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July 10, 2008

 

McKnight gets to show off in ‘backyard’

Syracuse Hydrofest next outing for Cortland racer

McKnight

Photo provided by Keith McKnight
Cortland’s Keith McKnight sits beside his racing boat “All Jacked Up.”

By TANEY BEAUMONT
Staff Writer
Keith McKnight is coming home.
In a way, the resident of Cortland the last seven years technically is home. But as a driver in the National Modified class of the American Power Boat Association, he will be competing in his backyard for the first time during this weekend’s Syracuse Hydrofest on Onondaga Lake.
“I’m exited to have an event I can drive to from my house and not have to get a hotel,” said the 35-year-old New Jersey native, whose father Bill raced boats and who has been involved in the APBA for the last 15 years, including as the owner of a national Modified craft (NM32, All Jacked Up) the last three.
“We’ll finally have some people from around here that can come and see it first-hand without having to travel far. It should be fun,” he added. “I’m looking forward to it. We’re trying to make this an annual event. The state’s behind it and the sponsors are supporting it pretty well. Hopefully Syracuse will enjoy it and we’ll draw people from all over the place.”
The event is presented by the Updowntowners of Syracuse in conjunction with the Central New York Hydroplane Association, and is sanctioned by APBA and the Canadian Boating Federation. It will include competition in five or six different classes, according to McKnight, including National Modified, the second-biggest V8 class.
McKnight has competed in one race during the still-young season, finishing second in the four-boat World Championship last weekend on the St. Lawrence River near Valleyfield, Quebec. A total of 47 boats are registered in the National Modified Class, whose competitors primarily utilize 368 cubic-inch V-8 engines and reach speeds of around 140 miles per hour. McKnight, who finished in the top 20 last season, said that four boats need to be competing in an event in order for it to be official for points rather than an exhibition.
He has been in contact with his fellow racers on the internet and expects that criterion to be met, though he noted: “It’s a struggling class due to concerns with the economy.” McKnight’s boat sports a red and yellow paint job, which was done last year by Paul McCarty of Groton.
The racers will vie over four laps of a mile and a quarter each in two heats at Willow Bay on Saturday and another on Sunday morning before the final on Sunday afternoon. McKnight said the first National Modified heat should be run at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, with each of the five or six classes running a heat prior to an hour break, and then doing it all over again.
The same format will be followed Sunday, though McKnight noted the overall starting time might be pushed back an hour to 11:30 a.m.
Admission to the Syracuse Hydrofest, which actually begins Friday night with a Kickoff Party at the Inner Harbor featuring music, beverages, food and viewing of race boats, is free. In admission to the racing there will be two food courts, two beverage tents with continuous live entertainment, a Kids Play Zone and craft and merchandise vendors.
THE INNER HARBOR will also be the site for the second annual Dig Volleyball Bash and Musical Festival slated for Saturday, Aug. 9.
The event benefits the Multiple Sclerosis Society and runs from 8:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. There will be two volleyball tournaments, one for six-person recreational teams in the morning followed by a four-person intermediate tournament at 1:30 p.m.
Registration at both levels is mandatory. There is an entry fee. To register visit the Dig Foundation website at www.digsyracuse.org.