Familiar faces lead the field at Clearwater Offshore Nationals in Florida.
By Gregg Mansfield
The Baystar Clearwater Offshore Nationals was the last chance for teams competing on the American Power Boat Association National Championship Series to pick up points before the final race of the season.
The problem is the teams didn’t know it when they were racing in Clearwater, Fla., in late September. A week later, Hurricane Ian passed through Florida causing catastrophic damage in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., the last stop for the APBA Championship series. Roar at the Shore was cancelled soon after as the devastated community is picking up the pieces.
Racers still had a sense of urgency in Clearwater with just two regular season races left leading into the Key West Offshore World Championship in November. It showed in the boat count at the Clearwater Offshore Nationals with 50 boats taking to the water. It was the largest field ever for a Clearwater race, said Larry Bleil, president of Race World Offshore.
Offshore racing fans got to some Sunday morning action because of turtle hatchlings. The promoter, Race World Offshore, had to start the racing three hours after sunrise and end three hours before sunset. To make it happen, the promoter combined the bracket classes with Modified V and Stock V.
“It made for a really short window for everybody to race,” Bleil said. “Talking to the teams afterward, everybody was fine with it. The teams were excited and happy with the event.”
When the start flag dropped, it was familiar offshore teams that were atop the podium when the racing was done.
M CON came into Clearwater Super Cat race fresh off a spin out in St. Petersburg, Fla. The team at Performance Boat Center needed the 19 days between races to fix the damage to the catamaran. Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil ran the repaired boat flawlessly to the checkered flag followed by WHM Motorsports and Pro Floors Racing.
Owner and driver Reese Langheim and Ricky Maldonado have been the model of consistency this season running Jackhammer in the Super Stock field. With a 10-boat Super Stock field in Clearwater, the pair had the lead early and went on for their ninth consecutive podium finish. Performance Boat Center was second and PlayTradez third.
The 450R Factory Stock class continues to be owned by Taylor Scism and John Tomlinson in T/S Motorsports Marine Technology. Scism and Tomlinson were once again atop the podium in Clearwater with KLOVAR Motorsports second and GC Racing Team third.
Class One had five team start the race and when it was done Triple 2 Offshore, Huski Racing and JBS Racing finished first through third, respectively.
Other class winners included Sunprint/Hooters (Modified V), LSB/REV X Oil (Stock V), Team Woody Racing (Bracket Class 3), Control Freak (Bracket Class 4), Golf ‘n Gator/Team Wood (Bracket Class 5), Powerhouse Racing (Bracket Class 6) and Offshore Ohmies (Bracket Class 7).
Expansion in the Works
Race World Offshore’s Bleil is expected to announce at the Key West Offshore World Championship in November expansion plans for the organization. The group was founded in 2018 and the following year took over promoting the Key West Championship.
Race World organizes just two offshore races a year and expanding the slate has long been a priority for Bleil. The group bounced back after pandemic restrictions wiped out the 2020 season.
“They’ll be a whole series next year,” Bleil said. “I’ve got a good team and we’ve got people that have been in the business for a long time. We still have a lot of stuff to put together before we can announce it in Key West.”
Bleil is expecting 70 boats for the 2022 Key West Offshore World Championship. It’s a good problem to have as Bleil continue to reinvent and grow offshore racing’s premier event. Race World is putting on two concerts during week of the Key West World Championship and all the profits from the concert sponsored by X Insurance and Good Boy Vodka will go to Key West charities.
Key West had more than 100 homes flooded during Hurricane Ian, Bleil said.
“All the restaurants and all the waiters and waitresses can’t wait for the boat races to come to town because they can make some money,” Bleil said.