Published On May 3, 2023 | By Spencer Hill | News, Top Posts

Story and Photos by Scott Welch,


While talking racing, drag racing, and then bringing in the motorsports genre of drag boat racing into the conversation, I’ve noticed that the subject response is going to be surprising almost every time. When the subject comes up, and with me it’s almost every motorsports conversation, subject matter almost always ends up talking nitro and Top Fuel Hydro’s. After all they are the fastest and most volatile of all the liquid hot rods. So in this read about my love of drag boat racing, let’s talk a little about the history of the sport briefly and then bring us up to the present.

Personally, I’ve been around the motorsport of drag boat racing for most of my life. My dad, Dick Welch, was a drag boat racer and event organizer all the way back to my single digit days. Dad had a 10 second, 100 mph, liquid 1/4 mile, Wesco v-drive flat bottom, back in 1971. This boat was my first “good” ride in a drag boat and afterwards I was hooked! A couple years later dad went to a single seat, unblown gas Sanger hydro, called “Black Jack”. During this same period, dad was VP and Race Chairman for the Houston Drag Boat & Ski Club and was involved in the forming of the Southern Drag Boat Association (SDBA). The SDBA has been organizing and promoting drag boat racing ever since. 

In about 1974 my dads medical career had transferred our family to Phoenix Az. About the same time, Firebird Lake, was being built in the southern Phoenix suburb of Chandler. Dad got involved and was even offered a position with the organization building the lake. But it was not lucrative enough to pull him away from his career in the medical industry, so he just volunteered his knowledge and some time to help get the facility going. Dad ended up making the first official timed pass on the lake at the first gathering on Firebird, circa 1975. I have vivid memories.

Since then many drag boat racing events have happened at Firebird. It has been the site for the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series, World Finals, for the better part of the last 15 years. Rumor has it that the original lease of the Native American land had expired and the land has been annexed by the state to expand on the amazing highway system for the drivers in the Phoenix metroplex. I’ve been told by the current SDBA owner and Series Director, David Carroll, that he has been told that last years 2022 SDBA Nationals would be the final race ever at the facility. It was only the second SDBA race at the lake.

If it holds true, the pictures you see here will be the last by me at the iconic boat racing facility. And I might be one of only a handful of people that were at both the first and last race there. But Drag Boat racing will live on with the SDBA. Lake Lucas in Wheatland was just built a few years ago and now carries the torch as the premier drag boat racing facility. As well there are still several river and lake based H2O tracks that are excellent for the sport. 

When it’s comes to spectating at a motorsports event there isn’t much better than drag boats, in my opinion. sprint cars and nitro dragsters are in the mix as well! If you get the chance, don’t miss out. Every motorsports fan should see at least one Top Fuel Hydro make a pass!



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