If Owensboro is able to stage its first Hydrofair in four decades on Aug. 14-16, it could be the first powerboat race in North America this year.
That’s the prediction of Mayor Pro Tem Larry Maglinger, who has worked to bring the racing boats back to town.
Those dates are nearly three months away, he said.
And if the coronavirus pandemic has improved by then, large crowds of powerboat racing fans could be headed to Owensboro that week, Maglinger said.
The Hydroplane Racing League, based in Canada, has canceled its entire season, he said.
Six U.S.-based teams that normally race on the HRL circuit want to race in Owensboro this summer, Maglinger said.
“That would give us 16 of the Grand Prix boats,” he said. “Usually there would be 10 to 12.”
Grand Prix boats are a minimum of 23 feet long, have 1,500 horsepower and hit speeds of about 170 mph, the American Power Boat Association says.
Randy Lientz, this year’s race director, said he hopes there are other races ahead of Owensboro’s because he doesn’t want fans in other cities to lose their races.
But he said the late race date in Owensboro should help it attract more boats.
Huey Newport, who owns the Steeler Racing team in Cincinnati, posted on Facebook, “I’d be willing to bet the house every GP (Grand Prix) owner/driver will bust their ass to make it to Owensboro.”
He predicted that 18 to 20 Grand Prix boats could be here that weekend.
Newport said, “OMG! I haven’t seen 20 GP boats at one event in 30-plus years. Counting the GP America teams, I’d say there is probably at least 10 teams that could step up and win it all.”
He added, “Thinking ahead, if there’s a problem racing on the west coast, this Owensboro event just might be everyone’s only race in 2020.”
Lientz said he was expecting at least 50 boats of various classes to be in Owensboro in August before other races were canceled.
The pits will be in English Park, which can handle up to 100 teams, he said.
Leintz said Owensboro has scheduled several alternative dates in late August and in September if they’re needed.
He said a decision will be made on June 29.
“This looks very, very optimistic,” Leintz said. “It could be really, really big for Owensboro’s hotels and restaurants, which have been hit hard this year.”
“I’m glad things are starting to move,” Maglinger said.
On Nov. 22, 1968, the Unlimited Racing Commission of the American Power Boat Association voted 5-0 to approve Owensboro as a site for racing the week of June 11-15, 1969.
But a decade later, with attendance dropping and expenses rising, the city tried scaling back to Grand Prix boats in 1979.
But the weather was bad and crowds were small.
In 1980, the event was hit by even worse weather and the committee voted to discontinue Hydrofair.
This year, local fans — including Maglinger — worked to bring powerboat racing back to town.
And they’re hoping that the pandemic has eased enough by August for the races to go on.
Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 email@example.com