NIDBA Featured in Drag Boat Review

The NIDBA was featured in the April 2016 issue of the Drab Boat Review (

See PDF of article here: NIDBA article

Introducing the NIDBA
Submitted by: David Lester, Commodore

NIDBA article-image1Drag Boat Review has graciously agreed to include regular articles about Drag Boat Racing conducted this season by the Northern Illinois Drag Boat Association NIDBA).

“The who” – – you might ask? Let me tell you… The NIDBA is made up of drag boat racers who call Blarney Island on Grass Lake in Antioch, Illinois their home track. Blarney Island and the NIDBA are now entering their 36th consecutive drag boat racing season. This is the only weekly drag boat racing venue in the world, where races are conducted every Thursday evening from Memorial Day through Labor

The Northern Illinois Drag Boat Association (NIDBA) was first formed during the early 1980’s to manage weekly drag boat races conducted at Blarney Island. ‘The Island’ is self-proclaimed to be the world’s greatest boating bar and has been the ‘home track’ for 14 Drag Boat Racers – eleven inboard and three outboard – who have won 26 National Championship Titles and set 11 World Speed and/or low ET Records with various US/North American boat race sanctioning organizations, including the APBA, IHBA (Lucas Oil), NDBA, ADBA, SDBA, KDBA, SLDBA and ODBA. Grass Lake is the third largest lake on the Fox Chain-O’Lakes, which has been the world’s busiest waterway on a peracre-basis since the Roaring Twenties. The Fox Waterway Agency registers 24,000- 28,000 vessels each year to operate on just over 7,000 surface-acres and 45 miles of navigable channels. This is Chicago’s Boating Playground.

The original NIDBA lasted less than a decade. By 1990, Blarney Island’s primary owner, John Haley, assumed 100% of the race program management responsibilities. Several years after the incorporation and sale of Blarney Island,Inc. in 2013 the NIDBA was re-formed and assumed sanctioning and race program oversight responsibilities. It was reincorporated in 2015 and has recently acquired the racing assets from the now inactive St. Louis Drag boat Association.

The NIDBA Corporation is owned by President, John Groth, and operated by elected and appointed race participants who serve as its Executive Race Committee (ERC). Within the ERC there are two sections, the Inboard Race Committee (IRC) and the Outboard Race Committee, whose interests are self-explanatory. Additional supporting positions include the Club Secretary and the Race Referee. Learn more at The NIDBA sanctions and oversees the safe management of the weekly Blarney Island drag boat racing program “Thunder on the Chain” and its boat racing participants. Now in its 36th season, Blarney Island Corp. and its President, Rob Hardman, serve as the event sponsor, host and promoter, providing the venue, prize money and race course staffing. Learn more about Blarney Island at Both Blarney Island and the NIDBA have Facebook pages and multiple YouTube videos that can be accessed via a normal web search using Bing, Google, Internet Explorer, …etc.

This is the only place on earth where heads-up, side-by-side, single elimination drag boat racing takes place on open water every week during the summer months, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Blarney Island racers are known for their lack of fear when it comes to racing in slop and chop. Starting in 2016, the NIDBA will also promote, sanction and conduct outside one day racing and exhibition events. Venues have been identified and discussions are ongoing with event Hosts, Promoters and Sponsors. Island and ‘outside’ race events are also sanctioned by the American Outboard Federation (AOF), who reviews and accepts NIDBA rules and event racing procedures.

All participants, including drivers, owners and their on-board crew members, must join the AOF and the NIDBA to race. The vessel and on-board racing equipment will be pre-inspected for general ‘soundness’ and suitability for purpose. Personal protection equipment (PPE) including racing life jackets, helmets and restraints are also required, as defined by the NIDBA for each of the eight racing classes. Inspections will not be conducted on race day unless prior arrangements have been made with NIDBA inspectors.

All club members, whether full or associate, are subject to compliance with the club’s general rules, policies and procedures. NIDBA activities include but are not limited-to: boat registration and inspection, PPE inspection, racing class assignment, weekly race event registrations, randomly set first round race pairings and over-all administration of the event. The NIDBA Code of Conduct applies to all participants and their visiting associates’ behavior throughout the year. This includes comments made in public and recorded in the social media. Procedures and penalties exist to manage race protests and rules infractions. These are available upon request.

Blarney Island drag boat racing is only the latest, albeit the longest running, chapter in the Fox Chain-O’Lakes boat racing history. Before Blarney drag racing, between 1958 and 1964, the Chain-O’Lakes Boat Club produced six APBA Inboard National Champions who won nine National Championship Titles and set nine World Speed Records. Not counting all of the Midwest’s boat racers nor the ‘factory racers’ from OMC (Waukegan, IL) who have raced here, the Fox Chain-O’Lakes has been ‘home’ to more than 35 National and World Champions who have won 50 National Championship Racing Titles and set more than 25 World Speed

The NIDBA is dedicated to the preservation and growth of drag boat racing as a family oriented sport. Now that you have been formally introduced – – we hope to see you at a Blarney Island ‘Thunder on the Chain’ event this summer!

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