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Long Beach Sprint Nationals 2010

Amy Ottinger in the P96 Arizona Girl Cracker Box wins at Long Beach
Ty Newton in Dave Rankin's SS-80 Super Stock wins at Long Beach

By Mike Guardalabene

Photos for this event, by Mike Guardalabene, Marybeth Trama, and Juan Castro

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Summer in Southern California again and along with that comes the SCSC circle sprint boat races to Long Beach Marine Stadium. One of the premier classes in sprint boat racing is Super Stock, and arguably the fastest as well in terms of lap times. This weekend would draw a field of nine of the best in the business. This meant two heats of qualifying which is somewhat of a rarity on recent race weekends, but a nice surprise. The first heats Saturday would go to Ty Newton in Dave Rankin’s “Wild Child” and to Hal Jones in Ray Pauli’s SS-501 which traveled clear from Utah to race. The Pauli team actually brought two boats, the other being the SS-500 driven by Ray’s son, Chris.

When heat races are run they have what is called a Last Chance Qualifier. The top finishers in this heat join the top from each of the earlier heats in a six or seven boat final for the day. Paul Fitzgerald in Mike Smith’s April all the way from North Carolina took the LCQ with a good margin with Joseph LaKamp in the second spot. So the stage was set for the final with Ty Newton in the SS-80, Robby Devine in the SS-6, Hal Jones in the SS-501, Greg Shirley in the SS-7, Paul Fitzgerald in the SS-24, and Joseph LaKamp in the SS-43. The final held late in the day’s schedule saw Ty Newton take the win by a six second margin ahead of Paul Fitzgerald followed by Hal Jones in the third spot. 

Sunday’s Super Stock action was very competitive with the same group reaching the final race with the addition of Chris Pauli in the SS-500. Ty Newton and Paul Fitzgerald put on one of the best races of the weekend racing neck and neck for several laps. One little bobble by Paul in the north corner may have translated to the winning margin for Ty as he swept the weekend with just a two second win over Fitzgerald in the final.

The K boat class consists of the alcohol burning heavy hitters of circle boat racing. Unfortunately only three boats showed up. Dave Rankin in the Rankin/Jennings K-69 “Freedom Child” dominated the weekend. Brian Twamley, in his inaugural weekend in a K boat took the second spot in his immaculate K-401 and Rick Ortega in the K-17 was third. Rankin almost got wet in the first heat on Sunday when he got out of shape in the first turn and had the K-69 up on its side. All was well though after a quick inspection on shore and the heat was rerun with Rankin out front of the field by a large margin.

The Cracker Box racers put on some of the weekend’s best competition. Eight teams showed up with several very competitive boats. Amy Ottinger who is the reigning champion from 2009 where she drove the P-69 owned by Tom Sampson, entered her P-96 “Arizona Girl” record holder this year. Amy won every heat she entered both Saturday and Sunday. Amy’s dad, Jerry Ross, piloting the P-69 (the boat Amy won in last year) ended up racing her for the gold. He finished just three seconds behind his daughter. These guys in the Cracker class have to be wondering just how they’re ever going to catch Amy. She had been dominating most every race she enters in the past few years including several come-from-behind victories. The Crackers in my opinion are some of the most exciting boats to watch in circle racing. When the dust settled for the weekend the points total put Amy Ottinger in P-96 first, followed by Jerry Ross in the P-69, with Scott Schatz placing third in the P-9.

The Grand Nationl Class are the endurance class of circle boat racing. Their races are typically ten to twenty laps, vs around 5 for the other classes. A lot can happen in 20 laps and the boats have to be build to go the distance. This was Robby Devine’s weekend in GN. Robby drives the  Fadco Metal sponsored GN-47 and also the SS-6 Super Stock. Robby won all heats in GN competition and by a pretty good margin. There were seven boats in the class. Saturday featured two ten lap races. GN top dogs on Saturday were Robby in first, Heath Hiebert in the GN-369, and Bill Wheeler in the GN-7 in the third spot. Sunday the GN’s run a 20 lap final. Again Robby dominated the field, with Heath second and Mike Johnson third in Dan Bell’s GN-29, “Priceless” Rayson Craft. The rest of the field included Bill Martin in the GN-6, Joey Cucci in Ted Kolby’s GN-24 “Body Snatcher”, and Chris Kohles in the GN-724.

Comp Jets had a good showing of  seven entries. Harold Bruce who has been tough to beat, dominated the weekend’s races. Other than one little spin out on Sunday morning by Terry Valore, which he recovered from and continued, the jets had a clean weekend. Harold took first on Saturday in the CJ-313, Terry Valore second in the CJ-21, and Mark Younger in the CJ-169 third. On Sunday it was again Harold Bruce, Mark Younger in second, and Randy Letcher in the CJ-288 boat in third. Terry Valore had problems and DNF’d the first heat and the final on Sunday. Ron Lund and Ralph Brunt rounded out the Comp Jet field.

The SST-45 overall points went to Jason Williams in the #10 boat. AXSH overall win went to Jared Wallach in his 18-C entry. In Pro Stock I only have the individual day’s points. On Saturday, Greg Shirley would split the heat wins with Chris Pauli for the overall point advantage. On Sunday, Steve Earle took both heats it appears although my score sheet is incomplete. If that is an error I apologize. There were five boats in the class and some very close finishes.

Thanks for reading my coverage of the Long Beach Sprint Nationals. A condensed version of the above will appear in the November print issue of Performance Boats Magazine.

I have over 400 photos of the race posted on my photo site. I want to thank my girlfriend and contributing photographer, Marybeth Trama for her efforts. I’d also like to thank my friend and guest at the event, Juan Castro, for contributing his photos. This was Juan’s first boat race, he is an accomplished photographer in other forms of motorsports. He was shooting with a 300mm lens so it was challenging on the close and tight Long Beach course. Nonetheless he got some good shots.  All 400 photos can be seen at Mikegeephotos.com. Thanks again and hope to see you all at Long Beach in 2011.

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