The first time Dan Lawrence competed in the Augusta Southern Nationals, announcers wouldn’t say the name of his boat.
On his way south from Michigan, he overheard children in motel parking lots snickering and whispering about the boat that is “Flat Outta You-Know-Where.”
But Lawrence doesn’t mind telling people he’s from Hell. In fact, he loves to joke about it.
“I mean, you can’t get any worse than that. It’s got to go up from here,” he said. “When I say I’ve got a wife from Hell, I’m not telling a story. I really do.”
Now that announcers know that Hell, Mich., is a real place, they’re a lot less shy about the name Flat Outta Hell, he said.
Lawrence, competing for the fourth time in Augusta, will be among the nearly 22,000 people expected to attend this weekend’s races, according to Peggy Seigler, of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. The event is expected to generate about $1.2 million for the local economy, she said.
Lawrence said the camaraderie among drag boat racers is what keeps him coming back to Augusta. Tom Jameson and his wife, Barbara, agree.
Jameson has been competing for 22 years but said he’s not sure how much longer he’ll continue.
The sport has gotten expensive. He estimates he’ll spend $750 this weekend in gas alone to travel to and from his home in Kingston, N.Y.
“I can’t make any money at it, even though it’s paying good money down here (to win); if I win, I lose less,” said Jameson, adding that he used to race 10 times a year, but this is his first event in 2012. “Used to be, you could make a little money or at least break even. But now, it’s not happening.”