Mike Finnegan, one of the stars of the hit TV series, “Roadkill”, has always had a passion for cars and speed. But that passion also extended to the water as well. See for yourself.
Mike Finnegan headshot.jpg

And so it begins, innocently enough, a nice 19-foot Rogers Bonneville TR jet boat. The perfect river fun boat. But then, there are other jet boats on the river a little faster and a little quicker than yours. That’s not good.

So if you’re Mike Finnegan, who also happens to be the editor of Sport Truck magazine and a former co-editor of Hot Boat magazine, you don’t want to have the slowest boat on the river. It’s simply a matter of self-respect.

Maybe just a couple of little performance upgrades won’t hurt. You spend some money and you go a little faster. But maybe not quite fast enough, so you spend some more money, more time, more money and the process just seems to keep repeating itself. Pretty soon one of your buddies thinks it would be cool to actually take your boat to a real race and see what it would do. That was 2003.

As it turned out, Mike found National Jet Boat Association drag boat races were a whole lot cooler than just running some of your friends at sundown on the river. A year later that vee-bottom Rogers play boat, with a whole lot of assistance from Tom Papp and Steve Brule, was clipping the timing lights with low nine-second ETs and consistent speeds in the 113-115 mph range.

Being the wise mentor that he was, Tom Papp strongly suggested that Mike get out of his Rogers if he intended to run those kinds of speeds before he got hurt. It really didn’t take too much persuasion to get Mike to switch since he already had his eye on an old 1980s vintage Cheyenne tunnel hull that Tom had.

Mike went to see John West at Ultra Boats in San Diego since they were now pulling parts from that original Cheyenne mold. In January 2005, Mike took delivery of a 500-pound 19-foot Ultra Shadow and his jet boat education was about to begin. “I spent the next three months camped out at Tom Papp’s shop, rigging the boat and trying to absorb as much knowledge as I could,” said Mike. “Tom kind of let me do my own thing, but when I was really off track he’d straighten me out. Since then, I’ve re-rigged the boat three more times getting it the way I want. I’m finally pretty much satisfied with the way it performs and looks.”


And he should be, after all, Mike is now one of the top competitors in NJBA’s very tough 8.00 – 8.99 ET bracket racing. For 2009, Mike’s Ultra Shadow is sitting in third position in the year-end points chase with one race left to go. In 2008, he won his class championship in the 8.50 – 8.99 division.


Mike initially rigged his Ultra Shadow with a blown big-block Chevy but now has a Brodix tall-deck aluminum block boasting 582 cubic inches with a Nitrous Supply N20 system. His best numbers to date are a top speed 132.8 mph and a break-out 7.94 second ET in the quarter mile. Check out the accompanying parts spec block for a complete breakdown of what it takes to be at the top of an NJBA category.

So whatever happened to having family fun on the river? According to Mike, it’s still okay. Whenever possible he straps in a couple of gunnel saddle fuel tanks and another bucket seat and he and the wife cruise the lower Colorado River between Parker and Yuma. Probably not at 130 mph, however.


: 2005 19-foot Ultra Shadow with bottom work by the late Tom Papp and also Jeff Bennett. Originally a Cheyenne mold.

Engine: 582ci all-aluminum Big Block Chevy machined by Paul Pfaff Racing and built by Mike Finnegan

Brodix tall deck aluminum engine block with a 4.600 bore

4.375-inch Lunati Pro Billet stroker crankshaft and Lunati Pro Billet connecting rods

Custom CP Pistons

ProFiler Hitman 12-degree spread port aluminum cylinder heads

Manton tapered pushrods

Manley titanium valves

LSM Valve springs

Comp Cams custom mechanical roller camshaft

Jesel .903 diameter tie-bar roller lifters

Jesel belt drive

ProFiler single plane Hitman spread port intake manifold plumbed with a Nitrous

Supply N20 system

Nitrous system tuned and flowed by Jeff Johnson at Induction Solutions

4500 Dominator carburetor tuned by John at C&J Engineering

MSD Digital 7 programmable ignition box

MSD HVCII ignition coil and 8.5mm Super Conductor spark plug wires

Plumbing by Sweet Performance Products

Harwood dragster scoop with CSR carbon fiber tray

Equal length stainless steel headers by Lucas Fab

Jet Drive: hybrid drive built by Marine Performance Designs

Aggressor 5-degree low profile intake installed by Tom Papp Racing

Berkeley suction housing clearanced for pop-off valve by MPD

Aggressor stainless steel impeller prepped by MPD

John Mills Pop-Off valve

17-4 stainless steel shaft by MPD

American Turbine bowl with stuffer by MPD

Place Diverter mini droop

Place Diverter trim system fixed with an adjustable tie bar and no control inside the


Custom ride plate by Mike Finnegan

Intake shoe by Chris Starkweather

Custom loader by MPD

Rigging: custom rigged by Mike Finnegan with help from Mike Kim, Brian Busby, Robert Jonsson, and Chris Starkweather

Wiring: Mike Finnegan

Interior: 20-inch wide bucket seats upholstered by Revo at Stitchcraft Interiors, custom painted floors by Todd Griggs at TRG Custom Fiberglass

Fuel Tank Mounts: 11-gallon Russel fuel cells with custom aluminum mounts by Mike Finnegan, Todd Griggs, and John Cogan at Concept Marine

Trailer: custom built with extra long swing-away tongue and cut out for jet pump access by Trevor at Hampton Trailers

Thanks to the Pit Crew: Randy Joyce, Robert Jonsson and Joe Cole; Chris Starkweather and Jack McClure of Marine Performance Designs; Jeff Bennett, Brian Busby at Amber Racing Services; John at C&J Engineering; John Cogan at Concept Marine; Tom Bogner at Lucas Racing Oils; Gordy, Jimmy and Paul at Paul Pfaff Racing Engines; Dave Bottomly at Sweet Performance Products; and all the guys at Red Cup Racing.