied Construction Management Systems, with throttleman Shaun Torrente and driver Sean Conner, were within single digit points of its rivals—owner/driver Reese Langheim and throttleman Julian Maldonado in the 32-foot Victory, Jackhammer.
Super Stock was the final race of the day and season with 11 entries, including the late entry, the 32-foot, S2 Power Boats, with Morgan and Imprescia in the cockpit. This is a new boat that simply needed to cross the start line to qualify for the new hull to race in Key West at the world championships. More on this to follow in November.
With the starting lanes for the boats based on the previous finish per APBA rules, Allied Construction jumped out to an early lead and Torrente and Conner built their lead as quickly as possible.
The Allied Construction Management Systems team of Torrente and Conner grabbed an immediate lead they would never relinquish.
“We got the boat really running well and Sean is comfortable turning it,” Torrente said. “We made the tight turn and the other boats went straight.”
Torrente paused to reflect on the team’s intriguing journey this season.
“We had a boat that was coming in on a freighter that we had to cut in four pieces to get it legal,” he said. “If you give us enough time to prepare, there aren’t going to be many people who are as consistent.”
Quietly doing what they always seem to do, driver Coil and throttleman Rusty Williams ran a consistent second in their 32-foot Doug Wright, Performance Boat Center. Jackhammer hit a buoy, which usually constitutes a one-minute penalty, so that should have moved the 32-foot Doug Wright, Northwing, with owner/driver Darren Kittredge and throttleman Casey Boaz into third. Speedonthewater.com was waiting for confirmation on this when the story went to press.
“When you know they have a penalty, you try to put them out of the equation,” said Coil, who speaks from an old-school perspective because of his history in the sport despite his younger age. “People are going to remember who won the 2023 national championship, not the boat that won the 2023 Clearwater race.”
Dash for Cash
In the Mod-V class, the race was for more than bragging rights because the eight entries came to Clearwater looking for their share of a $110,000 purse provided by an undisclosed source.
When the green flag flew, the 30-foot Extreme, Sunprint/Hooters/ElBandito, with throttleman Steve Miklos and driver Steven Fehrmann capitalized on a year of fine tuning to their hull and the pole position to capture the $50,000 winner’s share.
“We had the pole starting spot, which is really important,” Miklos said. “And living down the road, we had tested all the way down to turn one to get the max out of the boat.”
Sunprint capitalized on its recent momentum right into Clearwater to take the Mod V checkered flag.
It’s been well documented that Miklos commissioned bottom guru Scott Porta of Porta Performance Products to fine-tune his boat’s bottom and Miklos admitted that it took him and his driver a while to get used to how hard they could turn the boat.
“Steven is really comfortable turning the boat and he’s doing a great job,” said Miklos after the team’s victory.
After starting in lane No. 5, Brit Lilly and Kevin Smith moved up to second place in their 30-foot Extreme, LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness, but they couldn’t close the gap enough to make a serious challenge.
More action from the Mod V contest.
“I got around everyone as fast as I could have wanted to,” Lilly said. “We would make up a couple of seconds and then my guys said he picked it back up too.”
Second place netted the team $25,000 and Lilly is spending the money on props so he’ll improve going into the 2024 season.
Third in Mod V went to Steve and Stephen Kildahl in their 30-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com.
The Bracket classes started the day in Clearwater with 19 boats taking to the course in myriad categories. One of the most popular boats in the sport, the 41-foot Apache, Predator, with owner/throttleman Dean Stahlman, throttleman Nate Hunt and navigator Connie Stahlman, took the win in Bracket 200 after a section of bottom got ripped out of the 35-foot Fountain, Teamy Woody, with driver Billy Shipley and throttleman Chad Woody.
Bracket class competition was hot and heavy in Clearwater.
In Bracket 600, driver Ryan Stahlman and throttleman Reef Dellanos ran unopposed in their 26-foot Joker, Freebird.
Dominance continued in Bracket 400 as the 34-foot Phantom, Control Freak, with driver Mark Robbins and throttleman Damon Marotta continued their undefeated streak, earning yet another checkered flag. Second went to owner/driver Eddie Simmons and driver Jason Zolecki in the 34-foot Phantom, Simmons Racing, followed by the 30-foot AMT catamaran, Twisted Bills, with driver Randy Schwab and throttleman Ralph Munyan.
Winning once again in Clearwater, Control Freak finished Bracket 400-class season undefeated.
Fans of competitive racing were eager to watch the Bracket 500 race as the three boats that have exchanged podium positions for the past two years waged a torrid battle. Initially, driver Eric Ullom and throttleman Elijah Kingery took the lead in their 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof. They were chased closely by their rivals, owner/driver J.J. Turk and throttleman Micheal Stancombe in the 30-foot Phantom, TFR/XINSURANCE/GolfNGator, and the 29-foot Warlock, Hammerheads/Fly SRQ, with driver Dennis Austin and throttleman Don Jackson.
Eventually, Turk and Stancombe used an outside to inside move to take lane one and grabbed a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Bulletproof took second followed by Hammerheads/Fly SRQ.
Not to be outdone by dear old dad, 16-year-old Cameron Turk was joined in the family-owned 22-foot Nitra by throttleman Robert Bryant. They moved out to an early lead that they held for the five lap Bracket 700-class race as the Statement Marine fleet tried to chase them down.
Father Nick Buis and son Owen Buis finished second in the 22-foot Activator, Statement Marine, followed by the driver Rick Raab and throttleman Scott Jobin in the 21-foot Superboat, Statement Marine/Safe Cash, and their super cool 10-year-old Staffordshire terrier that was the hit of the drivers meetings.
Cameron Turk and Robert Bryant ran strong from start to finish and took the Bracket 700-class win.
Editor’s note: All Spec and Bracket class results are unofficial until confirmed by APBA officials. Speedonthewater.com will report and any changes in finishing order if such changes become necessary.
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