A week or so after the GLOC Performance Boat Challenge Shootout on Grand Land O’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma, Kenny Mungle, the owner and driver of the Gone Again 32-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran that has become a fan-favorite at top-speed contests from Arizona to Missouri, had to face an unpleasant fact. He and throttleman Michael Lee Lockwood weren’t going to be able to compete in the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, his favorite event. The cat’s port 1,550-hp Sterling Performance engine had been damaged during the second day of the GLOC event, and there simply wasn’t enough time to get it repaired and back in the boat.
Mungle is a gentleman, a soft-spoken 52-year-old Texan who exudes Lone Star State charm. He’s also a realist. Still, his decision to withdraw from the Central Missouri top-speed happening—where he and Lockwood ran 188 mph twice last year in the 15-year-old catamaran in front of throngs of adoring spectators—didn’t come easily.
“My heart is broken that I’m not at LOTO,” he said a few days before the Central Missouri event.
So, too, were the hearts of Gone Again fans everywhere when the news of the team’s withdrawal was announced in a story on speedonthewater.com.
And once the story hit social media, people from all over the country begged Mungle to participate. But the tough decision—among the toughest he’s made since his first top-speed shootout at Lake of the Ozarks in 2010—had been made. And on the bright side, it gave him and Lockwood time to regroup and plan for the coming Shootout year.
Before that, however, they’ll run the Gone Again/STIHL Skater 388 catamaran, the last-generation STIHL cat that Mungle purchased from the family of Robert “J.R.” Noble shortly after his sudden death in January, in Clearwater, Fla., for the Super Boat International National Championships.
The event is set for Oct. 2. For Mungle and Lockwood, it will be their third offshore race.
As always, Mungle is taking a humble approach—humility and respect for others are his most obvious character traits.
“Honestly, I’ll be really happy for us to go out and finish,” Mungle said. “It’s a right-hand turn event. I have never raced to the right. We are going to go have a good time. If I start dead last and finish dead last, I’m happy. If I start last and finish first I’m my happy. My goal is just to finish.
“I’m going up against John Tomlinson, Grant Bruggemann, Billy Mauff, Randy Sweers and all the rest of those guys,” he added. “Those are the top dogs, I’m just a little pup. If we finish, we’re doing all right.”
Lockwood, a fellow Texan from the Seabrook area who joined Mungle in the cockpit in 2013 and has run with him in five top-speed contests to date, said his teammate comes by his humble and respectful nature honestly.
“It’s not a façade,” he said. “Kenny’s motto is: ‘Do good things and good things happen.’ That’s become our team motto. He makes sure everybody adheres to that. We are very fortunate—I am remarkably fortunate he asked me to do what I get to do. It’s surreal.”
Said fellow top-speed shootout competitor Win Farnsworth of Low Altitude team fame, “Kenny has got an absolute desire to influence and change a community. He loves to get out and make people smile. You’ve seen it at LOTO, Desert Storm and the Texas Outlaw Challenge. I like to say that one of the things that makes life great is sharing it with others. Kenny is that guy. He exudes that desire to share great times with others.”
Inside Out Kenny Mungle frequently talks about himself in the third person, a trait that is obnoxious in professional athletes and celebrities but utterly charming in him. Somehow, he’s transformed a self-aggrandizing speaking habit into a selfdeprecating one. So when he says something like, “Kenny Mungle is a weak swimmer”— he is, in fact, a weak swimmer— he’s not deifying himself. He’s simply saying that he’s taken an objective, third-person look at his own swimming ability and has concluded that it’s not good.
