Suncoast boat racer a fixture at Sarasota races

SARASOTA, Fla. -- If you heard a roar and saw a flash on Sarasota Bay Friday, it was probably super boat racer Steve Kildahl and his son getting ready for next week's grand prix race.

Kildahl is the defending champion. He won last year's class and he hopes to do the same this year. He's competed every year of the 30-year-old Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix, and he's crossed that finish line first a lot of times.

He's living his dream. "It was a childhood dream when we could afford to do it. That happened to be back in 1985 when they had the first race, and I've been doing it ever since."

He's Sarasota born and bred, graduated from Sarasota High School, went to work for a marina in town, and in 1980 he opened his own business Central Marine Service.

And these days the races are more fun than ever. "Now I have my son racing with me. He's been with me 6 years; he's the driver of the boat, and we're an awesome team."

Kildahl's life revolves around boats. "We work on the boat in the off-season. The World Championships are usually the 2nd week in November in Key West, and that's the end of our season. The season starts up again in April so in the off-time we're working on the boat, making changes, and getting ready for the next season."

Now of course they're right in the middle of the season. "We run the Super Boat International Circuit. The first race of the season we were 4th, in Port Charlotte 3 weeks ago we were 2nd."

He hopes to hit speeds up to 94 miles an hour in this race. Things happen lightning-fast at that speed.

They 've had some close calls. "Two years ago at the World Championship we were running 2nd, and in some pretty rough seas (we) hit a weird wave, took a flier, and spun and knock on wood we did not end up upside down. We ended up right side up."

And neither of them was hurt.

And he says now that offshore racing is closer to shore and you can see all the action from the beach, it's more exciting than ever for the spectators.

And Steve says for him the thrill is still there. "After the orange smoke goes off, the adrenaline starts pumping, and it's a mad dash to the first turn."

He'll have a lot of competition out there. 40 boats have pre-registered, and each team will be pushing their boat to the limit.

You can see Steve race on Sunday, July 6th.  He's in the 1st race. Just look for boat #2. It says Sarasota Ford on the side.