'Thunder on the Chain' Drivers Speed Toward Final Race of Season at Blarney Island

  • Driver John Groth flies down the track in his 1974 Sanger Hydro powered by a DART632 Big Block at 134MPH.  Robert Dean

    Driver John Groth flies down the track in his 1974 Sanger Hydro powered by a DART632 Big Block at 134MPH. Robert Dean

 
 
Updated 8/24/2022 11:13 AM

Blarney Island on Grass Lake (Antioch, IL) is the only location in the world where high-performance drag boat racing takes place every Thursday Evening, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

This is bare-knuckles, heads-up, "race-what-you-brung' drag racing. The racecourse length is approximately 800 feet and is located on an open lake. The notoriously choppy waters have given Blarney Island racers a reputation for being fast and fearless.

 

All race participants are members of the Northern Illinois Drag Boat Association (NIDBA), Blarney Island's race event sanctioning organization, which manages the weekly race events. Blarney Island is the sponsor and race promoter, Chris Alby is the current association president.

This summer, thousands of spectators have gathered at Blarney Island to watch drivers of high-speed Personal Water Craft (PWC), Outboard, and Inboard boats lay down passes - some exceeding 150MPH when conditions are right. Crowd favorite John Groth is well known across Lake and McHenry counties for his fearless driving in the Multi-carb class. "This is a race you won't want to miss," announcer Joey Haley proclaims weekly over the P.A. system when John fires up "Insane," his 1974 Sanger Drag Hydro powered by a DART 632 Big Block.

"Racing with the NIDBA at Blarney Island has been a tradition for my family since the mid-'90s," driver Adam Silverstein of Bad Apples Racing shares. Adam's Nordic jet boat is aptly named "Family Affair.' He races alongside multiple family members, all of whom joined the racing community under the supportive leadership of late "Champion Dad" and Blarney Island legend Joel Silverstein. "It's been another great season," brother Ron Silverstein adds. Ron's had a few breakdowns this season but still has his eyes set on a championship jacket.

You'll find family fun when you venture out to the final races of the 2022 NIDBA season. Thunder on the Chain is a can't-miss event for boat enthusiasts of all ages with multiple father-son duos including the Schweizer and Gempp families. There are even a few bold female drivers in the mix!

With two weeks remaining in the 2022 season, drivers are racing to earn final points across ten classes. Races start at 6 P.M. on Thursday nights at Blarney Island with the last race taking place on September 1, weather permitting. Learn more about the race classes and current standings online at nidba.net. Information about shuttles and spectator parking is available at blarneyisland.com. Follow @NorthernIllinoisDragBoat on Facebook and Instagram for real-time updates.

Photo Credit: Robert Dean Imagery. Robert Dean is a local photographer based out of Antioch, Illinois. View a full gallery of 2022 NIDBA photos at robertdean.smugmug.com/NIDBA

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