River City Rumble a success

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Take that, Dennis.

Despite the unexpected two-week postponement of the third annual River City Rumble drag boat race thanks to Hurricane Dennis’s interference, the show went on Saturday and Sunday at the Demopolis City Landing. Hundreds of Demopolis residents came out to enjoy the fun and festivities as dozens of racers competed in one of the Outdoor Drag Boat Association’s most popular events.

“This is one of my favorite sites,” says ODBA Race Coordinator Russ Rogers. “I don’t live too far from here but this is one race I would not mind driving for…our drivers are willing to drive wherever as long as folks come out to watch the race.”

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That was certainly the case this weekend as area residents came out in droves to support the Rumble and cheer on hometown favorite J.R. Suttles of the Wild Hair Racing team. Rogers said the enthusiastic and vocal response to Suttles and the rest of Saturday’s racers was exactly why so many ODBA racers and officials enjoy the trip to Demopolis.

“This is a good turnout,” Rogers said. “Better than the average at most of our races…it’s the biggest race we have besides our world championships. Our t-shirt vendor loves coming down here. He’s gotten rid of some shirts he’d had for months,” Rogers added with a laugh.

Of course, not everything was perfect at the Rumble. Rogers said that the inevitabilities of the drivers’ regular jobs and arranging of vacation time for the race meant that the postponement prevented as many as

“20 to 25 percent” of possible drivers from attending. The crowd also had to wait through numerous delays Sunday afternoon as stiff breezes, passing barges, and stirred-up debris each stopped the racing for brief periods of time.

“Today wasn’t too bad,” Rogers said Sunday, “[But] Saturday was twice as good. Things went pretty smoothly yesterday. Sometimes racing’s just like that.”

When the racing was on, fans were treated to an exciting display of mechanical muscle and driving skill. Demopolis’s Suttles flirted with his first ever first-place finish by recovering from an early loss in the double-elimination-style tournament to survive into the final four places of the Modified Production class. But despite the support of the home crowd, Canton, AL’s Kim Cleckler–like Suttles, running a Triad/Mercury boat–edged Suttles to advance to the final round of racing. Cleckler would finish second behind Kingston, TN’s Glen Reynolds with Jimmy Melton of Milton, FL in third. Suttles finished fourth to add to his growing collection of top-five finishes. Modified Production was the event’s most crowded class of competition, with 16 different racers entered.

Rogers, who serves as the ODBA’s commentator and announcer as well, said that Suttles’s efforts at promoting the race were appreciated by the ODBA, and made a big contribution to the Rumble’s ongoing success.

“A lot of [the good turnout] is due to J.R. Suttles’s tremendous amount of work doing pre-race publicity,” Rogers said.

Another thrilling class of competition was Saturday’s Pro Gas class of competition, in which favored driver Wayne Tripp of Montevallo had to win only one of the last two races against Michigan’s Rich Srnec to claim first. But Srnec won twice consecutively to spring the upset. Tripp would redeem himself Sunday, however, besting Satsuma’s Montey Skinner to win the Pro Fuel class.

Despite Tripp’s first and second-places, the biggest winner of the weekend was Reynolds, who added the Rumble’s Superstock crown to his Modified victory. Other first-place finishes went to Bruce tripp in Pro Carb, Bobby Warren in Unlimited, and Jeff Dunn in the Lake Racer category