There’s something about going to Georgia for a Pro Watercross event that brings the best out of the competitors. Lake Hartwell is a small community with a big heart for racing watercraft. We were welcomed with open arms and in return, the racers were ready to put on a show for the city and fans on hand. For those that don’t know, the Pro Watercross Tour format is a three-moto format over the course of the entire weekend. Amateur Racing (any class that’s is not designated in the Pro Show), races Moto 1 and 2 on Saturday, and the 5 classes designated as “The Pro Show” race one moto on Saturday and Moto 2 and 3 on Sunday.
Pro Am Runabout Box Stock opened the program with one of the most exciting races to start things out. In Moto 1 Troy Snyder grabbed the early hole shot with Hidden Trails’ Cameron Frame right behind him. Dylan Osborn wasn’t too far off and as Cam tried getting close to Snider to make a run for the lead Osborn took the inside split and snuck right next to Frame coming off the merge buoy down the front straight. Frame ultimately denied Osborn the position. Meanwhile, the laps were getting away from both of them as Snyder continued too lead out front. But on the last lap, Frame got a great run on the back straight and kept it pinned until the split buoy where both guys went into their respective splits, Snyder on the outside, Frame on the inside.
It came down to the last turn where Cam Frame was able to edge out Snyder by about a boat length. Frame went on to win Moto 2 as well. In Moto 3, the Snyder Built, Judge Motorsports team pulled out all the stops and Snyder got the early holeshot and lead with Frame right behind. Snyder would not be denied and took the final moto win. Frame took the overall with a second and Dylan Osborne went 3-3-3 for the final spot on the podium. Unfortunately, due to Frame not running the removable small storage box in his ski, according to the technical rules he was DQ’d after the final moto. That bumped Snyder to the overall, Osborne to and. and Jim Bennett to third overall (4-4-4).
It was a full line of some of the best ski racers in the country for Moto 1 of the Pro Am Ski Stock class. On the split start it was Cabrera out front early on the inside on his Hydrospace with Brett Underhill on the outside and Matthew Rychuck close behind. Notably, Jimmy Wilson got a horrible start and had to battle from the back, which he did! Underhill took a bad spill in the log jump that gave way too Wilson in third. After making his way by Rychuck the battle was on! Cabrera and Wilson took different splits the rest of the moto until, with 2 laps to go, Cabrera had a mechanical that gave the lead and the win over to Wilson. Wilson went on to win Moto 2 and the overall with his Moto 3 second place finish. Richuk would rebound to take two second places and a Moto 3 win for second overall and Kenny McKenzie quietly made his way into the third overall position with 6-3-5 finish, showing the parity in the class.
Freestyle was awesome! It was the first multi-competitor field this season and there were four guys spread out between Amateur and Pro. All the guys came prepared and put on an awesome show for the fans. They carried their show into the Hey Day Wake Boat Demo, which made some huge waves for the guys to air it out on. In the end it was Ryan Doberstein taking the overall in Amateur Freestyle to Zeb Zarzour. Luke Stocks took the overall in Pro Freestyle and racer Kevin Rowe took Freestyle 800 overall.
The Sport GP was exciting as well with some of the fastest boats and riders putting it all out there. A fan favorite class, it was Florida’s Richard Taylor who went 1-2-3 for the overall. World Champ Billy Dearman put his Judge Motorsports Bullett hulled ‘Blaster into the second overall spot with a 2-5-2 finish. National champ Sam Nehme had another uncharacteristic Moto 1 mechanical problem for the second weekend in a row and apart from his 8th place finish, was perfect on the weekend with Moto 2 and Moto 3 wins for third overall. Keith Dill had a good weekend looking strong and fast each moto finishing 4th overall with a 3-3-4 finish. Jordan Carrol was very impressive on his stock hull ‘Blaster going 4-4-7 for 5th overall.
Claude Clayton and Brian Baldwin came to play with their GP Runabouts in the Pro-Am Runabout GP class. Baldwin, in his first Pro Watercross appearance of the season, was armed and ready for battle. The results showed him finishing 1-1-1 but the action in each moto was far more exciting as Baldwin came from behind each race. Clayton had to settle for second going 2-2-2, but he sure gave Baldwin a run for his money. Trey Frame finished third overall with a 5-3-3 finish. Stan Hightower took a high-speed get-off on the long back straight and came off the course under his own power, but would not return for the second and third motos. As of this writing, Stan was recuperating with some pretty significant deep tissue injuries and displaced or broken ribs.
