CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — The long-running LakeFest drag-boat races not only fill an insatiable need for speed for motorsport junkies from across the state but also provide an economic boost to the Marble Falls community, officials say.
More than 100 competitors are lining up for the 24th annual event, which takes place Aug. 7-9 on Lake Marble Falls.
The racers come to town not only to compete for prize money but to show off their drag boats with names like “Sons of Speed,” “Hang ‘Em High II,” “Total Kaos” and “Ain’t No Kid’s Game.”
“We’ll pack in 15,000 people, 12,000 of them are from out of town. It is a tremendous economic impact for the city,” said Kenneth Dollar, series director for the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series.
Racers, who typically arrive with a five- or six-member crew, and spectators, some who fly in from out of state, translate into big business for local merchants.
“It’s well-established with the Lucas Oil series,” said Bill Rives, the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce executive director. “All of our hotels will be full. I trust it will also be reflected in our restaurants; hopefully, to some degree in our shops.”
For the community, the month of August typically represents the closing of the tourism season, but the races offer one more infusion of consumer cash.
“It’s the end of summer — one last big push. We may have a bump from that weekend that LakeFest takes place, but halfway through the month, we may not have as many tourists because kids are going back to school,” said Christian Fletcher, executive director of the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. “There’s a very clear and measurable impact to the hotel industry during LakeFest weekend.”
The action launches Aug. 7 at Lakeside Park, 307 Buena Vista Drive, with Test & Tune during which racers get a feel for the so-called “liquid quarter-mile” on Lake Marble Falls.
From 6-9 p.m., the public can meet the competitors and see the boats up close during the free Show & Shine in “the pit” area in Johnson Park, 230 Ave. J South.
For more on the schedule of events and entry fees, click here
“The Show & Shine down here in the park is second to none in the country. It puts thousands of people in that park with the guys showing off all their toys to the spectators, putting kids in their boats and firing their motors,” Dollar said.
About $100,000 is on the line as preliminary racing gets underway Aug. 8 with the finals Aug. 9.
The races feature top fuel hydros, top alcohol hydros, pro modified and pro outlaw categories.
So far, the fastest boats include six top alcohol hydros and six top fuel hydros — notorious for record-breaking speeds and teeth-rattling noise as they zip down the waterway.
“We finally broke the 270 mile-an-hour barrier this year in Parker, Arizona. I don’t know if that’s possible here with the heat we’re going to be dealing with, but they’re certainly going to go for it,” Dollar said.
He added that race fans should watch for top fuel hydro competitor Eddie Knox — racing “Problem Child” — who will try to recapture his crown lost last year to David Kirkland/Scott Lumbert in “Spirit of Texas.”
Top alcohol hydro racer Mike Fry in “Meanstreak II” is expected to fend off newcomer Mike DeClark in “Little White Lie” for the top spot.
To follow race results, click here
“All of our racers are extremely open to the public as opposed to a lot of other motor sports,” Dollar said. “It’s a lot of fun to watch them do their preparation between rounds, especially the top fuel guys, who completely rebuild the motor every time.”
Over the years, the view, the conditions and the accommodations have made the event a competitors favorite as well as for the fans.
“It’s a thrill. It’s a dangerous sport no doubt — 10,000 horsepower. When those guys stomp that throttle, you can feel it as much as you can hear it,” Dollar said. “The way the slope of the hill is (at Lakeside Park), it’s a great spectator event. It makes a great venue for racing.”