• A Tribute to Joey Gratton

    by Serious Offshore

    Joey Gratton

    Last week in Key West we lost some people very dear to us. One of those, Joey Gratton, throttled two of the boats participating. I was with some of the Page Motorsports team watching the race and I was the one who informed them the boat had rolled in Turn One. Although concerned for our friends, we were confident in the team, the boat, and the rescue teams. Little did we know……

    I did not know Joey as long as some of you. I was lucky enough to meet him last year in the pits. He was someone I was hoping I could get to teach me some pointers about throttling a race boat when the time came. To Joey’s credit, he actually took the time to talk to people at the races. He was never “too busy” to chat with fans or beginning racers. Joey and I shared a mutual connection in that we both competed in the sport of motocross racing back in the 70’s. While I’m still investigating, it’s likely that we raced on the same tracks during AMA Circuit races in Oregon and Washington during those early years. If that’s the case, the idea of this being a small world really hits home.

    In 1997, Joey joined the sport of offshore powerboat racing. At that time he was quoted as saying “Racing is racing, you’re going from motorcycles to boats, but you got the same theory and use the same basic knowledge, setting up lines on the track. If you can do one, you can do anything.” With Joey on the throttles, the Page Motorsports team was three-time world champion and captured the national championship an astonishing seven times.

    Joey was the throttleman in 1998 on the Hooters team with Page which won the American Powerboat Association World Championships held in Biloxi, Miss. Back then, Gratton teamed with Page and crew chief Jon Maas of Naples to win racing’s Grand Slam, which included the Southeastern, Gold Cup, National and World championships. Joey was also the throttleman on Dirty Duck with Slug Hefner when they set the APBA Supercat Light record at 115.37 mph.

    Joey commented about the 2001 death of powerboating legend Jack Carmody in which his boat flipped in a Texas race. “We were real good friends; we went to the hospital after the accident,” he said. “It makes you think that this could happen to any one of us.”

    On the team’s Facebook page, “There are no words to describe the loss our family is feeling,” wrote Page’s daughter, Maisy. “There was no greater man than Joey Gratton and there is nothing that will ever replace the huge hole in all of our hearts.”

    Videographer and documentarian Tom MacKnight assembled this video as a tribute to Joey. Tom has graciously given us permission to link it to this article. As Tom said to me, “It was tough to make.” It is both tough, and uplifting, to watch. He said it best in his introduction, “Joey became a great friend. He always encouraged and supported me and I will be forever grateful. After losing Joey in an accident in Key West, I went back and put all the unused interview footage together and made this tribute. I hope if you knew Joey you enjoy this piece. If you didn’t know Joey, I hope this gives you an insight to what you missed.”

    I attended Joey’s memorial service in Key West, along with every racer and fan that could possibly be there. Rev. Jim Black did an outstanding job of describing what Joey was like, and how much he will be missed. It really hits home when many of your “tough” racer friends can do nothing but give you a hug, with tears in their eyes, completely unable to speak.

    Joey was that kind of person. I call it infectious with life. We will all miss him.

    Paul Rose

    Godspeed, Joey