Powerboat Grand Prix attendees, racers share first impressions as event begins

Matthew Strother

May 12, 2014

At the beginning of the weekend’s Powerboat Grand Prix, attendees were filing in to see something new in Troup County, and the out-of-town racers and their crews were getting their first impressions of the area.

Mark Proffitt, driver of one the powerboats, came with his family and pit crew from the Knoxville, Tennessee, area. He said Saturday before the race that Pyne Road Park was a nice facility and he saw part of the Battle of the Bands when coming into town late Friday night.

“It was neat to see the concert downtown when we drove through,” he said.

Proffitt has been racing powerboats since 1999 and competed all over the country in areas of Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; and competed in Texas last week. Proffitt described the event “like NASCAR on water.”

“These boats are pulling about 4.5 Gs on corners,” he said. “They are the fastest-turning machines in the world.”

Noah Iglesias, pit crew member for sibling racers Robert and Ashton Rinker out of Tampa, Florida, said their group came into town Friday afternoon. His impression of LaGrange was a “not-too-big, not-too-small town,” and he also was impressed with Pyne Road Park.

“This is actually a really nice park, and … in town where LaGrange College is, that’s a pretty nice downtown area too,” Iglesias said.

Before races began, several groups of people already were gathered Saturday morning to watch as the boats made practice runs and were lowered into the water, some by a massive crane perched at the lake’s edge used to lower in the larger boats.

Jeff Harper of Valley, Alabama, was with his son, Jeffery, and grandchildren watching the boats make practice runs Saturday morning.

“We’re just killin’ time,” he said.

He said he brought the young children because he thought it would be fun for them to watch.

“Maybe they’ll do it again next year,” he added.

Michael Elrod was with family members, including some children, at the event. He said he came out because the event was free and “something to do in Troup County.”

“So far, so good,” he said. “We’ll be back out tomorrow. … Overall, it’s awesome.”

Elrod added that they saw the rider undergo “dunk testing” at local hotel pool on Friday, something else the children enjoyed.

Nick Powell said he brought his children out to see the boats. At 26 years old, Powell said he can’t recall anything like the Grand Prix in Troup County before.

“LaGrange is known for being kinda dull,” he said. “I’m surprised they’re not charging … It’s awesome for the kids. It’ll be something for them to remember.”