Remembering John Haggin—The Man Behind The AMF/GEICO Team

Remembering John Haggin—The Man Behind The AMF/GEICO Team

One of offshore powerboat racing’s most colorful characters and greatest benefactors, John Haggin, died yesterday of undisclosed causes in Clearwater, Fla. He was 67 years old.

Offshore racing, especially of the turbine-engine kind, fascinated Haggin. Though he never raced a lap himself, he started AMF Racing in 2003, which with the acquisition of insurance-giant GEICO became AMF/GEICO Racing and eventually simply Miss GEICO.

(From left) Marc Granet, Ken Warby, John Haggin and Scott Begovich became close during the AMF Offshore Racing days of the mid-to-late 2000s. Photo courtesy/copyright Gary Stray.

With a keen eye for passionate talent when he started the team, Haggin recruited then unknown driver Marc Granet and throttleman Scott Begovich, who remained in the cockpit until 2017. Granet said Haggin was as unique as he was tenacious.

“Haggin wouldn’t take no for an answer or shy away from a challenge,” Granet said. “He loved his fun but the more you knew him the more you saw the method to his madness. He loved having his big offshore family, perhaps a sign of his upbringing with little family around. He loved his big dinners and crazy parades. He was definitely a world-class showman, but unlike many driven by ego and fame he was happy to just be a part of the action. And he built the most recognizable boat in the world—yes, he chose the color—and the greatest team in offshore history.

“His vision of a turbine race class and taking two obscure unknown racers and handing them the keys to his $1 million, 200-mph raceboat was indicative of his ‘break all the rules’ mentality,” he continued, then chuckled. “I loved that about him. Scotty and I were his gladiators and he called me his ‘personal rock-star.’”

Begovich was equally grateful for his association with Haggin.

“John Haggin made my racing dreams come true,” Begovich explained. “He was more than a friend, he was family. He was such a big part of my life, and I will miss him greatly.”

Famous in offshore racing circles for feeding members of racing fleets on Saturday night before Sunday races, Haggin announced he was exiting the offshore racing world at the 2010 Offshore Powerboat Association World Championships in Orange Beach, Ala. In his seven years in the sport, he spearheaded its turbine-class movement via OPA and Super Boat International, and though the class never attracted a large fleet, various turbine-powered Miss GEICO catamarans were a constant presence on the racecourse until the team’s 50-foot Mystic cat burned to the waterline two years later during a practice for the Suncoast Grand Prix—now the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix—in Southwest Florida.

In 2021, after a 14-year partnership, GEICO opted out of sponsoring the Miss GEICO team. But the nucleus of the Miss GEICO owners group—Granet, Begovich, Scott Colton, the late Gary Goodell and Gary Stray—went on to support not one but two Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 offshore racing teams.

And it all started with Haggin.

“John always said, ‘Treat everyone like you want to be treated,’” Colton said. “He also used to say, ‘My father loved nothing better than to have a Sunday barbecue and invite everyone and enjoy good food, good drink and good company.’”

And that—being among friends and extended family—as well as his generous nature explained Haggin’s legendary Saturday night dinners for anyone who happened by the dry pits.

Added Granet, “People like Haggin cross your path once in a lifetime. We were fortunate to get to spend a lot of time in his wild world. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”

Related stories
Haggin Retires
Can Offshore Racing Survive Without John Haggin?
Gecko Gary—The Wizard Of Miss GEICO: Remembering Gary Goodell
Commentary: We’ll Miss You Miss GEICO
Driving Miss GEICO: Three Views From The Cockpit
Miss GEICO Ends 14-Year Run With Late-Season Exit
Miss GEICO Burns Down In Sarasota, Crew OK
Image Of Week: Homage To The Last Turbine Miss GEICO



Boat Lyfe