Jets on the Water

The Oklahoma River Boathouse District in Oklahoma City has become the destination for drag boat racing and is now considered by many to be the finest course in the nation.

High banks that shield the boats from the wind, plenty of easy access to food and entertainment and front row seats to one of motorsports’ fastest attractions have turned this delightful area into the center of a growing fan base.

From 2005 to 2007, the Oklahoma City Nationals were a regular feature of the drag boat racing circuit before financial and scheduling difficulties briefly sent them on furlough. Now, having reprised the event in 2009, Mike McAuliffe, CEO of OKC Motorsports and the director of the event, has worked tirelessly to make Oklahoma City the top spot for drag boat racing in the country.

“We try to make this a fun event to attend, whether for kids or a family event,” says McAuliffe. “If you like motorsports, this is the event for you. We have everything from personal watercraft to boats that travel at speeds of 180 mph and up.”

Held from June 10-12, the competition will feature more than 120 race teams coming from all over the country.

The drag boat racing community is very family oriented, and the racing teams welcome curious spectators who are interested in a close-up look at the boats. Some of the teams will even allow fans to get into the boats to get a first-hand look at what it’s like to steer one of these jets-on-water.

For the average person, the pro level classes simply translate into one thing: speed. According to Mike Sorensen, president of the Southern Drag Boat Racing Association, the Top Fuel boats have well over 5,000 horsepower and can reach 240 to 260 miles per hour. Recent safety innovations have greatly increased the popularity of the sport.

One of the big attractions to the sport of drag boat racing is the entry level where everyday folks can bring out their wave runners and bass boats to get a taste of the racing phenomena.

Tina Hill works as a medical staff specialist at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City and is a local racer who began her journey in drag boat racing as a spectator. She has subsequently become a top-level racer in the Pro Competition Eliminator Class and met her husband, who was formerly her crew chief, in the racing circuit. This year marks Hill’s first time racing in the Pro Comp class, and her newly painted boat “Drama Queen” is primed and ready to run.

There are not many female capsule drivers, and Hill is always pleased when her fans come out to events.

“You will never get a better thrill than sitting on the river bank and watching these boats,” says Hill. “It is a really neat sporting event. Where else can you see a boat go 1,000 feet in four seconds at 264 miles per hour?”

Tickets for the event can be purchased at the Cox Convention Center Box Office, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800.745.3000. Tickets can also be purchased at Homeland stores.

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