Augusta Southern Nationals are bigger, better

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As competition director of the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series, Ken Dollar is much happier coming to town this year.

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Charles Duncan, 65, of Frazer, Ky., works on his boat, Danger Zone III, before the start of the 27th Annual Augusta Southern National drag boat racing competition at the Savannah River. Duncan, a farmer who raised holstein heifers for more than 20 years, began drag racing boats in 1988 as a way to escape farm life. Duncan continues to race for the thrill of the competition. "You'll be out of breath when you get done," Duncan said of racing.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Charles Duncan, 65, of Frazer, Ky., works on his boat, Danger Zone III, before the start of the 27th Annual Augusta Southern National drag boat racing competition at the Savannah River. Duncan, a farmer who raised holstein heifers for more than 20 years, began drag racing boats in 1988 as a way to escape farm life. Duncan continues to race for the thrill of the competition. "You'll be out of breath when you get done," Duncan said of racing.

With six top fuel hydro boats in the 27th annual Augusta Southern Nationals field, competition will be triple the amount in the top class of drag boat racing from 2011.

“We want to put on the best show we can for the spectators,” Dollar said. “When you have just two boats show in any class, that’s not good.”

This year’s races, which added a title sponsor in Windsor Jewelers, is expected to be bigger and better than last year. More than 100 boats are entered (as of the last list released July 7), including eight in the top alcohol hydro, seven in the top alcohol flat and 17 in the pro modified. With 38 boats in the top four classes – 18 more than last year – spectators will see more action.

“Last year was kind of a down year. The economy was part of it,” race chairman Dayton Sherrouse said. “This year, we’ve got an increase in the number of fuel boats here and boats in other classes. It’s going to be a good show.”

The Augusta Southern Nationals begin today with a “test and tune” on the river. The “Night of Fire” demonstration begins at 7 tonight at the Augusta Common.

Qualifying races begin at 10 a.m. Saturday on the Savannah River in front of the Augusta Riverfront Marina. Elimination races follow Sunday.

In 2011, Daryl Ehrlich piloted Problem Child to a winning time and speed of 3.905 seconds and 232.702 mph in the top fuel hydro division. In the head-to-head elimination race with Ehrlich, Scott Lumbert flipped the Spirit of Texas and walked away with several bruises. Ehrlich held an exhibition run to close the show, firing his boat down the 1,000-foot course in 3.812 seconds at 234.30 mph.


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