Racing: Rookie Keys Ready For Lake Race Following 450R Factory Stock Debut Victory In Cocoa Beach
Forget the fact that Iowa performance boater Randy Keys had not competed on any offshore racecourse in any class prior to last Sunday’s Thunder On Cocoa Beach race in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Or that he’d never even boated in the ocean before testing in the Atlantic Ocean waters a couple of days before the race. Neither of those was the No. 1 reason the owner and driver of the KLOVAR Motorsports team didn’t expect a victory in his first 450R Factory Stock class race at the season opener of the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series.
Teammates Randy Keys and Bill Allen are off to a good start in the 450R Factory Stock class, which features boats powered by a pair of Mercury Racing 450R engines. Photo by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
The rookie racer making his debut alongside his good friend and veteran throttleman Bill Allen was pretty certain that the MTI-backed team that shepherded the probationary class in 2021 behind legendary throttleman Johnny Tomlinson and protégé driver Taylor Scism would lead the way in its new MTI 390XR raceboat. He was right, but only partially.
Campaigning the 390XR that Scism and Tomlinson proved race-ready last season, Keys and Allen, who also races in Super Stock class and finished third in Sunday’s race in his Team Allen Lawn Care And Landscaping Doug Wright, mainly followed their only other competitor for a majority of the race in some pretty rough conditions. To make matters more challenging than anticipated, Keys said the team lost communications on turn one of the first lap and had to use hand signals the rest of the race.
“We got beat up pretty good out there,” said Randy Keys, owner and driver of the KLOVAR Motorsports MTI. Photo by Pete Boden
“The course was a little rough, especially for my first race, and not having Bill’s coaching and communication hurt us in my opinion,” Keys said. “We got beat up pretty good out there. The boat is well-built and handled everything we put it through, but man did we still take a beating.
“Taylor and Johnny put on a clinic out there—they really showed us how it’s done,” he continued. “It was such great experience. I learned a lot running behind them. And, because of some mechanical issues, Bill and I were able to get by them on the final lap and take home the checkered flag and some pretty cool hardware. It’s funny because Bill and I are fairly modest people, so we both contemplated not even putting up the flag. But Johnny, the class act that he is, told us to put the flag up because we earned it.”
Tomlinson was spot-on; and he’d know being that he’s been on the winning and losing end of many races thanks to boats that weren’t able to finish.
The KLOVAR Motorsports crew was all smiles after winning the first 450R Factory Stock class race of 2022. Photo courtesy Randy Keys
Keys, who said he’s honored to share the course Scism and Tomlinson, is extremely excited for next Saturday’s Lake Race (June 4) on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, home water for both 450R Factory Stock teams.
“We’re expecting a fun week and a great turnout for our hometown race,” Keys said. “I’m excited to get more time in the boat after the experience in Cocoa Beach. Nothing we did that week was easy—it takes an army to do this sport. I’m so grateful for our good friends with Team BA Motorsports – Team Allen Lawn Care And Landscaping. Without them this wouldn’t have happened.
“And to the KLOVAR Motorsports team and fans, thank you,” he added with exclamation. “You all pitched in and went way above the call to make (Cocoa Beach) successful no matter the outcome. The support from the MTI team was huge and we had a great leader in Gene Greber. If it weren’t for his late nights and amazing leadership there is no doubt the outcome would’ve changed. And I have to thank my wife, Victoria Lynn Keys, who supports all my craziness—how she kept it together during the race I don’t know but I thank her for being by my side.”
Keys praised the Team Allen crew for its guidance during the season-opening race in Florida. Photo courtesy Randy Keys
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