top of page

Northern Illinois Drag Boat Association Renames Open Class for Joel Silverstein

Announced at the 2021 Northern Illinois Drag Boat Association (NIDBA) banquet, top club Open Class renamed for Thunder on the Chain racer Joel Silverstein, following his unexpected passing last July.

With 30+ years behind the wheel, Joel was an icon in the Midwest of the drag boat racing community. A "street" racer at heart, he could always be found in the Blarney Island pit on Thursday nights during the summer racing season.

Joel earned high-point championships more times than the family can't count, inspiring many drivers - including his sons and their friends - over the years. This racing story began with Joel as a spectator at the island, but it wasn't long before he picked up a black, blue, and yellow Nordic jet boat and outfitted with a Big Block Chevy he built himself. The Nordic ran well in the Lake Racer Inboard class; the need for more speed led to an Eliminator Daytona and, later, a custom-to-him Ervin Capps Cheyenne called 'Old's Cool.'

“The NIDBA community lost a legend this year. While it won't replace him, it's an honor to rename the Open Class for Joel 'Champion Dad' Silverstein as we look ahead to the 2022 season.”

The Cheyenne was Joel's pride and joy, and, like any good driver/owner, he never shared the boat's secrets. His youngest son, Adam, remembers the trip from Chicago to Arkansas to pick up the Cheyenne - his dad was so excited to get it home they departed Eureka Springs heading in the wrong direction. Ron, Joel's eldest, recalls a visit from a NASA scientist several years later and the effort put forth to flip the Cheyenne over and get to work maximizing the boat's speed potential. This past summer, Ervin himself visited Blarney Island with his most recent project - the Farm Truck jet boat - and shared a few laughs over video call with Joel before re-introducing the team to his daughter. As a petite young person, she crawled down into the Cheyenne's hull to finish laying the boat up in time for Joel's racing season.

Joel Silverstein (back) exits the pit at Blarney Island in his Cheyenne Jet Boat, 'Old's School', while son Ron Silverstein returns to the island in the same Eliminator Daytona his dad ran years before.

In his late 60's, Joel was at the top of his racing career, earning high point championships in every class along the way. He considered retiring from the sport but didn't hesitate to rebuild the Cheyenne's motor once more following a late-season blowout. In the first half of the 2021 season, Joel worked closely with his sons to get the Cheyenne race-ready but never had the chance to dunk her in the water. Joel visited the island a few times and kept up with every pass his kids put on, thanks to a pit crew who kept the team's "Champion Dad" on their video speed dial. Six days after Joel's passing, Ron dipped 'Old's School' into Grass Lake on a Thursday night and headed out to the island.

A fifth-generation owner of Central Sheet Metal products, self-proclaimed 'tin basher,' and knowledgeable mechanic with a passion for high-speed racing, Joel Silverstein's impact on the NIDBA racing community is immeasurable. Joel put on thousands of passes throughout his racing career, competed in sanctioned KDBA and NIDBA events, and was a weekly closer at Blarney Island's Thunder on the Chain. But, most importantly, he brought five next-generation inboard racers into the fold, made racing a family tradition, and, through his legacy, ensured the sport and Bad Apples Racing would forever be a family affair.

On November 13, 2021, NIDBA Owner Chris Alby presented multiple awards to the Bad Apples racing team members. Among them, Joel's final High Points Champion Jacket embroidered with the nickname he had written on the side of his boat when his boys were young, 'Champion Dad.' "The NIDBA community lost a legend this year, "Chris shared. 'While it won't replace him, it's an honor to rename the Open Class for Joel 'Champion Dad' Silverstein as we look ahead to the 2022 season."



bottom of page