The Patton Family helps keep Unlimited Hydroplane racing alive - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

The Patton Family helps keep Unlimited Hydroplane racing alive

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Wes Patton:  "There's great racing going on." Wes Patton: "There's great racing going on."
Diane Patton:  "I love the hydros." Diane Patton: "I love the hydros."

Where would the sports of unlimited hydroplane racing be without the Patton family?  It's a hard question to answer because they're as much as a fixture in the sport as anybody or any team.

The latest installment of The Milling Period, a regular video feature by Mike Fetscher and Kirk Duncan, focuses on the Patton family and their work behind-the-scenes to keeps things running smoothly.  Watch the video to the right to hear from the Pattons and the race teams about what they mean to the sport of unlimited hydroplane racing.

For Wes, Diane, Scott and Sue Patton, it's both a passion and a lifestyle.  The Patton family has been overseeing operations at the race site for the American Boat Racing Association (ABRA) and handling officiating duties.

"Every vacation is hydro racing," said Diane Patton.  She's the head scorer at each of the ABRA's race sites.  And after all these years, you can still hear the passion in her voice.  "I love the hydros," she said.  "The excitement of seeing them racing.  I love to see the boats on the water and the fans enjoying themselves.  It's just fun.  Family fun."

And she's right about the family part.

"My son and daughter-in-law are involved," said Wes Patton.  "And my daughter."  Wes handles logistics for the ABRA, including traveling with the truck and rescue and getting all the equipment back and forth.  He makes sure the race site and ready.

"My son (Scott) is a technical person," he said.  He runs the tech truck and does the read-outs for the black box computers on the boats.  Scott's wife, Sue, works with Diane on scoring and timing.  "My daughter helps on the tower   She's the computer person.  We've got computers in all the boats, computers in the tower, in the tech truck and in the office," he said.  "My wife's the head scorer.  I'm operations."

Really, though, they all pretty much work together to get the job done - whatever it takes.

Juggling egos and highly competitive race teams sure seems like it could be a tough job at times.  The Pattons' job is to keep things fair for everyone.  "They take care of all the meters and measuring devices and make sure that everybody's got a fair advantage," said Matt Gregory, crew chief for the U-10 USA Racing team.  "Once we get out there, everything's the same."

The Patton family is greatly appreciated by the team members and the sport.  They draw consistent rave reviews.

"Basically, they are volunteers," said U-3 racing's Ed Cooper.  "They're an integral part of the sport."

"The Patton family's the heart of this whole group," said U-37 Beacon Plumbing driver Jean Theoret.

Curt Tavenner, crew chief for the U-13 Spirit of Detroit echoes that.  "It takes people like that to keep this sport alive."

Cooper said the Patton are pleasant and sincere people.  "A joy to work with," he said.   Same for Tavenner.  "They're so easy to deal with," said Tavenner.  "They never get upset at anything."