The 2018 Smoke on the Water Drag Boat Races will go down as the hottest in the history of the event at Lake El Reno, with temperatures skimming 100 degrees both days and the heat index surpassing triple digits.
The forecast may have been one of the factors in the smaller boat count this year, the event’s fifth running in El Reno after 13 years at Fort Cobb Lake.
“The forecast did not help matters,” said race co-organizer Josh Finnigan.
There were 39 boats battling out for the prize money in 11 different categories.
“We were way down in our boat count this year after having it in the 50s last year,” said Finnigan.
Another factor was several racers, including some returning favorites, were forced to miss the event due to boat troubles.
“I know we had six or more racers who could not get the parts needed to fix their boats. It was just a freaky year. We had boats that blew up a few weeks ago at different races and those drivers could not get their boats put back together in time,” said Finnigan.
One of those missing boats was “Blue Thunder” driven by Ray Mills.
“That was one of our fastest boats out there. Ray dropped ten grand on a new motor core a week before the race but could not get the engine back to where he felt comfortable to race it,” said Finnigan.
This year’s event did draw boats from Oklahoma as well as New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Louisiana. There also were two female drivers in the hunt.
“A lot of the races had photo finishes, more than we have had in all the other years combined,” said Finnigan.
Those races entertained the crowd, which Finnigan said was great again this year.
“We had a great crowd and great sponsors. We had a lot of spectators and the weather was perfect other than the heat. Except for the boat count, I’m not disappointed,” said Finnigan.