Last August, a 51-foot Mystic catamaran race boat, American Ethanol, sat idling in preparation for its run in the 2015 Lake of the Ozarks (LOTO) Shootout. Myrick Coil, a local offshore racer, manned the helm while John Cosker, president of Mystic Powerboats, worked the throttles. As Don Onken Sr., the boat’s owner, looked on, the duo revved up to take its pass. When they were finished, they recorded a top speed of 208 mph, good enough to take home the event’s Top Gun trophy. Meanwhile, Debbie Bull drove her husband Bob’s 52-foot MTI catamaran, CMS Racing, to a top speed of 181 mph, with MTI President Randy Scism on the throttles, to become the fastest woman in the history of the Shootout.
These accomplishments are impressive for sure, but surprisingly, other drivers in other boats stole the show. That’s the beauty of the LOTO Shootout, which has been taking place annually at the central Missouri boating hot spot since 1988. It started as a challenge for local boats and evolved into a fundraiser for area fire departments. Today, it’s a weeklong festival that includes a poker run, stereo shootout and other attractions. Last year’s event saw 94 competitors make 229 runs in 64 classes. Anyone can enter, motivated only by the desire to drive a boat as fast as possible. Here are seven stories of regular people who came to get their speed on.
Dennis Parvey is a mild-mannered dentist from Minnesota. He’s a personable, soft-spoken guy, but for one weekend a year, he’s the driver of the fastest offshore V-bottom in performance boating.
At the LOTO Shootout last August, Dennis and his son, Jason, ran 145 mph in their 43-foot Black Thunder twin-stepped V-bottom, powered by two 1,675 hp engines that Dennis built.
Yes, Dennis Parvey builds his own engines, which have 572-cubic-inch Dart blocks with Dart Pro cylinder heads, Holley electronic fuel injection and PSI superchargers. He has two sets of propellers and no spare engines. Since starting with a 32-foot Black Thunder in 1992, the Parveys have participated in the Shootout every year and started with their 43-footer in 2000.
“We bought the boat with the idea of overnighting in it,” Dennis says. “I’m just sucked into the technology of seeing how far I can go with this project.” Dennis’ boat, which still has a full cabin, beat entries from better-known performance V-bottom manufacturers, including Outerlimits and Fountain.
“You meet a lot of great people, you have fun, and you get to have organized pickup racing,” Dennis says. “We get a little kick out of being the giant killer.”
The Deck Boater
George Ogden attended his first LOTO Shootout in 2015 with his 2008 E-Ticket 29-foot deck boat. He thought the poker run on Friday was a little rough, but when the time came for the 61-year-old Lake Havasu City, Arizona, resident to make his radar pass on Saturday, conditions couldn’t have been better. He wound up his twin Teague Custom Marine supercharged 985 hp engines with IMCO SCX IV drives in his performance catamaran and clocked a pass of 146 mph.
Ogden has competed at the Desert Storm Shootout on his home lake, but he prefers the layout of the course at Lake of the Ozarks because it’s lined with buoys that help him stay on course. But he also says there’s a lot going on in an open boat at those speeds. “You’re worried about rpm, vacuum and rev limiters, and you’re trying to watch all that at once while running down the track,” he says.
In the past, the LOTO Shootout employed a standing start. The switch to the rolling start came when the number of high-speed catamarans participating increased. Ogden would love to take on the big cats in a standing start. “With a hole shot, I’d beat half of them,” he says. “I still think I have some more to get out of this boat. If I had my 39s on there, I think I could run 150-plus.” He’ll be back.
The Flying Pontooner
In 2002, Brad Rowland shocked the crowd at the Shootout by showing up in a South Bay pontoon boat with triple ‘toons powered by three Mercury Racing 300X outboards. He ran over 100 mph, thrilling the crowd. Interestingly, a competing Merc Racing sterndrive-powered PlayCraft pontoon tied Rowland for the top spot in the category.
Since then, Rowland has run the fastest pontoon at the Shootout every year, and in 2014, he even hit 114 mph. For this year’s event, South Bay built him a new boat. Still running the 300X outboards, he hit 109 mph.
Even though he calls the Shootout “the most nerve-wracking week” of his life, Rowland enjoys the seven days because it brings together his family and friends. “The family loves it, and we’ve got a load of friends who come down.”
He’ll keep coming back because, of course, he wants to go faster. “My goal is 120 mph. I ran this new boat two times before the Shootout on my home lake, and it hit 117 mph.”
The Last-Minute Entry
On the evening of Wednesday, August 26, Ryan McClay was standing at a car-racing track in southern Ontario, Canada, when he and his friends decided they should go to the Shootout. They hooked up his 39-foot Nor-Tech center console’s trailer and drove 15 hours straight, arriving in Missouri on Friday.
