Southern Drag Boat Association adds local stop to 2020 Tour
Editor’s Note: This free story is courtesy of the El Reno Tribune and the City of El Reno.
The success of El Reno’s own Smoke on the Water has caught the eye of the Southern Drag Boat Association in the past and now one of the nation’s premiere racing leagues is coming to town.
The SDBA has added Lake El Reno to its 2020 race schedule as the Hunter Showdown is set to take place Saturday and Sunday.
The event is named after the late Bruce Hunter, an El Reno resident who served on the SDBA board before his death.
“Bruce always talked about El Reno and wanting to get us to come there,” said SDBA Series Director David Carroll.
Hunter’s efforts, along with those of Smoke on the Water co-organizers Josh Finnigan and Karon Grulkey, helped pave the way for this weekend’s tour stop.
“Josh and his mom are good friends and they have been coming to our tour and we have come to their events and even gave them one of our safety boats to use anytime they need it. We talked to them last year about doing a show there and they have partnered with us to make it happen. We are always looking for new water and places to go,” said Carroll.
The difference between the SDBA races and that of the Outlaw Style that local race fans have come to know is that these events are regulated more with a variety of rules from start to finish.
“This is set up like a regular drag strip, but on water. We have a timing tree and clock and it’s run just like the NHRA runs its drag races on land. There are guys that have set records in our races and they could do it again in El Reno, especially if the weather is cooler,” said Carroll.
The SDBA is a member-driven organization and is one of the oldest drag boat racing organizations in the United States dating back to 1975.
“We have boats that can run over 200 miles per hour, which is our top alcohol hydro or capsule boats and we have four of those classes. Our largest is the quick eliminator and those are open-air boats that can run 150 to 160 miles per hour,” said Carroll.
One of the new classes this year, in which drivers often frequent the Smoke on the Water races as well, is the Pro Jet Class. Carroll said the class is the only one capped by time in which drivers cannot go over 140 miles per hour or a set time over the full 660-foot course.
The SDBA boats will run two course lengths this weekend depending on class. There is the 660-foot course and the full 1,000-foot course.
“There are 12 classes, from water crafts up to the capsule boats, and we have a $37,000 total purse up for grabs. The guys are also running for points championships and we have several close classes where they are less than 100 points apart so this is a big deal,” said Carroll.
Carroll is expecting a field close to 100 boats and this is the fourth event on the SDBA schedule. Events in Marble Falls and Waco, Texas, were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s hard to tell for sure how many boats we will have with the COVID deal. It’s been a crazy season for sure,” said Carroll.
Carroll said the event will run under coronavirus precautions.
“We are doing temperature checks for the teams and stuff like wearing face masks. We have educated our racers on how to keep this sport going and we expect those guys to police it as well. It takes everyone to keep this type of event safe,” said Carroll.
Gate entry to the event will be $20 on Saturday and $25 on Sunday or fans can buy a weekend pass for $40. There will be a weekend cooler pass offered for $20 and VIP passes available for $125.
El Reno residents, with proof of residency, can purchase Saturday tickets for $10 each, a weekend pass for $30 and a cooler pass for $10.
SDBA races, said Carroll, have become an economic boom for host cities.
“There could be up to 400 or 500 rooms rented at local hotels. I’ve rented 20 rooms per night just for the SDBA staff alone. We have been trying to show cities that this can be a boom for them. We want the races to be good for them and good for us and we look forward to partnering with cities to do these types of races,” said Carroll.
Will El Reno be added to the 2021 schedule and beyond?
“What we told the city is that we want to make this an annual event and make it a part of our tour. We race in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas and this works into our schedule and we hope to keep it,” said Carroll.
Grove is one of the other SDBA stops in the state with the Wolf Creek Nationals set for Oct. 23-25.
Webmaster’s Note: This story was updated with additional content.