Unlimited Lights making news in the off-season - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Unlimited Lights making news in the off-season

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Another driver from the LTL ranks earns promotion to the Unlimited LightsGraduation day is a special day for all seniors; even borderline senior citizens. Bud McKay, 50, from Belfair, Wash., a three-time national champion in the Lighter-Than-LIGHTS 8-cylinder series, has graduated as a driver to an Unlimited Light hydroplane.

Darren and Mary Bartels, from Buckley, Wash., owners of the UL-11 "Power Punch Racing Team, ROXY 94.5 FM, K&N Filters" acquired a second hull out of Florida through a partnership with Pat Rankin of Tallahassee, Fla. They will have McKay campaign it for the 2010 season.

Bud has a unique talent in marketing and getting sponsorships, plus he's shown in his five years of racing that he can get the most out of a boat with a very minimal budget to work with," Bartels said. "If you are ever at a race, and see a truly big kid – you've just found Bud McKay. He's a true ambassador for the sport and is a welcome addition to the team."

Bartels said that even though he is the operational owner of the team, he'll work in concert with McKay on the day-to-day operations of the new hull.

"It's hard enough preparing one boat for the season, let alone a second," he said. "We'll keep the programs separate for now, but like we always do in this sport, we're here to help each other."

The new hull has never touched water. It was constructed over the last two years, and has a new carbureted Chevy 468 that has only been run on the Dyno. Bartels' other hull. the UL-11, uses an alcohol Injected, blown-Chevy 468. Along with Bartels' assistance, it will be up to McKay to form a team and finish the boat to be ready for the 2010 season.

"You better believe I am excited about this opportunity," McKay said. "This means Seafair and Tri-Cities, which for potential sponsors, that's huge. And I maybe 50 years old, but inside I'm still that 10-year-old kid on the shores of Lake Washington waving to the drivers as they fly by; now I have the chance to finally wave back while driving on Lake Washington."

McKay was quick to point out there's a lot of work to do before that happens.

"It's all about sponsorships at this point," McKay said. "The difference in a budget to get a Lighter-Than-LIGHTS team to a race compared to an Unlimited Light is monstrous. Before we can make the boat float, we've got to secure top-notch sponsors."

McKay still plans to campaign his "West Sound Electric Presents GEICO of Lakewood" 8-cylinder hydroplane in the 2010 season. McKay, who won the high points titles in 2006, 2007 and 2008, finished second in high points in 2009.

"At the races where we have the ULs and the LTLs, I'll turn the driving of the 'little boat' over to someone else," McKay said. "That's how I can reward those who help me, by giving them a chance to drive a hydroplane. Plus, like Darren, as a boat owner, you love giving someone that chance of a lifetime to drive a hydroplane."

The schedule isn't out yet for the 2010 season, but it normally starts in April in Chandler, Ariz., at Firebird Raceway. And McKay said he's setting his sites on being ready to compete there with the UL. In fact, it's McKay's hope to be ready to compete in the entire national circuit.

"The little kid inside me says 'we'll be there,' but the bigger kid says 'we'll try and be there,'" he said. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

For more information, visit www.ul11.com; McKay's website, www.namronracing.com, should be up and running again next week. 

Annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show

The distance from the headquarters of the Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing Association in Issaquah, Washington to Orlando, Florida is 3,070 miles, or about as far from the Pacific Northwest as one could travel and stay within the continental United States.

However, this December 10-12, 2009 will find the ULHRA temporarily setting up shop in Orlando for the biggest three business days in motorsports when the worldwide racing industry gathers for the 22nd Annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show. Covering one million square feet, more than 1200 companies including many of the ULHRA’s own sponsors and advertisers, will display the latest advances in racing products. Engine parts, data acquisition, safety gear, team uniforms, drivers suits, race electronics...it’s all part of the world’s largest racing trade show.

According to the press release issued by Performance Racing Industry of Laguna Beach, California:  Despite the current U.S. economic woes, more than 100 new distributors had already signed on. "You will see more new hardcore racing products at the PRI Trade Show than anywhere else on earth," said Steve Lewis, producer. "New exhibitors are an important part of the equation when it comes to the hot new parts that will be winning races in 2010. In addition to the latest technology gains, we also have a lot of new distributors whose main focus is supplying the grassroots drag racer or late-model teams in an economical fashion to keep motorsports moving forward at all levels during some tough times. All aspects of the performance industry come together at the PRI Show." And the automotive-powered hydroplane racing body, ULHRA, intends to be part of the formula that keeps motorsports moving forward.

In addition to having a booth at the show with information on the organization’s annual publication, “Thunder & ‘LIGHTS”, there will also be valuable insight on how to get started in hydroplane racing. If many of the 40,000 attendees have never seen a “Thunderboat” before, Mr. Milton Wiggins of Alabama will be on hand displaying the G-10 hydroplane, Frazee Paint-Titeflex Special, and answering questions. The beautiful 4,000 lb 26-foot craft with nearly 1600 hp is not only a fan favorite but was also the winner of the final in its class at the San Diego Bayfair in September.

The June issue of Performance Racing Magazine earlier this year featured an article addressing the marine motorsports market. The industry business magazine for motorsports entrepreneurs and professional race teams has approximately 27,000 readers. The article quotes ULHRA Marketing Director, Wil Muncey, as saying “Hydroplane racing is extremely demanding on equipment. Inadvertently, if a product can survive or excel in this environment it will serve as an irrefutable test of quality.” The article appropriately called “Don’t Miss the Boat!” encourages engine builders and engine parts suppliers to tap into the high-performance marine market.

Called “the world's largest hardcore racing trade show”, the PRI allows retailers, engine builders, and race teams the opportunity to preview all the latest racing products for the start of the 2010 racing season. Attendees are strongly encouraged to pre-register and deadline for pre-registration is November 6, 2009. Registration information, forms and more can be located at www.performanceracing.com.

The Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing Association is an automotive-powered class which continues to gain popularity especially with fans seeking affordable, exciting family entertainment. Although they utilize today's technology, the thundering engines produce a sound that echoes back to the classic days of hydroplane racing.


Bay Bank, northwest-based with Branch offices in Oregon and Washington, today became the “Official Bank of the Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing Association (ULHRA).”  The bank, which grounds itself on “customer first”, launched its ULHRA association as official host of the racing organization’s 2008 and 2009 Hospitality Pavilion at the Seafair races in Seattle, Washington. Today’s appointment extends the Bank’s partnership with the Association through 2011.

Joe Frauenheim, President of the ULHRA, said, in making this announcement, “While the ULHRA is a national organization, we are northwest-based so it makes good sense for us to align with a banking institution with regional strengths and national capabilities.  The Pacific Northwest is to hydroplane racing what North Carolina is to NASCAR and we look forward to having Bay Bank on board to serve our organization and members as our presence grows”.