Drag boat racing coming to New Athens this weekend

News-DemocratMay 14, 2014 

While the Kaskaskia River's New Athens Marina is a popular destination for local boating enthusiasts, they would be hard pressed to keep up with Dave Schmidt's family on the water.

Schmidt and 17-year-old son Justin Schmidt will be among the competitors Saturday and Sunday for the popular St. Louis Drag Boat Racing event being held in New Athens.

The event is affiliated with the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series.

"You can go watch him play baseball or basketball or something, but to actually compete in sports together is a lot of fun," said Dave Schmidt, whose father, David Schmidt, was one of the region's top drag boat racers for many years. "There were times where we went all over the country and now we kind of stay in the Midwest.

"We had a lot of races canceled last year, but (Justin) drove the boat well. He needs to get a little more consistent on the reaction times and I think he will do fine."

Gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday with racing at 10 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. Racing resumes at noon with Sunday's elimination round.

Tickets are $10 each day and parking is $5. Military veterans with proper identification will be admitted for half-price.

"I've been doing this for 34 years traveling the entire country and New Athens is one of the most spectator-friendly race sites in the country," said Roger Monroe, the event announcer. "There's not a bad seat in the house. We're looking for a good turnout because it's the first race for people to get out and dial their boats in."

Schmidt is from Belleville and now lives in Smithton. Son Justin and another son, 15-year-old Jeremy, both attend Freeburg High School.

Jeremy can't drive until next year when he turns 16, but the family has three boats and is ready to add yet another racer.

Dave Schmidt, co-owner of Dave Schmidt Truck Service in Belleville, competes in the Pro Eliminator class where boats run up to 145 mph. In the Pro Mod class, boats can reach speeds of 180 mph.

In the Modified Eliminator class that Justin Schmidt will be running, speeds reach 120 mph.

Races are held like drag racing events on land, with reaction time and elapsed time figuring into the equation.

"This is a smaller event for the type of boats we've got," said Dave Schmidt, who has been racing since 1987. "Some of the events have top fuel hydros, which are the fastest boats in our sport. They will run upwards of 250 mph in a quarter-mile."

Schmidt has finished second at New Athens the last two times he has competed there.

"Both of them in the final round I red-lighted (left too soon)," he said "We try to be as competitive as we can."

Monroe explained how the racing course is set up.

"Some of our classes run a quarter-mile and some run a 1,000-foot race," he said, noting the Pro Modifieds try to cover a quarter-mile in seven seconds running at 180 mph.

"In the perfect scenario, you want a .000 reaction time and you want to run a 7.00 second quarter mile," Monroe said. "That would be an absolute perfect run."

Drag boat racing returns to New Athens Sept. 13-14. For more information, visit www.lucasoildragboats.com or www.sldba.com.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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