Drag Boat Race Finds Home at Hidden Buckeye Lake
Just south of downtown Buckeye and north of the Gila River is Hidden lake, a quiet and secluded 120 acre recreation area.
When drag boat racers arrive, however, it is a bustling place for activities and entertainment and has become a popular destination for desert sport competition.
Hidden Lake is home to many events run by the Arizona Drag Boat Association, which feature intense quarter-mile races at speeds up to nearly 200 mph.
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“The weather, the people, the openness, the high desert here, it’s just beautiful,” said Jimmy Todd, ADBA’s rescue director.
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ADBA only organized two events, including one in Hidden Lake. So far in 2021, the ADBA has hosted three races there, the latest being the Spring Shootout from April 2-4. Three more are also planned for Buckeye.
Each event takes place from Friday to Sunday. Friday is used as a testing and tuning day for runners, who use their practice to make adjustments for the weekend, when competitive races begin.
“What works in Kentucky for their boats may not work here,” Todd said.
Saturdays are qualifying days. On the basis of their best times, the drivers are ranked and ranked, and they are put against other drivers, similar to the other tournament groups, the best time corresponding to the lowest time.
On Sunday, these pairs are placed in a traditional tournament slot for each class of boat, with the winners of each race moving on to the next round until a champion is crowned.
The runners are a very united group. Many even travel across the country to compete in other drag boat racing association competitions when Buckeye isn’t hosting any races.
“They hate each other from 8am to 5pm, but after that they’re friends again,” Todd said.
The Scribner family from Lake Havasu City have two runners with the ADBA, sisters Tanya and Tara. Their grandparents drove drag racing cars, and when Tanya tried to pilot a boat, she was hooked. A few years later, younger sister Tara rode with Tanya and was hooked as well.
Often times, the two sisters will find themselves racing against each other, leading to a unique sibling rivalry.
“It’s extremely competitive… but it’s fun racing with your sister,” said Tanya, 32.
In the spring shootout, the Scribner sisters were two of only three women in the race, and for Tara to be one of the only women to compete is a sense of pride, especially when she sees little girls watching.
“I like to see little girls come up to me and tell me they want to race now because they see that I am doing it and my sister is doing it, so I feel like it helps the kids. to get started, ”said 19-year-old Tara.
For those interested in racing, Todd said the process includes registering as an ADBA member and checking the boat for safety.
The Scribners both said anyone can participate and the community is very welcoming and helpful to those who want to try it out.
“Anyone who has a boat can come and race, that’s what’s great about this organization. Anyone can do it, ”Tanya said.
For those who just want to watch, fans are currently catered for in limited numbers and the atmosphere offers activities for all ages.
“(TopWater) Cantina here is really family friendly,” Todd said of the lakeside dining room which offers a variety of food and drink options.
Todd applauded the work that club president Jeremy Denny has done to make Hidden Lake a place where drivers want to go out and compete.
“If you were here last year you wouldn’t have recognized this place,” Todd said. “They did a really good job.”
Some of the changes included adding turf areas, relocating the track, moving dirt, and adding water.
This is the latest effort to make Hidden Lake Arizona’s “premier” racing destination, said Todd.
Story by Dylan Wilhelm, Cronkite News