If you could not tell by the sound alone, those attending the 2017 Smoke on the Water Drag Boat Races over the weekend at Lake El Reno saw firsthand that speed was the name of the game.
“As long as we have had these races, we have never had this many fast boats in one of our shows. Speed was the name of the game this year.
“Everyone that came back had gotten faster and have done things to make their boats better. They are buying new stuff and upgrading to try and make themselves go faster,” said race co-organizer Josh Finnigan.
The 2017 installment was the 17th Smoke on the Water but the fourth in El Reno since the event moved from Fort Cobb Lake. The weather this year for both days of racing was “picture perfect,” said organizers as the winds over the lake were mild, leading to small ripples instead of large waves.
“The weather was beautiful and we could not have ordered it up any better. When the water was like it was, they (drivers) like to go fast and they don’t hold anything back. But when it’s rough water they have to hold back some, and we didn’t have that rough water,” said co-organizer Karon Grulkey.
There were 54 boats which dropped into the water for racing as each division battled through a double-elimination bracket before a winner and runner-up were determined. Finnigan said he was pleased with the turnout of boats from different states.
“We had five guys from Hinton who lost interest this year and a few others from here and there. But we had so many new people that we have never met before.
“It’s like a cycle, we can’t seem to get over that 55-boat number, but it’s different boats and new people. One of these years we will have everyone show up and we will have our hands full,” said Finnigan.
This year there were boats from Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. One driver who did not race but was impressed with the operation was Eric DeMent. The Californian drives on the Lucas Oil pro circuit.
“He runs the Pro Module races on the Lucas Oil circuit and had never been here before and was thinking it was a redneck type of deal. But he said he was impressed when he drove up and saw all the banners and the facility and said it was one of the best-run races that he’s seen,” said Finnigan.
The growth of the event in El Reno was echoed by Oklahoma City area driver Kevin Helms.
“Kevin had not realized how much we had grown since moving to town,” said Finnigan.
This year’s event added more items for the family as two large inflatables were housed next to the new playground area which was finished by the city of El Reno in the spring.
Grulkey said plans are under way for the 2018 races, but after a few days of rest.
“I could not hardly get out of bed Monday morning. The planning is pretty much year-round. We don’t talk about it for two or three weeks afterward, then we start right back up at it,” said Grulkey.