Stellar Racing

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Photo by Pete Boden

Celebrating 34 years, the Sarasota event lays claim as “The Indy 500 of Offshore” and stands the test of time – a favorite of competitors and fans like.

The HotelPlanner Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival marked the 5th stop on the 2018 P1 SuperStock USA Championship circuit as 5 Panther entries geared up for the P1 title. After two days of competition, the Gallagher team garnered 223 points earning the Championship crown; Geico Racing took second and Visit Jacksonville finished third.

Completing the weekend format, a high powered invitational offshore lineup of 27 teams delivered some of the season’s most exciting competition. As clouds parted to brilliant skies, the Sunday fleet lured fans to Lido Beach showcasing deck-to-deck racing in several classes.

Early in the chase, Ed Smith and Grant Bruggemann powered Cleveland Construction to the head of the Super Cat pack. Within a few laps, it was game on as a cat fight for the top slot positioned Myrick Coil and John Tomlinson of Performance Boat Center/Jimmy Johns in a side-by-side contest with Wayne Valder and Chris Hanley aboard Pro-Floors Racing. Valder and Hanley kept it full throttle, ripped to the front and never looked back.  “We just had an extremely good race today right from the start,” Wayne Valder, owner/driver the New Zealand-based team told me.

“We knew that today was the day we needed to prove ourselves.” – Wayne Valder. Photo by Q-Photography.

Super Vee Lite Special Event generated a super contest as two local teams vied for Sarasota bragging rights. Taking the green flag, Stephen and Steve Kildahl aboard BoatFloater.com accelerated to the lead, while Will Smith and Jimmy Deitch powered Mr. Technology up the ranks past Steven Fehrmann and Steve Miklos of SunPrint Management in hot pursuit of the Kildahl father/son team.

Half way through the race, Smith and Deitch made their move in a deck-to-deck battle, seizing the lead over BoatFloater.com. “It was like, am I really here?” Smith told me.

However, mechanical issues knocked BoatFloater.com out of contention, as driver Stephen Kildahl explained: “With a lap and a half left, my dad and I heard a loud bang in the engine compartment. When we got back to the pits, we found out the coupler exploded.” The mishap paved the way for an over-the-top victory for Mr. Technology, a 32’ Phantom.

The long time coming win was all the better for Smith, who designs and builds Phantom boats.  “This is my first won race since 1989. Even though my boats win, this is an achievement for me. This was a hard fought, hard earned win against the best in the class.”

“I stayed on it and ran the heck out of it to the finish line.” – Will Smith. Photo by FREEZE FRAME.

Superstock 300 delivered one exciting finish as Andrei Allen and Billy Allen with Team Allen Lawn Care & Landscaping accelerated ahead, pursued by Jimmie Harrison and Gary Ballough in FJ Propeller. It was a short-lived lead as FJ Propeller moved to the front of the fleet, followed by Nick Scafidi and Scott Porta aboard Gettel.  In no time, Gettel raced ahead and captured a sizeable lead. “We set ourselves in first and raced easy,” explained Scafidi, who opted to shift into cruise control.

However, Team Allen stayed in the chase and with a few laps left, “All of a sudden, there they were,” Scafidi said. “I told Scott, nail the throttles. We blasted off.” Gettel mesmerized the crowds with a hold- your-breath-race to the finish line, capturing the checkered flag by less than a boat length.

Unlimited Class showcased the talents of James Sheppard and Steve Curtis with Miss Geico garnering top honors, while during Saturday’s action, first place went to Wix Filters in P-3; Perdition in P-4 and Pump It in P-5.

Sarasota continues its win-win scenario on and off the race course. The 12 day festival speaks volumes for the community with an economic impact of $37 million and over $100,000 raised for Suncoast Charities for Children last year states Executive Director Lucy Nicandri.

This year, BoatFloater.com throttleman Steve Kildahl demonstrated his non-stop commitment to the local offshore racing community when he stepped up as Race Director and boasts a perfect attendance card having never missed his hometown race.

And if you weren’t there, no worries! Catch the offshore action on CBS Sports featuring a one hour post event broadcast Sunday, July 22 at 4 PM.

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Bobbye Miller Kenyon is an award-winning journalist whose high-performance articles appeared in Hot Boat Magazine, along with fast-paced marine industry news in her Hot Sheet Column, from 1997-2008 and Powerboat Magazine from 2009-2012.  She received a special award from the State of Kentucky in 2014 as she was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Steven L. Beshear for her writing efforts that showcased the diverse boating locales throughout the Bluegrass State. Her company, Offshore Public Relations, is a multi-faceted firm that has represented marine industry leaders and champions in the offshore racing arena. A native Miamian, she enjoys boating off the Florida Keys waters of Key Largo to Islamorada and the lakes of the Kentucky countryside.

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