Sabine SPORT races

Sabine SPORT races

Powerboat racers from all over the United States will converge on the Sabine River on Sept. 19-21 for the seventh annual S.P.O.R.T. Tunnel Boat Race.

The weekend of speed and thrills will include a trial run Friday, Sept. 19, from 3-6 p.m. with a free concert by the American Sons to follow from 7-9 p.m. at the City of Orange Riverfront Pavilion.

The American Sons describe their music as “country music with rock roots at its finest with the soul of your favorite Texas red dirt artist … packed with soaring guitar riffs and melodic lyrics that make you want to jump out of your seat and sing along.”

The band is from Southeast Texas and released its debut album “Redneck White and Blue” in 2013.

“We love to play for the home crowd. The Golden Triangle is where it all started for us, so playing here is always awesome!” said American Sons lead guitarist Jason Touchette. “Playing live is what it’s all about. When the band is hitting on all cylinders and the crowd throws that energy back towards the stage, it’s pretty much one of the best feelings a musician can get.”

After fans recover from the high-octane music of American Sons, it’s time to get down to business with some serious racing action Saturday and Sunday. Races are scheduled from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. each day. This event will serve as the championship for S.P.O.R.T. as it is the last race of the season, said S.P.O.R.T. race director John Schubert.

“It’s the last race of the year for every racer in the country,” Schubert said. “Everybody is going to be there to finish out the season in Orange, and it’s always awesome. It’s a great racecourse. It’s got great visibility for the spectators. They can see the entire course. It’s just a nice place to watch a race.”

Food, beverage and craft vendors will be on site both Saturday and Sunday.

“We have 10 food vendors with a variety of menu items, some of which include barbeque pork steak sandwiches, crawfish boudain, kabobs, pistolletes, snow cones and funnel cakes,” said CVB Coordinator for City of Orange Taylor Warner. “We also have five craft vendors that will sell various products. The Orange Boating Club will serve as an event partner providing adult beverages.”

There is no admission to attend the boat races, but pit passes will be sold to enter the boating area for $5 each.

The event, which was proposed as a follow up to the Port Neches boat race “Thunder on the Neches,” was realized in 2004 following the construction of the City of Orange boat ramp and has grown in popularity ever since, Warner said.

“In recent years, there has been an average of 2,000-3,000 attendees over the three-day period,” Warner said. “Boat race fans in particular are really dedicated to the sport, and I think that is what keeps them coming back. Also, it is a unique event that only happens once a year and creates excitement for all attendees.”

With so much at stake, the event is exciting for the racers as well, Schubert said.

“This is actually their national championship,” he said. “This is their year-end points race. It’s a big race for them. I’ll have guys from California, New York, and everywhere in between. Orange is a driver’s course. There’s no kicking back and relaxing; you’re always looking for somebody in your mirrors and always trying to not be passed by the guy behind you. “

The racer with the highest points for the year will be crowned champion of the series and of the country after the Sabine River race, which means the best of the best will be in attendance, Schubert said. Four different racing classes will compete including the popular Formula 1 class.

“In the Formula 1 class … you have Tim Seebold who will be here,” he said. Seebold is currently second on the leader board. “The Seebold family is synonymous with winning, and they’ve been doing it forever. He’s always fast and competitive.

“Chris Fairchild will be here,” Schubert said. Fairchild is currently third on the leader board. “He’s super fast and super competitive as well.

“We have some very competitive local drivers. My brother Michael Schubert is incredibly fast. He won in Port Neches. Chris Fairchild was second. So those guys will be competing against each other again in Orange.”

Schubert describes the speedboat racing experience as “kind of driving a boat and kind of flying a boat on top of the water.”

“When you’re driving it, you control the angle of the boat above the water with trim buttons that make the motor go in and out,” Schubert said. “If you change the angle of the motor to make the bow come up too high, that’s when it catches the wind and flips over. What you are always trying to do is keep it to where it is as loose or light on the water as it can a phenomenal job on the grounds and promoting the event — bringing spectators and local people out. The boat ramp area is beautiful. It’s one of the nicest pit areas we’ve got. The boat ramps are nice and easy to use. The facility is just really good for what we do.”

For those who have never experienced the excitement of high-speed boat racing, Schubert said they are in for a treat.

“It’s always something that when you leave, you want to see again,” he said. “You’re ready to come back again the next year. It’s that impressive. It’s one of those things TV doesn’t do justice. When you see it live, it’s so much better.”

The City Boat Ramp is at 1000 Simmons Drive in Orange. For more information, call the Orange CVB at (409) 883-1011.

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