Anyone who has ever seen or taken part in the Lake Shootout should recognize the name Dave Scott. Scott is an iconic image when it comes to boat racing, especially at the lake, so when he speaks about boat racing at the lake, people tend to listen.
"I'm a huge supporter of the Shootout; I've raced it for over 15 years," Scott said. "It does a lot of good for the community, bringing in people and money to the area. But I believe it could use some enhancements."
Dave Scott holds the current record for top speed on the water at 208 mph.
"My last personal goal had always been to break 200 mph using piston power, which we did two years ago at the Shootout," Scott said. "We were clocked at 208, but our GPS said 218. The radar needs to be more accurate, but I believe they're addressing that. It would be great to see them go to timing lights, though."
Another issue that should be addressed is the safety, according to Scott. When the Shootout began, they were hitting top speeds of 100 mph. Now, the racers are hitting double that.
"At a certain point, you have very little control over those boats," Scott said. "I believe that for certain classes, specifically the Pro class, we should shorten the track to three quarters of a mile. They'll still hit big speed numbers but they won't have to hold those speeds for an excessive distance."
Racing boats can be exciting for crowds watching an event, but racers face extreme danger. That danger turned into tragedy last November when prolific Shootout racers Bob Morgan and JT Tillman died racing in Key West, Florida. More recently, the drivers of last year's winner My Way, Bill Tomlinson and Ken Kehoe, were running 190 mph a few weeks ago and lost control and spun around three times. Fortunately, they weren't harmed.
"Racing is an adrenaline rush, but I've always described it as the most violent thing I have ever done." Scott said. "My throttleman used to say that it was amazing that any of the boats ever came back in one piece. It's a lot like the racing done at Daytona, except the speed bumps are always moving with each lap and boats have no brakes."
NHRA, which governs drag racing, waited until they had lost three drivers before they shortened their courses for their fastest classes from a quarter mile to a 1,000 feet. Drag boats did the same thing.
The Shootout, however, is a local event, and not sanctioned by any governing body.
If something happens, the incident will be the biggest concern, but it could also have a lasting effect, hurting the Shootout, an event that benefits the community.
Page 2 of 2 - Ron Duggan, owner of Captain Ron's and the organizer of the Lake Shootout, respectfully disagrees on the issue of shortening the course for safety concerns. Duggan says the issue has been been discussed, and that he is willing to listen to suggestions to improve or safeguard the Shootout.
"I appreciate Dave's opinion, and always have," Duggan said. "We've discussed the issue, and we think the course is safe. It's been a mile-long course for 23 years now, and we haven't had any problems. Our number one priority is safety, which is why we take the precautions that we do."
Duggan says that shortening the course for safety purposes would have its ups and downs. He says that some racers have actually asked about making the race course longer, as it would allow more boats to reach their top speeds. On the downside, shortening the course would keep some racers from ever reaching that top speed, which could hurt the race itself and then affect the community.
"At 200 mph, the boat will go where it wants to," Scott said. "If there is a mechanical issue, it can throw it off. If the boat were to lose an engine on the right side, it will pull left. There isn't much the driver can do besides kill the engine and try coasting to a stop."
Scott has fulfilled his racing goals, but still enjoys coming to the lake. He may not be racing, but the area still speaks to him.
"The Shootout is one of my favorite racing events in my career," Scott said. "I want to see it keep thriving, because it does a lot for the area and the people here put a lot of work into it. But we need to be pro-active rather than reactive, and do what we can to make it safe and fun for everyone involved."