Tastin’ n Racin’ hydros roar on despite attendance dropoff

June 12, 2012

By Matt Carstens

Brent Harnack goes airborne in the National Modified class hydroplane, NM-88 Mr. Jiggs, on the way to his victory June 10 on Lake Sammamish during the 16th annual Tastin’ n Racin’ at Lake Sammamish State Park. By Greg Farrar

The 16th annual Tastin’ n Racin’ was filled with thunderous hydroplanes, high-flying wake boarders and classic hot rods, but what was most important for young Cooper Leavitt was that he get his candy from the Seafair pirates.

“Gimmie some!” he shouted at the swashbuckler.

“Is that any way to ask?” the buccaneer barked back.

Disappointed, Cooper lowered his head and mumbled, “Please?” as his father lathered him up with sunscreen.

“All right, but only if you let your dad finish putting your sunscreen on!”

Sunscreen was definitely needed on June 10, but despite the sunny, 66-degree day, attendance was lackluster at best.

“It went smooth from an operation standpoint,” event director Craig Cooke said. “But the attendance was down. Probably on Saturday because the weather was threatening, it never really kicked into blue sky, and today it got nicer as the day went on but I’m just thinking that people were thinking that it’s not all that nice, so it was not a stellar turn out.”

Even though they weren’t out in droves, Cooke said the people that did make it out had a great time.

First-timer Andrew Isaksen, who’s been a big hydroplane fan for awhile, was out and about with his wife and child.

“The last time I was at a boat race was way back when during the unlimited, before they put in all the family policies at Seafair,” he said. “It’s a little different, but it looks like it’s organized well. We just came to wander, trying to see some of the hydroplane boats.”

Some other rookies to Tastin’ n Racin’ were the sponsors of the Miss Slabjack boat Dave Freeburd and his father Bill Freeburd.

Steve Lamson, one of the agents that finds sponsors for the boat teams, convinced the Freeburds to come out to Tastin’ n Racin’ since their company Slabjack is based in Issaquah.

“He’s been working on us for a few years trying to get us out here,” Dave Freeburd said. “This year just seemed to be the right fit because our office is right here in Issaquah. It just seemed like a good idea to sponsor a local event and we got a pretty good boat out there.”

Miss Slabjack won both of the Grand Prix heats on June 9 and finished in first place overall for in the Grand Prix division.

“It runs really well,” Bill Freeburd said.

Both Freeburds were raised on hydroplane racing and make it out to Seafair every year, so it was exciting for both of them to sponsor a winner.

“It’s still floating right now, so it must be doing OK!” Bill Freeburd said.

Local driver Kip Brown raced in both the 2.5 Stock and the 5 Liter divisions in a boat that had touched the water for the first time June 9. Construction started in February, and after four months of boat building, Brown was thrilled.

“To have it come out of the box as competitive as it is, it makes it all worth while,” he said. “I’m ecstatic, the whole team is ecstatic about how this thing ran.”

Brown is the reigning 2011 national high point champion in the 5-liter race.

So even though attendance was down, Cooke was thrilled to see that the event still has its hard-core followers.

“I was driving a golf cart around once everything was settled in,” Cooke said. “So I was cruising around the parking lot a picking up people that looked like they were in for a bit of a hike, and gave them rides and they loved Tastin’ n Racin’. A lot of people have been there for years before and a lot of them it was their sixth, seventh or eighth time. One guy had never missed one in all 16 years. That’s always good to hear.”

Matt Carstens: 392-6434 ext. 236, or  ip-sports@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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