In the early days of America Thanksgiving was created to celebrate the blessings of the harvest and the bounty it provided. Today, Thanksgiving weekend is full of traditions where people gather to celebrate family and express gratitude for the good things in their lives. But if you love boats, horsepower and speed, then it’s probably safe to say the Outlaw Nationals has become a part of your holiday tradition.
Now in its 6th year, The 2021 Outlaw Nationals returned to the Sundance Saloon on the Parker Strip, hosted by owner, Norm Turley, and organized by Chris Schock who took the lead while Scott Steele continues to recover from his boat accident a few months ago. Many of the same crews were in attendance as expected, with the notable exception of Tony Scarlatta, who was unable to make it due to other business matters. However, the celebrity factor was made up for by a visit from none other than Tony Stewart of NASCAR (and now NHRA) fame.
Carter Vestermark and Austin Kahn had the honors of opening the event with a slow fly-by to the National Anthem.
There were approx. 25 boats registered to make exhibition passes in front of Sundance this year, with a surprisingly large amount of them being new versus last year. There were even a few "Outlaws" who jumped in the action from across the river at the Sandbar. Overall, the event was really well run with quick turn arounds from pass to pass and an MC to call out the names and speeds of each participant over the well-equipped sound system. And while his knowledge of v-drive terminology left a lot to be desired, he kept the audience engaged with a steady stream of event information, dad jokes and and good music (at least I thought so).
These three lovely ladies asked me to take their picture, so I asked them if I can include it in the story. Thanks @baleeleeanne , @maddss.gibbss , and @jessica.chrzanowski !! (instagram)
Being the event coordinator (and an all around great guy), Chris Schock got first dibs on making the opening pass for the event. Driving his 2002 Biesemeyer K-boat with a Blown Alcohol 468 Chevy, Chris woke up the neighborhood with several very fast passes in the 120 - 130mph range. His boat is absolutely gorgeous and its one of my favorite boats to shoot. In fact, one of my shots from earlier this year made its way to become his new custom T-shirt design for the event, which was designed and produced by Brock Keenan. I bought one, of course, and will wear it proudly.
Joe Masek had some fun with a spin around the river. Then he let his daughter, Jojo hop in the boat for a few laps. Jojo actually drove in the Enduro this year with Joe and Matt as part of a 3 person team!
Chris Irick ditched his Pro Outlaw drag boat for his weekend boat and made a few passes. Sorry, didn't catch what the boat was.
While many drivers were new versus last year, there were a few well known drivers that returned for the festivities. One such driver – Steve Faist, who is widely recognized for his Blown Gas Flatbottom, “Spooky” – brought a different Cole Boat this year. “Hog Wild”, formerly run on the drag boat circuit by Steve Spillman as a Blown Gas Flat, is now run as a Top Alcohol Flat by Steve, and boy did it look and sound amazing. I didn’t get a lot of details, but I’d love to do a feature article on this boat in the near future and see what Steve has to say about it. Perhaps some of you already know, so feel free to comment below.
Tyler and Jaden Erschen showed up with a 2021 Scorpion Boats winger on display in the courtyard, while their dad was away on business. Built by their own family shop, East Valley Performance Machine, the 532 cubic inch big block Chevy is loaded with Aluminum block and heads, aluminum BME rods, a billet Bryant crank, and JE pistons with a PSI screw blower on alcohol. Tyler said the Motor is turned down right now and it makes somewhere around 2000 horsepower. The boats best numbers at the track so far have been a 5.78 in 1000’, 3.89 in 660’ and it’s gone 142mph. Unfortunately, their dad wasn't there to run it on this day. Tyler’s fiancé helped Chris sell event shirts all weekend, and you couldn’t catch her without a smile on her face. They’re a great family who's building a lot of good stuff.
A similar looking, all white gullwing was out making passes on Saturday, as well. Nandi Rantasa was laying down some solid passes running his 1979 18’ Earl Smith with a 505 BBC Bostic Racing Engine. He, along with our mutual friend Davi Guy and several other wingers were really putting on a show. The winger contingent was high this year.
The Masek family was there in full force and Anne Masek even got to take a spin with Steve Faist in his TAF. He didn’t seem to hold back with a girl on board, but I didn’t get the feeling thats something she wanted. I even saw a young Masek recruit (Matt Roach's son) helping launch boats at the ramp in his white jeep.
Leonard Pope brought a beefy blown alcohol flat to run, but ended up with mechanical issues after launching. This was particularly disappointing for me since I had a GoPro mounted to the wing strut at the back of the boat. It was located directly over the exhaust so if the 120mph winds didn’t peel it off, the exhaust could have very well melted it. But I thought it would have been a pretty damn good trade off for the shot I was going to get. Maybe next time.
Nick Childers in his Canyon Boats V-drive.
Sammy Fey is always mashing the pedal in his Hondo. Sammy's grandson, Troy, is battling leukemia right now, so you'll see the #troystrong stickers on many of the boats in support.
Dana Bottomly is a staple at these events, and she didn't disappoint. Especially for the guy who she took for a ride. Based on his smile, I'd say that was his first time in a K-boat.
I did have success with with my GoPro’s mounted on several other boats, including the one with which I will close this story. Purple Haze Racing is a nationally ranked, blown alcohol hydro drag boat team from North Carolina, owned by David Wehunt and his wife, Hope. The story goes that while racing the Drag Boat World Finals at Firebird raceway last weekend, someone asked them if they were going to the Outlaw Nationals. Knowing nothing about it, but intrigued by the description, they decided to stay another week and attend the Thanksgiving event. By all accounts, I heard they had a great time and really enjoyed the event. They made several outstanding passes throughout the day and had the honor of closing out the event with the last pass of the day. Lucky for me, Dave let me mount a GoPro to the blower hat where it recorded the chaos of the run. The first attempt started off a little squarely with a big jump out of the water, landing slightly crooked. This not only made for some awesome video, but it also allowed these last couple shots on my camera just as it ran out of space on my memory card. Because of that, I missed the last two runs of that day, but I think this shot was worth the sacrifice. David and Hope were really nice people who clearly loved their sport, and it was a pleasure having them at the event.
Not many more things can be said about how great the event was this year, so I’ll leave it at that. But one thing I CAN say in this spirit of thanks, is that I’m thankful for this amazing community of hotboaters (as my dad use to call them) and I am thankful to be a part of it.
I would like to wish Scott Steele best wishes for his continued recovery and speedy return. I would also like to thank Scott Shanklin with Stryderphoto for his photo contributions to this story. To see the full photo galleries from the event, please visit our respective web galleries, below.
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