That isn’t to say Mungle doesn’t have an ego—like all of his fellow shootout competitors he does. No one risks life and limb in the pursuit of aquatic speed with zero return on investment other than fan appreciation and, in the words of Farnsworth, “an eight-dollar trophy” without having at least a minimal investment in ego gratification. But Mungle’s ego plays backup to his inherently competitive nature. “Kenny is competitive at heart,” Lockwood said. “He likes to win.” Farnsworth, Mungle’s chief rival despite the disparate nature of their two boats (Farnsworth runs a twin 1,800-hp turbine enginepowered 50-foot Mystic) agreed. “He is an absolute competitor and he’s very good at running that 32-foot boat,” he said. “But that’s maybe five percent of Kenny Mungle. It’s his emotion and desire to do what’s right that pulls him up. “
I think it (the Gone Again/ Low Altitude rivalry) just evolved,” Farnsworth continued. “We’re just two bubbly personalities who wound up on the docks jabbing at each other. It grew out of that. People love to pick a side, so when we go to events we decided to ‘lay it on’ a bit. And that seemed to resonate with the fans. But it’s never been harsh. It’s always been friendly. Sometimes, as the guys who run the boats, we get this perception that people are there to watch the boats. But what they really want are the people. Kenny is the kind of guy people want to be around. That type of personality is not replaceable.”
Mungle readily admits to being competitive. The son of Kenneth and Elvie Mungle, who died earlier this year after a prolonged illness, he said he’s always been that way. His competitive nature has been the key to his success as a businessman. Mungle and his wife, Myna, own a company called Kenco Bucket Trucks, an outfit that literally lifts wires so loads higher than 16’6”—his company handled transporting the Boeing 747 used to move the Space Shuttle to the NASA Museum in Houston—can travel to their final destinations.
But Mungle’s need to please and entertain people is as much—if not more—a driver for him on the racecourse as is his desire to win.
“I love to go out and meet people and make new friends,” Mungle said. “I love to see the kids. I love to see their faces light up. I love to let them crawl inside the boats and take pictures. I love our fans. That’s what drives Kenny Mungle. My boating friends and fans are like family. It’s a great community.”
Mungle and Lockwood don’t take themselves too seriously. They “constantly play pranks” on one another, according to Lockwood. But it’s what happens in the boat that they take very seriously. They know they’re involved in a dangerous activity that could, at any given moment, end badly.
“We’re both safety-minded— at the end of the day we want to come home,” Lockwood said. “We’re not big partiers. I know that’s disappointed a few people. We’re in bed early. We’re up early. We enjoy going to the social events, but when we go to an event we’re there to compete. That’s pretty much it.”
What Lies Ahead
As often happens with humble people, Mungle is a great listener. He’s taken advice on everything from piloting his boat to setting it up from some of the biggest names in the high-performance world including offshore racing great John Tomlinson of TNT Custom Marine, as well as marine engine aces Mike D’Anniballe of Sterling Performance and Bob Teague of Teague Custom Marine.
“I think everybody knows a little bit so I listen really closely to the people I call ‘the professionals,’” he said. “I don’t think anyone knows everything. But I do think everyone knows a little bit.”
With the 2016 shootout season in the books and the 2017 season eight months away—the first liquid-mile top-speed contest will be during the Desert Storm event in early May—Mungle has plenty of time to make plans. In fact, he’s already made several. He won’t, for example, return to the Texas Outlaw Challenge unless the shootout course is moved from Galveston Bay to Clear Lake. He most likely will return to the Desert Storm, GLOC and Lake of the Ozarks events—that last one is a definite—next year.
But his longer-term plans include “retiring” the 32-footer as a shootout boat and transforming the Skater 388 Gone Again/STIHL catamaran (he’s keeping the STIHL name as a tribute to J.R. Noble) into a ride that can pull double duty as a top-speed machine and Superboat-class offshore raceboat. To make that happen, he’s looking into an enginemounting system that can swap out the 38-footer’s 750-hp class-specified engines with his Sterling Performance beasts.
“I would like to see a 192-, 194-mph pass in the 32,” Mungle said. “I think that’s very doable. Once I do that, the 32 is done setting records. I will detune the engines and run it as a pleasure boat.
“But whatever we do, it will always be about making our fans happy,” he added. “That’s the part of the sport I really love, the fans.”
And the fans make Kenny Mungle run.
This article originally published at: https://speedonthewater.com/in-the-news/magazine/3990-lake-of-the-ozarks-takes-center-stage-in-new-speed-on-the-water-digital-magazine
Written by: Matt Trulio – speedonthewater.com