Riding the Streak

American Ethanol wins its seventh straight Top Gun at The Lake of the Ozarks Shootout

As sure as Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes never will have to buy a beer in Missouri again, the reigning Lake of the Ozarks Shootout champion was going to take home a seventh Top Gun title in late August. The main question was if driver Tony Battiato and throttleman John Cosker could break their own short-course record in the Mystic Powerboat catamaran.

Cosker, who founded and owns Mystic Powerboats, set the record when he started his streak of Top Gun titles with a 244-mph run in 2014. Since then, the Shootout in Central Missouri has gone to a 3/4-mile course, making the record on the 1-mile course untouchable. The short-course record is 204 mph, which American Ethanol set in 2017 and 2018.

The team had a goal of 200-plus-mph at the 33rd running of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout but one of the boat’s four 3,000-hp engines was less than ideal. Cosker and Battiato kept the suspense going into Sunday having clocked runs on Saturday of 175, 180 and 184 mph. Speeds that any performance boater would dream of but far off American Ethanol’s top marks. 

Boat owner Don Onken watched on Sunday as the 51-foot Mystic had a 190-mph pass and immediately lost a blower belt. The team wrenched on the boat at the dock by Captain Ron’s Bar and Grill, the Shootout host site, to get it out on the lake for a final run. The duo had a final run of 194 mph, earning Onken a seventh Top Gun crown.

“It was very rewarding being able to get the seventh straight win for the Onken family and American Ethanol,” Cosker said. “They all work so hard on the boat to send it to the Shootout every year it is a real privilege getting to run it for them.”

Thousands attended the popular Meet & Greet on the Bagnell Strip.
Street Party photo by David Dilks

The Shootout is the culmination of several events from a poker run to the popular Shootout on the Strip Meet & Greet presented by Wave and Wheels. Performance Boat Center’s mega party on Thursday night supercharges the weekend on Lake of the Ozarks.

The goal of the event is to raise money for various charities around the lake, and those organizations supply the 450 volunteers that stage the Shootout from parking to patrolling the course. The Shootout raised $400,000 in 2020 and should make a similar donation this year, said Ron Duggan, president of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout.

Hotels, restaurants and bars are packed over the week, and this is on top of an 18-month tourism boom for the region. The Shootout, which began in the late 1980s, can claim credit raising the visibility of the lake.

“I don’t think there’s any question the Shootout has been a factor in helping Lake of the Ozarks become a tourist destination,” Duggan said. “But there are plenty of events, activities and people who have put in the hard work to make it happen.”

The Shootout has become the de facto trade show for the high-performance boat industry. Builders showing off their latest creations including Mystic, Sunsation, MTI, Skater, Nor-Tech joined from the West Coast by Dave’s Custom Boats and Eliminator Boats.

Watching the Shootout from the water is a blast for spectators. Shootout Crowd photo by Jeff Helmkamp

Whether it’s at the Meet and Greet or nighttime events such as Performance Boat Center’s bash or Super Cat Fest at Camden on the Lake Resort, the hardware is top-shelf and front-row viewing for casual fans and diehard performance boaters.

The Super Cat Fest was a must-attend on Friday night with a packed house. From the docks stocked with $1 million catamarans to the Bikini Lives Fashion Show and the auction for the kids, it’s a giant party with a heart.

Whether watching the Shootout in a bar on the lake or on the log boom down the course, all eyes are on the water during the day. American Ethanol grabs plenty of attention but the Top Gun for fastest V-bottom deserves some attention too. The benchmark had been set in 2020 with a 164-mph pass under the radar. This year the Factory Billet team with Mike Faucher on the sticks and Jim Schultz driving, put down a scorching 161-mph run.

Jim Schultz and Mike Faucher drove Factory Billet to a Top Gun title for the fastest V-bottom.
Factory Billet (Jim Schultz) photo by Jeff Helmkamp

Running just a few tickets behind the Factory Billet team was Ben Robertson of BAR Marine Group. The industry veteran and Fountain Powerboats alum behind the wheel of a 42 Lightning was clocked at 152 mph on his Saturday.

“Robertson said later the boat still had some left it but the hot and humid weather wasn’t cooperating”.

Performance Boat Center’s Wright Performance 360 was the fastest outboard running 126 mph.

Performance Boat Center showcased the dealership’s Wright Performance 360, earning the boat the crown of fastest outboard-powered model in the Shootout. Rusty Williams rans 126 mph in his home waters.

More than 250 runs took place over the two days and probably one of the most fascinating runs was by Patrick Bobby driving an electric-powered boat. The Bruce 22 with a 180-hp E-Motion outboard had a top speed of 49 mph, offering a potential glimpse of how far electric outboard technology has come.

Next year’s running of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout will take place Aug. 27-28, 2022. Duggan said the organization has hired a full-time executive director, continuing to grow the event and raise more money to help the local communities.

“It’s an incredible amount of work and to have one person dedicated every day will only make the Shootout better,” Duggan said.   

Party Time!

There are plenty of events going on during the week of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout and few are better than the Thursday night party Performance Boat Center throws at its lakefront dealership in Osage Beach, Missouri.

The dealership rolls open the service bays and rolls out the red carpet for the performance-boat community. The evening featured live music, dinner, a bar and incredible boats on land and on the water.

Brett Manire, general manager of Performance Boat Center, started the Thursday night party during the Lake of the Ozarks a few years ago to showcase the new marina and restaurants. The bash has been an instant success, drawing thousands of people before the fun weekend.

Spectators walked checked out the 2020 models from Cigarette Racing, Marine Technology Inc. and Sunsation. The showstopper boat that evening was the Good Boy Vodka MTI owned by Alex Pratt.  

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