In Pro Am Ski GP it was a great 3 Moto contest between Jimmy Wilson and Craig Warner. Wilson was on his triple cylinder SX-R and Warner was on his new Kawasaki SX-R. Both guys showed signs of brilliance and it was anyone’s moto to win as they were dicing their way through lapped traffic and over the log jump. Wilson pulled it off though and took the overall with a 1-2-1 while Warner took second overall with 2-1-2. Broc Harris finished on the box in third with a 4-3-3.
The Juniors are always fun to watch and this weekend was no exception. As it’s been all year, Hayden Skellet had the field covered going 1-1-1 for the overall. His buddy Sammy Nehme went 2-2-2 for second overall. Hayden’s sister Tay Tay Taylor Skellet looked strong finishing 3-3-3. Devon Farthing won the overall in the 13-15 class.
The Sport Stock riders decided to all come to this race and there were 20 entries in the class. Some suggested to divide the class into Novice and regular Sport Stock. So, 7 newbies broke off into their own class, which was a good move on the part of Race Director Carson. In the Novice Sport Stock class, it was all Kevin Benjamin going 1-1-1 for the overall. Thomas Skellet went 2-3-2 for second overall. Will McDaniel in his first race ever went 5-2-3 for third overall.
That left 13 entries in the Sport Stock class – some of which are going for the Championship. Susan Anderson was on a rail and jumped out to two early moto wins in convincing fashion! She finished 1-1-2 for the overall and although there were whisperings of her most likely being DQ’d during post race technical inspections, it was not to be! According to the very capable and knowledgeable Tech Director for the class, Paul Lehr, she was completely legal. Unfortunately, there were two entries that were DQ’d for minor technical infractions. Keith Dill has a fast ‘Blaster courtesy of Wade Chapin Performance. He finished 6-2-1 for second overall. Team Faith’s Jeff McPhail struggled to keep his boat hooked up and wound up swimming in Moto 3 but managed to finish on the box with 2-4-8 on the weekend. Other notables were Team BMS’s Ken Waddle, Jules Hopkins looked fast and had a good weekend going with two third place finishes in Moto 1 and 2 until he came in on the hook in Moto 3.
The IROC Stock class had some exciting motos with Team Faith teammates Brian O’Rourke and Kelly Smith trading wins in Moto 1 and 2 to go into the final moto tied for the overall. O’Rourke jumped out to an early holeshot but Smith was hot on his tail for the entire race. It came down to one lap to go and Smith, who had been studying O’Rourke’s lines, setup and executed the sweetest pass! Something strange happened though as Smith rounded the final buoy on the outside split and O’Rourke tried to make time up on the inside split. In a move reminiscent to Ryan Dungy’s pass of then leading Marvin Musquin in Supercross, Smith somehow “bobbled” and slowed enough for O’Rourke to make the last ditch pass with inches to go to the finish line! O’Rourke took the overall, his first of the season while Smith too second. John Block on his new Yamaha EX took third overall in his first Pro Watercross race.
Amateur Ski Stock had a huge class for the weekend with 17 riders. Kelly Smith jumped off the IROC Stock boat and into the ski tray of his Team Faith SX-R to take the Moto 1 win. But a red flag penalty was imposed on him in Moto 2 and he had to start with his hand on his head with a dead engine. He came back through the field to finish an impressive 4th but that gave the edge to Bret Underhill who clinched the Tour Championship and the overall for the weekend going 5-1-1. Smith would finish out Moto 3 with a third having to come though the pack again after a horrific start to take the second overall spot on the podium. Ryan Doberstein hung up his freestyle ski for a race ski in his first race in 10 years to round out the podium for third with a 4-2-4 finish.
At the awards ceremony, longtime beloved tour participant Clay Barbee suffered a post race “episode” surrounding his health, but as of this writing was fine. Other than the sticky red clay mud and humid conditions with no breeze, this past weekend’s Pro Watercross race was a fun and exciting event. At the time of this writing, this weekend was the final round of the tour in Charleston, WV. It’s not only where Tour Championships are decided but also the National Championships are decided in this one event which will be aired on CBS Sports. Points are doubled for this last event and it all comes down to this weekend! Stay tuned!