Great State: Drag Boat Tires
SHAWNEE, OKLAHOMA — You wouldn’t think to find many square pegs in a tire shop but you will in this one. Amongst all the rubber and treads the elephant round hole in Randy Ball’s shop is a speed boat.
The only tires he needs for this machine are the ones he puts on the trailer. “It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work,” says Randy. “Of course we started this when we were small in the tire business and big in the mechanical business and this was our thing. So, Lord, the more noise we could make and the more power we made the happier we were.”
In the tightly knit world of drag boat racing Randy is known as ‘The Okie Flash’. His dad raced boats. Randy liked engines, anything loud. Eventually he had to try going fast on water and it all fell together. Every summer since Randy and crew have been off to the races. Referring to his drag boat Ball says, “This thing takes up way too much of our time. It seems like a 365 day a year deal.”
His top alcohol, flat bottom ‘Oklahoman’ is nearly ready. The Chrysler motor fits in backwards so the power goes to the propeller. On a good day it will top out well over 150 MPH. Randy is the round peg who always squeezes himself into the square hole driving capsule. “They tell me that you don’t want to be comfortable and it’s not by any means,” he says. “They tell me if you’re comfortable something is wrong.”
As a younger man the thrill was in going fast. These days it’s all about improving. “If we can find more power we can make more power,” Randy says. The tire business is good this summer. They talk about a 5 race season, but with top fuel in your blood the next race always looks good too.