SPORTS: Area drivers gear up for national championship sprint boat racing in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — Paul Gahr Jr. and his 18-year-old son, Josh — both of Sequim — are within the grasp of a national sprint boat championship in their own backyard.

Of course they would have to get by defending national champion and “archrival” Doug Hendrickson and Hannah Macke of Wicked Racing, based in Port Angeles, at this weekend’s national championships in Port Angeles.

“We were second last year to Doug and we have been snipping at his heels all this year,” Paul Gahr said as he waited in traffic for the Hood Canal Bridge to lower its drawbridge late Thursday afternoon.

Hendrickson, 61, of Pasco has been a sprint boat driver for 11 years and has two Class A-400 national titles. Macke of Lewiston, Idaho, is his longtime navigator.

This is only the third full year that Paul Gahr has been a driver of Live Wire for TNT Racing of Sequim.

“Doug is my archrival and my friend,” Gahr said. “He’s been very supportive of me and has helped me out. ‘It’s been lonely at the top,’ he told me.”

The Gahr father-and-son team will try to catch Hendrickson and Macke at the seventh and final sprint boat race of the season at Extreme Sports Park, 2917 W. Edgewood Drive.

This is the first race at Extreme Sports Park, which was just completed within the past couple of weeks.

“We’re now bringing the fun and excitement of sprint boat racing to the Pacific Northwest,” Gahr said.

The national title will be decided in three boat classes at the all-day event Saturday.

North Olympic Peninsula fans will get their first chance to see the fast action, the boats go 80 mph, up close and personal.

The next closest track is a six-hour drive away.

“No other sport is like this,” Gahr said. “Everything happens in seconds.”

Up to 30 boats are expected Saturday from all over the Northwest, including Canada.

Gates open at 9 a.m. with qualifying races starting at 10 a.m.

Boats have four chances to qualify for the next level, and then the top eight boats move on to the elimination rounds, which start after lunch at about 1 p.m.

The final races will conclude about 5 p.m.

The Gahrs are 82 points behind Hendrickson and Macke going into the final race of the year.

“We have at least secured second place for the second year in a row,” Gahr said.

Paul Gahr finished in fourth place and was rookie of the year in 2008, third in 2009 and runner-up in 2010.

Josh Gahr, who graduated from Sequim High School last spring and will be attending Peninsula College this fall, has been his father’s navigator the past two years.

“It’s a wonderful joy to have your kid sitting next to you in an extreme sport,” Paul Gahr said.

“People come up and ask for his autograph. That’s wonderful thing.”

Wicked Racing’s Dan Morrison of Port Angeles, a co-owner of the track, has already won the national championship for the Super Boats class with his Wicked Racing No. 10 boat.

His navigator is 27-year-old Cara McGuire, a second-grade teacher of Port Angeles.

Other area competitors are TNT Racing’s Dillon Brown Cummings and Teri Cummings of Sequim in Super Modified; TNT’s Tim Cummings and Mike Fuller of Sequim also in Super Modified; Twisted Motorsports’ Wayne Brown and Nicole Brown of Port Angeles in A-400 class

Paul Gahr Jr. and Tim Cummings are brothers-in-law. TNT stands for Tina and Teri, their respective wives, who are sisters.

Last year, Dillon Brown Cummings beat out his father, Tim Cummings, for first place in Super Modified.

This year the son is in fourth and his father is in fifth going into this weekend’s finals.

They share the same boat, which has been having engine problems this year.

Gahr said he gives credit to Morrison for putting in so much time in getting the track ready for the races.

“Dan has done a spectacular job on that track,” Gahr said. “And the whole community has been helping Dan.

“The community has been unbelievable in support.

“This is going to bring in lots of people to the area. Already the motels in Sequim are full.

“My hat’s off to Dan.”

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