Sprint boat season shut down

The roar is no more, at least for the 2017 sprint boat races at Port Angeles’ Extreme Sports Park.

Port Angeles’ Dan and Kelie Morrison, owners of the Wicked Racing sprint boat team and partners in Extreme Sports Park, notified the public of the cancellation of all scheduled events at the park and the intention to list the property for sale in an advertisement in the June 25 Peninsula Daily News.

In the ad the Morrisons said they made an offer to purchase Extreme Sports Park but were rejected by their fellow partners in A2Z Enterprises.

That means that the two annual American Sprint Boat Racing series events that have been held at Extreme Sports Park in Port Angeles since September 2011 will not be held for the foreseeable future.

“We’ve been down this road a bunch of times with tracks,” Dan Morrison said. “We’ve had four or five different tracks come and go (over the years.)

“Parks seem to draw out a lot of people like (park critics) the Dry Creek Coalition. All I know is the crowds our boats attract bring in a lot of dollars to this area.”

Morrison, who will turn 60 next month, said he has no plans to quit the sport. His Wicked Racing No. 10 Unlimited Class team has won multiple national championships under multiple racing association umbrellas.

“I’m still racing,” Morrison said. “(Putting the track up for sale) just kills the track here. I’ll be racing as long as I can probably, that’s right.”

The Sequim-based father/son racing team of Paul and Josh Gahr won the 400 horsepower class at Webb’s Slough near St. John last month in the first race of the season and the team was looking forward to hometown support at ESP this summer.

“Oh, my gosh, it’s very disappointing, it’s my 10th year in the sport,” said Paul Gahr, driver of the TNT Live Wire No. 2 boat.

“I’m devastated. “It brings so much joy and fun to the community and has such a positive economic impact. People even plan their vacations around attending races up here. It’s really disappointing.”

Gahr also has raced with his daughter Taylor. He said the sport has tightened his family’s bond.

“It’s brought my family so close together,” he said. “My dad lit up like a little school boy the first time he saw sprint boat racing. He went out and bought an RV to go to all the races.

“I’m Paul Jr. and everybody on the race team asks if Senior is here. And I have a 96-year old World War II veteran great-uncle (Russell Kunz) who is absolutely in love with this thing and I haven’t had the heart to break the news to him that it won’t happen this year. He hasn’t missed one since I brought him and when you get a WWII vet that excited, you know he’s seen some things, but he told me the most exciting thing he’s done was riding in a sprint boat.

“So from 96 years old to 9 years old, everybody thoroughly enjoys this.”

The closure of the facility also shuts down Run-A-Muck, a mud run and extreme obstacle course event that had been held annually at the site since 2012.

It leaves ASB Racing with just one track in operation at Webb’s Slough.

Tracks operated by competing sprint boat associations also exist such as WARP Racing in Burley, Idaho, and there are others in the Northwest, including one in Albany, Ore., that has been hit with permitting issues in recent seasons.

But those two tracks are operated by separate racing organizations, organizations that don’t see eye to eye on the best interests of the sprint boat racing.

“We are just going to hope some more venues get brought into the circuit,” Gahr said. “There’s a place near Aberdeen (that is navigating the permit process) and could be holding races in the years to come. But I’d rather see the sport stay here, see the revenue stay here.”

Morrison said there are three tracks in the planning stages, one in Washington and two in Idaho, but didn’t want to divulge their locations.

He said if a potential buyer of Extreme Sports Park wanted to hold races there, he’d likely compete.

“Sure, it depends on who is running it, I suppose,” Morrison said.

Gahr said he’d come back to Extreme Sports Park’s track for races under new ownership.

“If there’s another race there, we will be there,” Gahr said. “We want to support Dan, the track and ASB Racing, and I’m coming to compete wholeheartedly.”

Morrison, true to his racing roots, said he’ll miss guiding his Wicked Racing No. 10 boat through Extreme Sports Park’s rotations.

“I just like the track layout,” Morrison said.

“It’s a fast track. People who’ve seen sprint boats at other tracks know how much faster you can go at Port Angeles.

“The element of risk is a little higher here because you can go a little faster. That’s what we thrive on. No risk equals no fun.”

And no track equals no races, heartbroken teams and fans and loss of revenue for the city of Port Angeles and Clallam County.

“We are just praying for a miracle, hoping for something that could keep us racing at ESP,” Gahr said.

“I just want to race and bring this sport to people here in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.”

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