Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland, Llano, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, and ALL of the Highland Lakes
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Marble Falls LakeFest is May 21-22, an earlier start for the annual event, which kicks off the Southern Drag Boat Association's 2022 season. The Marble Falls competition has traditionally been held in August, midway through the racing calendar. Photo by William Brown
Drag boat racers are revved up for Marble Falls LakeFest, which opens the Southern Drag Boat Association’s 2022 season May 21-22 on Lake Marble Falls. It’s an earlier start for LakeFest, which was traditionally held in August.
“We’re excited and the racers are excited to get the season started — and to get it started in Marble Falls,” SDBA Director David Carroll told The Picayune Magazine. “We wrapped up last season in November, and as soon as they were done with it, the racers have been working toward this season.”
The association has five races in its series plus the season finals in September followed by the nationals in November. Series races and the season finals are held across Texas, while the nationals are in Chandler, Arizona.
Carroll has experienced them all and rates Marble Falls the best of the bunch.
“There are other races that work out better logistically, but we don’t race at a prettier place than Marble Falls,” he said.
Completed Lakeside Park upgrades have made it even better, he added.
Moving LakeFest to May comes with major benefits for racers and fans. A spring event is a break from both the summer heat and dangerous winds. August winds in the peak of hurricane season come from the south and southeast, a direction that is especially problematic on Lake Marble Falls due to its geography, Carroll explained. Races have been scratched in the past because of high August winds.
During the spring, however, winds typically come from the northwest, which doesn’t stir the lake as much. Even recent high winds that have been creating fire hazards across Central Texas would not have caused serious trouble for racers on Lake Marble Falls, he said.
Carroll anticipates at least 100 boats will compete this year, filling out every competition bracket, including the big one: Top Fuel Hydro.
“We have two top fuel teams coming this year, and it’s been a number of years since we’ve had that,” he said. “These are the boats everyone loves to see go down the lake.”
Top Fuel Hydro boats hit speeds of up to 250 mph — not something you see on a typical day at the lake.
Carroll, a Marble Falls resident, is more than the series director. He also owns a team with a Top Fuel Hydro boat. He caught the bug for drag boat racing about 20 years ago while volunteering during the first LakeFest events.
He grew up dirt track racing, but when he saw boats whipping across his hometown lake, he knew he needed to jump on board.
Carroll first competed in the River Racer class but eventually worked his way to Top Fuel Hydro.
“I went from 80 miles per hour (in the River Racer class) to 250 miles per hour,” he said.
Despite his years and many roles in the sport, Carroll still gets excited about each new race. One reason is family.
“I’ve raced all sorts of stuff, but I’ve never been involved in a sport that is more family-oriented,” he said.
Families of the racers come along to show support and often make up the crew.
Carroll’s daughter Mallori got into the sport when she was 10 years old. She is now 28 and still racing.
“It’s really a big family that travels together,” Mallori told The Picayune Magazine in a profile published in the August 2021 issue. “Racing is really just a fun bunch of people who love to talk about racing, their boats, and everything around them.”
The 2022 LakeFest races take place from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, May 20-21, at Lakeside Park, 305 Buena Vista Drive. Gates open at 7 a.m. both days.
A free Show and Shine is from 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 20, at Johnson Park, 230 Avenue J. Fans can view the boats up close and meet the crews the night before races begin.
General admission tickets for race days for ages 13 and older are $30 each day and include a pit pass to Johnson Park. General admission for ages 7-12 is $15 each day and also includes a pit pass. Veterans, military members, and seniors 65 and older can purchase daily general admission tickets for $25 each, pit pass included.
Tickets for the Top Eliminator Club are $150 and include admission, breakfast and lunch both race days, two drink tickets for adults, a free T-shirt and swag bag, and access to a climate-controlled indoor area with reserved outdoor viewing. Top Eliminator Club tickets for ages 7-12 are $60.
Pit pass tickets, which only get you access to the Johnson Park pits, are $5.