Mercury Marine Poker Runs America present World HQ tour prior to APRA-sanctioned Milwaukee poker run and APBA offshore Race
By Peter Tasler
Originally Appeared in Poker Runs America 6-8
Fond du Lac and Milwaukee, Wisconsin set the stage for heavyweight poker run and race action in early August. The powerhouse four-day event began on Thursday, August 7, as Mercury Racing and Poker Runs America presented performance boat owners and offshore competitors with a rare opportunity to tour Mercury Racing’s world headquarters, attend seminars on propellers and engine/drive maintenance and participate in what was hailed as, “the world’s largest performance boat parade on dry land,” through downtown Fond du Lac.
The procession ended at the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds, where the exotic boats were on display for almost 1,000 powerboat aficionados. A number of powerboat companies such as Fountain, Formula, Donzi, Skater and Cigarette were on hand with factory personnel, clothing and display trailers, as were race teams who met and greeted their fans.
Complete with live music, food and beverages, the evening’s festivities also benefited a good cause, with a silent auction of donated performance and racing memorabilia that helped raise more than $6,000 for the local United Way.
- Ray Anthony’s Aqua Toy Store poker run entry.
- Vic Spellberg and crew aboard the Merc powered Formula pace boat.
- Milwaukee at night
Live music at the Fond de Lac County Fairgrounds
On Friday, it was off to performance boaters flocked to the Poker Runs America trailer and tent in Veteran’s Park to register for Saturday’s run. While trailer storage was available in the APBA race site, Performance Marine’s Jason Saris and Rick Gage Kindly provided extra mooring space for poker run boats. Later that evening, Skater (Douglas Marine) hosted a special welcome reception for poker runners at the Rock Bottom Brewery downtown.
Following breakfast and the must-attend drivers meeting on Saturday morning, teams followed the pace boats out of the recently revamped waterfront of the Port of Milwaukee. Poker Runs America’s 42-foot Fountain was driven by Dennis Ryerson of Mercury Marine accompanied by Graham Neale of Ogilvy and Neale Insurance, as well as Mike Livorsi in Livorsi Marine’s 36-foot Spectre named Gauge This and Dean Reynolds in a Baja.
- Bob Zubick’s 35’ Fountain, 20th Anniversary
- Cigarette Racing team’s X-42
- Baja Marine’s Dean Reynolds and crew entered a 40’ Baja
- Mercury Racing’s Fred Kiekhaefer and his wife Carol
The first card stop was at 11:30 a.m. in Winthrop Harbor, IL at Skipper Bud’s at the North Point Marina fuel station. From there, teams headed off to Racine for lunch and the second stop, Lucarelli’s Docks Waterfront Restaurant, which served up a scrumptious meal in two sittings.
Participants added more cards in Port Washington, which was both a refreshment and gas stop. By 4:30 p.m., the power fleet arrived back at poker run headquarters, the Wyndham Milwaukee Center Hotel, scene of the night’s gala awards banquet.
The first place winners were Steve and Krista Nykamp (who entered their Apache, Dragonbreath) received a $10,000 cash and prize package that consisted of a trophy and $2,500 cash from Poker Runs America, along with a jacket, Panasonic DVD/VHS combo player, H&H power jack, Pentax camera, Oasis Pyrich chair and frame and an Electrolux vacuum system. Ray Anthony and his Aqua Toy Store sweetened the pot with a commemorative shotgun, his and hers watched and a handsome pen set. Livorsi Marine added a Salmon Fishing Trip and two life vests. A U-Flex steering wheel assembly ATS Torch Lite, two Nice Tach women’s shirt and a Baja shirt rounded out the list. Steve and Brenda Rescorla (36-foot Apache, Blue Moon) took second place and went home with a $5,000 prize package consisting of $1,000 cash from Poker Runs America, plus a sweatshirt, a commemorative shotgun from Aqua Toy Store along with watches and a grill set, Panasonic DVD player, H&H power tongue jack, Oasis Pyrch chair and an Electrolux vacuum system. The remaining prizes included two inflatable PFDs from Livorsi Marine, a U-Flex steering wheel, two Nice Tach women’s shirts and a Baja shirt.
