GROVE — The national finals of the Southern Drag Boat Association roar into Wolf Creek this weekend. The three-day event will determine this year’s championships in eight of the 12 national categories.
Everything from jet skis to top alcohol hydro boats will be speeding down the 1,000-foot course. A drag-strip Christmas tree light will signal the start of each race that will feature two boats side by side churning to the finish line.
According to the organizer, David Carroll of Marble Falls, Texas, spectators are welcome all three days.
On Friday, there will be a Test and Tune from 8 a.m. until noon. Contestants will be able to try out the course and their equipment. From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. will be the first qualifying legs. The entry fee is $10 per person on Friday.
However, on Friday around 4:30 p.m. the boats and racing teams will hold an open house to allow area residents to see the boats and meet the drivers. The open house is open to the public and there is no charge.
The event is normally held in downtown Grove, but this year it will be at Wolf Creek.
Saturday is set to be an 8-hour day. Beginning at 8:30 a.m. there will be qualifying runs in all the categories.
Carroll says there will be food trucks, but spectators need to bring their own chairs.
The Saturday and Sunday entry fees are $20 each day or you can buy a $40 3-day pass.
On Sunday, the day begins with a chapel service at 8 a.m. with races starting around 9 a.m. The competition is expected to end around 4 p.m. with award ceremonies following.
The drivers and boats are coming from as far away as South Carolina and California.
During the year, the contestants run for points and the finals pit some of the fastest boats against one another.
The top alcohol hydro boats have speeds of up to 200 mph, which means they run the course in about 4 seconds. Those boats cost around $100,000. They contrast with lower speed categories that run the course in 8 to 10 seconds.
The Southern Drag Boat Racing group began in 1975. David Carroll has been a member of the group since 1998 and in 2019 assumed ownership of the group.
Because of COVID, he says this is only the third event this year in which spectators are being allowed to watch. He urges social distancing.
The professional category boats not only have drivers but a crew that includes an underwater expert as well as a motor expert.
The jet ski competition started when Carroll’s daughter was young and wanted to compete. She will be in Grove this weekend competing as an adult in the class that tops out at about 100 mph.
Anyone can enter the competition, but drivers must join the association. Children must be at least 12 years old to compete.
Carroll says that just like any sport, many members begin just watching the competition and then gradually become involved with someone who races. Eventually, they decide to drive and purchase a boat. One of the problems is that there are not practice areas. While some areas can be used to practice, most practice is actually done at races.
There are several groups that sponsor racing particularly in Kentucky and California. Many racers attend other events to practice their skills.
Safety is important to the group. They have their own rescue teams that come in during the races. This year’s team is from South Carolina and includes two divers and four paramedics.
An ambulance is also on site.
Information on the association can be found on their website https://sdbaracing.com/.