PORT ANGELES — A plugged-up pump nearly sank their chances, but the Graham-based Bandit Racing No. 47 got back on track to win the 400 Class, the most competitive of the three racing divisions in Saturday’s return of sprint boat thrills and spills to Extreme Sports Park.
Darrin Swindahl and his daughter and navigator Ashley Swindahl won the 400 final with a time of 48.088 seconds, just two seconds faster than the Showtime No. 5 boat driven by Mel Craven and navigator Kelly Stevenson (49.964).
In other racing, Port Angeles-based Wicked Racing No. 10 piloted by Extreme Sports Park owner Dan Morrison and his stepdaughter and navigator Cara McGuire laid down the fastest laps of the day, a time of 42.977 in qualifying and a 43.628 to win the super boat Unlimited final by more than 4 seconds over the No. 91 Flyin’ Hawaiian driven by Dustin Chase and navigated by Tom Trutter (47.829).
Morrison, who purchased the park in May, was thrilled with the sports return to the North Olympic Peninsula for the first time since September of 2016.
“The water was really clean today, we had the track looking as good as it’s ever been I think, and it’s always fun racing in front of a bigger crowd and this is one of the bigger crowds we’ve ever had out here,” Morrison said. “This place was packed out.”
And in the Modified Class, Maple Ridge, British Columbia’s Badfish Racing No. 8, driven by Scott Jensen with his niece and navigator Brittan, put on a show in their elimination round laps, coming in hot at 45.999 in the semifinals and out-doing that time to win the final in 45.609 seconds.
But back to the 400 boats where pump trouble began at the start of the Swindahl’s semifinal lap when something was sucked in just as the green flag dropped.
Sprint boat racing allows for a driver to waive off a lap if done before crossing the start line and the Swindahl’s took advantage.
“When the flagger dropped the flag and we went on it, I thought something had broken in the pump or the shaft because it just fell on its nose,” Darrin Swindahl said.
“We kind of collected it a little bit, still making some forward momentum, but I think they call it, plugging the pump. I think something got in it, some muck. Luckily, they give us a chance, so we cleared it, we went down through the spin out pool and I romped on it and whatever was there was gone or had cycled through. We came down to the end and we got the go-ahead, so instead of putting it on the trailer we just figured we’d go for it.”
Swindahl turned in his boat’s second-fastest time of the day after that halting start to the semifinals
And the Bandit Racing team came back stronger in the finals to beat the Showtime boat and draw a respectful bow by Craven upon the Swindahl’s return to the pits.
“The competition in our class is super tight,” Swindahl said. “Mel threw down that 49 [second-lap] right before we go out for the final and he hadn’t broken into the forties all day until right there. I went up and I shook him and said ‘I can’t believe you’re doing that s—t to me right before I go.’ ”
Swindahl and his brother Brian, driver of the Bandit Racing No. 76, nearly met up in the finals, which would have been the first time the pair had walked away with a one-two finish.
But Darrin’s semifinal time edged out Brian. Not that Darrin was all that concerned.
“It goes back and forth, we trade positions,” Darrin Swindahl said. “Last [race] at St. John his boat ended up second and we took ourselves out of the race and this time we’re first.
“I think anytime either one of us beats the other it motivates us to come out and get the next one. But if you’re asking me if I feel bad about it? No, I don’t at all.”
The Wicked Racing No. 10 boat just has more speed and power at hand than other Unlimited boats and Morrison and McGuire showed off with some blisteringly fast trips through the course, besides landing on an island near the beer garden turn on one qualifying lap.
“It was a good rotation, it had a little bit of technical in it and definitely made us do some concentrating and getting accurate on the track,” Morrison said.
“Obviously, third qualifier I came out and went to the beer garden, my magnetic pull, I guess.
“Just a little early for that.”
“But this thing has been running good, we didn’t even bobble a little bit.”
In the modified class, Badfish Racing No. 8 driver Scott Jensen said a new way of signaling turns didn’t work out the way he and his niece and navigator Brittan wanted on their first qualifying lap.
“It’s only her second race, so I won’t hold that against her,” he adi.
”We were trying to do fingers for how many turns and I thought she said to turn right and she was just telling me four turns. We just went the wrong way. Second round we went out and put the fastest [modified] qualifying time down (45.562)
Then some mechanical issues crept up.
“When we came back after the eight-cut we rejetted it twice after each round, allowing more fuel to the carburetor. You’re not running so lean, you’re running a bit fatter.”
And in the final, the Jensen’s could have cruised their way to a win after the Jolly Rogers No. 556 boat cut the first corner too sharply and ended up hopping up onto an island.
“Anytime you get to go out on the track its an experience you can’t replace,” Scott Jensen said. “And it’s not good for the fans either to just be putting around out there, right. And that was our second-fastest time of the day, so it was a great day, it’s a good family sport and it’s fun as hell.”