- Poker runners and racers attended seminars during Mercury’s World HQ tour. Mercury Racing officials marked the occasion by handing out special prizes and Lab Finished gift certificates to
- Tom Abrams and crew of Team Reliable
- Joe Lino and crew of Luxman Racing
- Super Cat contenders Dirty Duck and Reliable carriers took part in the downtown Fond Du Lac parade, as did Donzi Marine’s Steve Simon (2nd from right) and crew members of Super Vee entry, Team Donzi.
Gary Bahr (in his 42-foot Cigarette) captured third place and went home with a $4,000 prize package: $500 cash from Poker Runs America, along with Pentax binoculars, Oasis Pyrch chair and Electrolux vacuum system. The Aqua Toy Store added a commemorative hotgun, a grill and a pen set. Additional prizes included a U-Flex steering wheel, two inflatable PFDs from Livorsi Marine, two Nice Tach women’s nightshirts and a Baja shirt.
Capping off the evening awards, Poker Runs America made a special presentation, selecting Team Formula as the Best Dressed and Most Colorful Crew on the poker run.
- Typhoon Racing on parade.
- Bob Morgan’s Big Thunder Marine arrive at the Fond du Lac fairgrounds.
- The fully-stocked Formula Racing trailer on parade.
- Twisted Styx was one of many race boats that took part in the parade.
- Hot Super Cat entry, team Liquid was part of the downtown parade.
On Sunday afternoon Poker Runs America made special arrangements for participants to watch the First Annual GMG Milwaukee Grand Prix in a special land-based VIP viewing area or from on the water. Thousands of spectators lined the shore at Veteran’s Park, cheering on their favorites in an afternoon of true stadium-style racing with shorter courses.
The first-ever offshore powerboat race in Milwaukee produced some surprising results – mostly notably as poker-runner-turned-racer Tom Abrams and Jerry Gilbreath piloted their 40-foot Skater to win their first checkered flag of the season and rookie driver Abrams’ first national race victory in Super Cat class. In super Cat Light, Paul Whittier and Pat Patel took top honors in their 36-foot Skater, In Contempt.
- Danny Jackson’s 38 Sonic
- David Leventis and crew aboard National Marine’s 42’ Fountain poker run boat.
- Stephen Sweet’s 46’ Skater, Sweet Emotion
- Dr. Bob Rosenberg’s 42’ Fountain, Quick Delivery
- Modern Marine’s 35’ Nordic during the poker run.
Living up to their reputation as one of this season’s hottest offshore competitors, Doug Valentine and Lee Murray of team Donzi battled it out with Spiderman and Lucas oil Scarab to clinch the Super Vee win for their 38-foot Donzi.
It was decidedly less hectic in Factory 2 class as two additional 38ZR Donzi teams fought for first. When the spray cleared, Phil Semel and Joe Skrocki of Team Audacity beat another poker run and race team, Wilma and Brian Ross of Snap-On Talkin’ Tools to capture the checkered flag.
Factory 1 winners were Team Winnebago/Red Devil Energy Drink, an Activator hull driven by Gino Marrone and throttled by Mark Kowalski.
Once the race action ended, Sunday’s fans were able to get a close-up view of the winners in a special viewing area near the GMC track display, where the GMC Pro Grade Awards presentation took place, making the end of a power-perfect performance in Wisconsin.
First Place: Fountain Powerboat’s Wyatt Fountain, PRA’s Bill taylor, Tony Espoito with winners Krista and Steve Nykamp.
Second Place: Cigarette Racing Team’s Skip Braver, Brenda and Steve Rescorla and Ryan Lee.
Third Place: Formula Racing’s Vic Spellberg with Gary and Micky Behr.
Best Dressed Crew: PRA event administrator Larry Boyd presents a special award to Team Formula for the Best Dressed and Most Colorful Crew on the poker run.