Anative of south Florida, Keith Hancock grew up with a love for being out on a boat, and going a little bit fast, in controlled safe conditions of course.
Now residing in Putnam County, Hancock added a competitive edge to this passion, and on the weekend of July 11 he was victorious in the Outboard Drag Boat Association (ODBA) series at Wetumpka, Ala.
“We’ve raced there once a year for the last several years,” said Hancock. “It was hot. Had a decent turnout. And had a good weekend.”
Hancock races in a mirage Quartermaster that is built strictly for drag racing competition.
“We used to race a quarter mile, hence the Quartermaster name,” he said. “Now we race 800 feet. They shortened the tracks for safety like some of the car races have done. Slow the speeds down a little bit.
“I run a Mercury factory drag racing engine. We raced Saturday and Sunday, and you get more points on a Sunday. We went undefeated both days, swept the points easily.”
The ODBA has different classes, and he said it’s a race where all boats in a class are out on the water at one time and they stay out until there’s a winner.
“It’s a double elimination bracket,” said Hancock. It’s not like car racing where the competitor runs one round then works 30 minutes to an hour on the car before making another pass. “We stay out there until we are done.
“We race rivers, small lakes mostly. Try to keep the water conditions down. Of course they close it off to boat traffic. We actually had a boat crash this weekend. The wind got up really strong … not in my class, but he’s in the class with my teammate. He’s alright, beat up a little bit. It hurt the boat pretty bad.
“Yeah, we need smooth water.”
It’s been six to seven years since Hancock entered the world of sanctioned boat drag racing. He said he’s played with hot rod boats most of his adult life.
“I’m from south Florida,” said Hancock. “Mercury’s racing test center used to be down there. I grew up watching the big Mercury race boats test. I’ve been on the water all my life on the boats.
“I like racing anything. I love racing of all kinds. I picked boat racing. I think if you lose the thrill or lose the nerves, you need to quit. You need to stay scared.”
Winning at Wetumpka was Hancock’s first of the year, which makes him 1-for-1 in 2021 competitions and puts him on a streak of two in a row dating back to 2020. He said the first race he had planned for the current year in June was cancelled. At the World Championships held in October in Tennessee, Hancock placed second; he then won a rescheduled race in Bainbridge afterwards as the COVID-19 pandemic made a “mess” of the original slate of races.
“Probably six or eight races got cancelled,” said Hancock about the 2020 season. “I race with three different organizations mainly. Two of them didn’t have any races last year. ODBA was lucky to have, I think we got four races in last year. I made all four of those.”
ODBA also gives out high points champions at the end of a season, and Hancock said the biggest reward for that is “bragging rights.”
“It’s not for the money,” he said. “If we win, we’re lucky to cover our costs for that weekend, fuel and motels.”
Up next, Hancock is planning a return to Alabama and the town of Demopolis for ODBA competition July 31-Aug. 1. On the weekend after his success in Wetumpka, he thought about taking a second boat he owns for experimentation at a race under a different organization in a different Alabama town.
“If I can get out of work two weekends in a row,” said Hancock, who is self-employed and stays busy in the concrete business.
Hancock happened to win on the same weekend as a good friend and fellow Putnambased drag racer C.G. Knight. Only Knight’s vehicle of choice is the truck on “no prep” courses (see related story).
“We have a lot of common interests,” said Hancock. “Trucks and hot rods.”
The friendship, for Hancock, is highlighted by a lot of trips to The Summit, the racing parts store in McDonough. If one is going that way, he’ll call up the other, “You need something from The Summit? Let’s go.” They will go looking for fuel pumps, wiring, electrical switches, safety gear, etc.