It was a day full of attrition as offshore racers gathered in Sarasota for the first day of the 39th annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix.
Racing was divided into three main sections. First, Bracket Classes 5, 6 and 7 ran together. That was followed by Class 1 boats racing to determine their pole positions for tomorrow's main event. Finally, Super Stock boats took the stage for a dramatic third act.
Conditions were mostly flat as the green flag got things started at 1 p.m. Class 5 boats saw TFR/XINSURANCE, with driver J. J. Turk and throttleman Micheal Stancombe, taking an early lead for the first couple of laps, but the racers dropped a valve and had to be towed in. That gave Bronx Phantom, with the father/son team of Vincent and Robert Winoski, a chance to take the lead; however, they too fell victim to mechanical problems and had to be towed in. In the end, it was Team Farnsworth Motorsports/Hancock Claims, with Jay Healy and Rob O'Connell, taking the checkered flag. Yabba Dabba Doo, featuring Larry James and J.D. Ivines, finished second, followed by Elijah Kingery and Eric Ullom in Bulletproof/Team Farnsworth after six laps.
Two Class 6 boats also ran half a dozen laps with a limit of 70 mph. Free Bird, with Reef Dellanos and Ryan Stahlman, finished in the top spot. They were followed by Ivey Racing (with George Ivey and Damon Marotta). Ultimate Boat Racing Experience, with Mack McKeand and Chris Reindl, did not start.
Six outboard-powered Class 7 boats ran four laps, bracketed to 60 mph. Jackhammer, with Brian Guy and Julian Maldonado, took the early lead and held onto it, grabbing the checkered flag. In second place was Dees Nuts, with Rey and Ricardo Maldonado, and in third place was Statement Marine, with Nick Buis and Owen Buis.
Next up was the Class 1 qualifying race, as the big boats took to the water. Unfortunately, DF Young fell off plane, Monster Energy/MCON ran low on fuel, and XINSURANCE Good Boy Vodka experienced a bad fuel issue that fouled the engine. (They are expected to race tomorrow.) That left 222 Offshore Australia, with Darren Nicholson and Giovanni Carpitella, landing the first pole position. They were followed by Brit Lilly and Steve Curtis in Huski Ice Spritz, and Travis Pastrana and Johnny Tomlinson in Pothole Heroes/Alegra Motorsports. Class 1 boats will complete their racing on Sunday.
The woes of attrition followed 11 Super Stock boats into the third and final race of the day, as winds picked up and the water got rougher. In the first lap, LPC rolled over in a turn, leading to a red flag that stopped all racing while driver Anthony Smith and throttleman Loren Peters were extracted from the boat and it could be safely removed from the course. Two additional boats did not reappear in time for the restart, including Team Allen Lawn Care (which broke a drive) and Team Bermuda. As it had done originally, Jackhammer (with Reese Langheim and Julian Maldonado) grabbed the early lead, but apparently suffered a Guardian Drive issue and momentarily slowed, allowing CMR Roofing (with driver Sean Conner and Johnny Tomlinson filling in for Shaun Torrente, who was overseas racing in F1) to take the lead and ultimately win the race. Jackhammer came in second, and Coco's Monkey, with A.J. and Peter Bogino, took third place. Performance Boat Center/FASS Fuel Systems, with Myrick Coil and Rusty Williams, suffered a broken motor mount, causing them to lose momentum and resulting in CMR Roofing to overtake them.
Racing continues tomorrow, with Mod Vee, Super Cat, Class 1, Factory Stock 450R and Bracket Classes 2, 3 and 4 taking center stage.