“I was just going to go down and check it out,” McClay laughs. “We found some helmets and life jackets and ran it.”
McClay has owned a number of high-performance boats from Nor-Tech, including a high-speed catamaran. But when he idled up to the start at the Shootout and looked at the crowd, he couldn’t believe how nervous he was.
“My buddy, Matt, told me, ‘You gotta calm down,’” McClay recalls. “I was looking at the start, and I could feel the pre-race anxiety of wanting not to do something stupid.”
To the contrary, he made a perfect pass with his four Mercury Racing 400R outboards in sync. His Nor-Tech 39-footer hit 93 mph, earning him the Center Console Top Gun award, much to the delight of his friends, along with Trond Schou, Nor-Tech Powerboats president, and Terry Sobo, vice president of sales.
“I’m going back,” McClay says. “We definitely could go faster. We had a barbecue on there. The cooler was full. We even had propane tanks on board.”
The Equal Oportunist
Carrie Sixkiller of Oklahoma has been driving her 1993 Baja 24-foot Outlaw in the LOTO Shootout since 2007. She and her husband, Ron Jones, had attended the event for years prior, and Sixkiller always had it in the back of her mind that she wanted to participate.
The two went to Cottonwood, Nebraska, for a shootout, and Sixkiller drove the boat in the Powder Puff class, finishing third. The following year, Jones noticed that the organizers of the LOTO Shootout had moved the event’s no-wake zone and made other safety improvements. He told his wife, “I feel comfortable with you doing it.”
In 2007, Sixkiller ran 79 mph, winning her class. “I came through the finish line and did the classic girl thing and cried,” she laughs. “It was a lot of adrenaline.”
The following year, she made a 52 mph pass, but it was good enough to win. Since 2011, she has come out on top in her 24-foot boat powered by a Mercury Racing HP 525SC. This year, a 66 mph pass was good enough to take home a winner’s plaque.
One thing she doesn’t want anymore: a Powder Puff or all-female class. “That’s what I love about the Shootout. I get to run with those guys for one day, and I’m like, holy crap, I got to run with all these professional racers.”
The Family Affair
Jim Dorris, president of PlayCraft Boats (playcraftboats.com) of Richland, Missouri, has been using the LOTO Shootout to promote the capabilities of pontoon boats since his debut at the event in 1995. He started with a 26-foot pontoon powered by a MerCruiser 350 Mag MPI and hit 46 mph.
“Everybody kind of chuckled because there was a pontoon out there with all those hot shots,” says Jim, now 71. At last year’s Shootout, he ran a 30-foot PlayCraft X-Treme with twin Mercury Remanufacturing 383 Mag Strokers with Whipple superchargers burning 110-octane fuel. He only hit 88 mph because of a problem with one of the superchargers, but the boat has seen 94 mph.
Jim’s family has also gotten in on the action. His wife, Carolyn, has been running since 1998, and this year she ran 67 mph in a 27-foot PlayCraft X-Treme powered by a Mercury Racing 520 sterndrive. David Dorris, Jim’s oldest son, skipped the Shootout last year to go hunting, which made space for a third-generation driver.
J.T. Dorris, 20, is Jim’s grandson. He ran a 25-foot PlayCraft with a twin-stepped pontoon design powered by a 350 hp Mercury Verado four-stroke outboard. “I took him out for about 20 minutes to learn the boat, and I was confident enough to turn him loose and let him go,” Jim says. J.T. ran 66 mph in his first Shootout effort.
“I want to sell boats that anyone can get in and drive,” Jim explains. “I’ve always looked at it from the standpoint of it’s not who wins or loses, it’s showing people what pontoons are capable of.” And when you watch them at the Shootout, it’s pretty clear they’re capable of more than most people realize.
Jason Zolecki, 39, and his brother, Joel, 41, grew up boating on Lake of the Ozarks, and they’ve had a marine service business in the area since 1997. They started selling Velocity powerboats and had a 32-footer that they ran in the shootout from 1997 to 1999.
“That was back when the Shootout was cool,” Jason says. “You had competition. The class thing has changed so much. They’ve added a class for everybody basically.”
Last year was the Zolecki brothers’ first time back to the event since 2008. They restored and ran a 1989 22-foot Velocity to remind participants and spectators of the days when the Shootout benefitted local firefighters. The boat is powered by a 200 hp Evinrude outboard, painted red and white, and has a fireman’s Maltese cross on the deck. It’s named Lil Squirt.
“I assumed we’d have the smallest and slowest boat with the least horsepower,” Jason says. Based on the crowd’s reaction, they also had one of the most popular.
“I stayed close to the crowd so they could see the little boat come through.”
That’s the beauty of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. It doesn’t matter what size boat you have. Pay the entry fee, and you’re a racer for a day.