Dennis Wright and his life’s dream to go fast was torn apart in the black of an early March night.
Tornadoes ripped through the western part of the Tri-State, devastating Crossville, Ill. and parts of Posey and Gibson County. It was a night many will never forget.
“It was right in the line of the tornado,” says Wright, “took a direct hit.”
You can expect to hear a roar on the river this weekend. Evansville’s HydroFest brings boat racing back to the River City for the first time in almost a decade.
Wright climbed out of the cockpit for the last time shortly after his son was born in 2009. When HydroFest was announced, he got that itch again. Now his son wants to see dad race.
The roar reignited his love affair with racing.
His heart broke on that March night. His dream was destroyed, along with his Poseyville workshop. Tools, parts, motors, and boats were gone in the blink of an eye.
“I just couldn’t get into my head, everything was just gone.”
Wright sits on the riverfront on a sun-soaked Wednesday afternoon. He thinks about this weekend as butterflies surely flutter in his stomach. Something magic is about to happen on the river.
Thanks to a fellow racer, Wright’s goal lives on. A competitor will look past a rivalry, and a friend will do what friends do.
“The big smile that came across his face when I made the offer was priceless,” says Mark Manos. He’s a driver coming all the way from Florida with his boat to race the Evansville circuit for the first time.
A man who saw his dream blown away in the black of night gets the chance for redemption aboard a boat called Black Magic.
“I hear it’s like riding a bicycle,” Wright laughs.
Manos plans to get him in the water Friday for some practice laps. It’ll surely knock the rust off. “As soon as he starts that engine and puts that long pedal on the right to the floor, he’s gone,” Manos says.
This weekend, there’s no one he’d rather share the wheel with.
“When the boat is sitting in the water and I get in the cockpit and I hear the waves splashing against the bottom of the boat,” Wright adds with a smile, “that’s when I get nervous.”
As a boy, Wright and his brother grew up playing with toy boats in their Posey County pond. That boy’s dream to go fast has never left.
“Sunday night of the race I’d go to bed thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, another year before the next race!’”
When he sleeps tonight, it’s just a day away.