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Friday, September 6, 2002

Ex-Pecosite families team up to win drag boat race

The 2002 Lakefest Drag Boat Race which was held on Aug. 9-11 on Lake Marble Falls was the first IHBA Professional Drag Boat Race this team of family members entered…and won. Lakefest is an annual event and is one of the biggest drag boat races on the International Hot Boat Association (IHBA) circuit. Drag boat racing is not new to this family, however, this was the first race they have entered in 11 years and their first time in the IHBA circuit.

Butch and Katy Leffingwell of Granbury, formerly of Pecos, are owners of the boat, Texas Red. Texas Red is a hydro and was purchased by the Leffingwell's in November 2000 and is sponsored by Butch's Welding Service. Their nephews, driver Jerry Hardwick and pit crew members Michael Hardwick and Tom Hardwick, all of Del Rio and also formerly of Pecos, spent many months rebuilding the boat and preparing for this racing event.

Day one of the races is test and tune day. Drivers have the option to make a pass on the quarter-mile stretch of water to ensure their boat is in top running condition before qualifying on day two. Qualifying determines what class you will race in. Hardwick made three passes on the day of qualifying reaching speeds between 102-107 miles per hour and all in just over a 10.00 second time.

Hardwick's best time of 10.371 seconds qualified him in the 9th position in the Modified Eliminator Class which is a 10.00 second index class. Racers cannot run quicker or "break-out" the 10.00 second index time or they are disqualified. Only the top 16 qualifiers advance to the races on day three. With 16 qualifiers, Round one consisted of eight races.

Once you lose, you're out. Hardwick wins his first round with a 10.16 second time at a speed of 107.30 mph which was better than his top qualifying time and advanced to Round two. Hardwick was now up against the number one qualifier in his class. The top qualifier crossed the finish line first but was disqualified when he "broke out" and ran a 9.95 second time which was quicker than the 10.00 second index.

Hardwick ran a 10.24 second time and a speed of 97.20 mph and advanced to the semi-finals round in Round three. Hardwick comes away with the semi-finals round win with a 10.30 second time and a speed of 100.93 mph and advances to the finals in Round four. Hardwick defeats his final opponent with a time of 10.28 seconds and a speed of 103.64 mph taking his first professional drag boat race win. "I still can't believe it," said Hardwick, after his final race.

Along with the trio of cousins, other pit crew members consisted of Hardwick's uncle, Butch Leffingwell, brother-in-law Richard Smith of Midland and long-time friend Cody Bertelson of Kingsland (formerly of Pecos). Hardwick's aunt, Katy Leffingwell and sister, Jackie Smith of Midland (formerly of Pecos) made sure the crew had everything they needed at hand and helped Hardwick in and out of his driving suit which is about a 15-20 minute process. Hardwick's son, "Little" Michael Hardwick of Pecos and daughter Stephanie Hardwick of Ballinger (formerly of Pecos) were dad's top crew members and of course, his biggest fans!

The family is again teaming up and traveling to Chandler, Ariz., where they will enter the IHBA World Finals at Firebird Raceway Oct. 31-Nov. 2.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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Copyright 2002 by Pecos Enterprise