Breaking News Bar

Boat races return to Evansville

  • Officials with the Kentucky Drag Boat Association were at the Evansville riverfront today constructing the course for this weekend's races.

    Officials with the Kentucky Drag Boat Association were at the Evansville riverfront today constructing the course for this weekend's races.
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

By Pete Spitler
updated: 9/14/2017 2:41 PM

For the first time since 2004, the Evansville riverfront will echo with the sound of drag racing boats this weekend.

The Kentucky Drag Boat Association, in conjunction with the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series, is holding races Saturday and Sunday near Water Street Inc. as part of Water Street River Fest.

Saturday's qualifying rounds will begin at 10 a.m., with Sunday's elimination races starting at 11 a.m. Between 40 and 50 boat teams are expected to compete in the final event of the 2017 KDBA season.

"Racers acquire points for every round they win," said KDBA President Barry Salsman. "So, say you go to a race in the particular class you're in and there's four rounds.

"If you're the winner, you collect 400 points. If you win for all five races, that means you've got 2,000 points. That's why everybody travels, they want to win the points championship."

This weekend's event carries extra importance as it is also a Lucas Oil points race.

"Three of our five races are Lucas Oil points races and this happens to be one of them," Salsman said. "Lucas Oil has a points race for Division 3 and you have to run, mandatory, all three Lucas Oil races and then two of their national points events, which are held in Missouri.

"People are not only running for a points championship in KDBA, they're trying to win two points championships at the same time and that keeps the racers motivated to come."

Salsman said he anticipates three rounds of qualifying on Saturday that will take place all day.

"What that is is bracket racing," he said. "They're trying to get their boat set up to run between the start and finish line in a correct time, plus they're trying to trip the start line beam in the correct time.

"There's a rumor, nothing set in stone yet, that there might be a gambler race."

A gambler race is when racers from the different classes compete against each other, usually for a small jackpot of $2,000 to $3,000.

"You may have a boat that runs 150 (mph) racing a boat that runs 90," Salsman said. "What they'll do is stagger-start them.

"The clock has the ability to stagger out the times and let them go."

Officials with the KDBA were out at the riverfront on Thursday constructing the course, which will start at the Kaskaskia River bridge and go east, ending at Gateway F/S's facility.

"Clint called me probably the first part of the year," said Salsman, referring to local organizer Clinton Kempfer. "You've got to go through some things with the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), insurance, things of that nature.

"What we're doing here now is physical work, but you're probably looking at a day and a half to set it up and when we tear it down, it's out of the water in a couple of hours."

The boat races used to be an Evansville tradition from 1987 to 2004 before being moved to New Athens.

"I started on this back in November," Kempfer said. "When New Athens closed down, I wanted to get the races down here.

"This year was a little hectic because of when we had to have them. We had to have them at harvest time, so we had to work with F/S and the port district to get it to happen."

Both days are free and open to the public and attendees can watch the event along the riverbank. People can bring their own non-alcoholic refreshments, while alcoholic beverages must be purchased from the bars along the riverfront.

"I just hope everybody enjoys the show," Kempfer said. "We wanted it free for people to bring their families out and see a nice, good show."

Search Carbondale Times