Press Release

Boys and Their Boats Three father/son teams will compete Sunday in the Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix. Clockwise from upper left: Steve Kildahl, Stephen Kildahl, Allen Bryant, Robert Bryant, Clint Branch and Dave Branch By MC COOLIDGE, Correspondent Published: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 1:00 a.m. Three local boys turned boat racing budding stars will be battling it out in the waters off Lido Beach during the July Fourth Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix. The young men will each be partnered with their fathers, who taught them nearly everything they know about preparing for, competing in and, hopefully, winning one of the country’s biggest super boat races. Giving both teams a run for the money will be Team Muscle’s David Branch, 48, and his son, Clint, 20. Clint will drive the twin 525-hp, 38-footer, while David works the throttle of the boat he calls “the love muscle.” Known for throwing one of the largest, unofficial parties of the festival, featuring loud music, lots of beer and heavenly bodies, David Branch is more of a family man than one might think. Originally from New Orleans, he has been in Sarasota since 1995 and says, “I moved here because my kids were just getting to the age where they were starting school and I wanted to find a place that was really conducive to raising a family.” Clint is a graduate of Cardinal Mooney and, according to his dad, is currently enrolled in the Savannah College of Art and Design, with a full scholarship to study illustrating. “We’re the most winning team in the history of offshore racing,” David says. “My son raced with me last year for the first time; we finished second in the world and we lost by just 10 feet. I’m excited to be racing with him this year.” Despite the flurry of parties and activities leading up to race day, for the three local boys racing with their fathers, the event that matters most will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday. “We do it for the love of the sport.” Gentlemen, start your engines.

July 8th, 2008
Sarasota "In" Publication: "Creative Loafing"

< face="Arial">Rock of love: The Scenestress hangs with a Sarasota party legend, "Diamond" Dave Branch
< color="#c3601c">July 8th, 2009 by The Scenestress in Food and Drink, Music, News, Sarasota-Manatee
FRIDAY, JULY 3 — MUSCLE MADNESS '09, SARASOTA

As I descend upon Muscle Madness '09, visions of naked chicks and rock 'n' roll dance in my head. For weeks leading up to the event I heard cautionary tales about the party and its host, "Diamond" Dave Branch, stories of wild nights with the self-styled bad boys of offshore boat racing. Dave's renown is built upon the free rock show and party he hosts every year the weekend of the races, along with a bevy of babes and boatloads of booze. Needless to say, I figure this event should prove to be quite the scene.

Upon arrival, I take a brief spin around the main stage where at least 1,000 people are already milling about, enjoying free Bud and Szambelan (duh) and listening to the new Bullet Boys album over the speakers. I quickly find the VIP entrance to the backstage area. The warehouse that normally houses the team's enormous boats has been converted into a spacious lounge for the night. There are couches, cages, Szambelan stations and strippers as far as the eye can see. "OK," I think to myself. "This looks interesting."
Marissa, my sweet and obliging contact with the muscle team, spots me and introduces me to the legendary Diamond Dave. Dave looks exactly like I expect him to: straggly blond hair, a diamond-encrusted skull belt buckle and full sleeves of tattoos covering his leathery arms. He is polite and perhaps even business-like in his welcome to me, extending a hand and a "nice to meet you." Based on the man's rep, I was expecting something more like a slap on the ass and a "how ya doin', toots." Was Dave on good behavior for the press? Was he busy with hosting duties? Or is Diamond Dave simply not the party animal he once was/makes himself out to be?
Night falls, and the crowd has grown exponentially. The numbers must be getting close to the 5,000 that Dave had predicted. While opening act Mad Margritt rocks the stage with covers like "You Shook Me All Night Long," I take a minute to talk with Marq Torien, lead singer of Bullet Boys. Though clichéd, the black eyeliner and nail-polish rock star look is workin' for Marq — so much so that I am surprised to find out he has actually been fronting the band for more than 20 years. He is amiable and all smiles as he tells me that he's been enjoying his time in Sarasota so far and is looking forward to the show tonight.

When Bullet Boys take the stage I join the crowd to check them out and am immediately distracted by the dozen or so titties onstage with the rockers. Dave has invited a number of ladies from the Cheetah to writhe and collect dollars like the pros they are.

Retreating backstage once again, I find a much more comfortable view next to the drum kit just in time for the Bullet Boys' tribute to the currently omnipresent King of Pop — a rockin' version of "Billie Jean." As I bound back to the bar, fellow VIPer Ken Brand of Szambelan stops me and insists upon taking my picture with "Jon."

I'm happy to oblige and step in the shot with a bearded man who puts his arm around me and charmingly attempts to lift my skirt as the photo is being taken. (It is only much later when someone tells me that Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand of the TV show The Deadliest Catch are at the party, that I realize who exactly that nice gentleman grabbing at my panties was.)
Waiting in line for the bathroom I get a chance to meet two of the very pretty ladies "dancing" onstage. I take a moment to applaud one of the women on her enthusiastic performance and she introduces herself as Christina. Impossibly thin considering her giant breasts, she tells me it's her sixth year at Muscle Madness and that it's always a blast. Tiffanie, next in line, looks a little woozy and tells me she drank too much, blaming it on the girl holding court astride a block of ice who called out passersby as "pussies" unless they stopped for a shot of Patrón poured down a groove in the ice between her legs.
After the band wraps up Dave comes back to congratulate them on an awesome set. He lights a cigar and takes a seat with me for a moment as things wind down. We chat a bit about the race on Sunday, which will be his 14th Suncoast Grand Prix, until a friend of mine, being admittedly a bit obnoxious, presses Dave about whether or not he actually drives the boat. He does not — technically he is the "owner/throttle," while co-pilot Nunz does the steering. Nonetheless Dave quickly grows annoyed by the line of questioning, stands up and walks away.
The night is clearly coming to an end. As the strippers change out of their platform heels and into flip-flops and cover their silicones in oversized T-shirts, rumors start flying that the cops are about to invade the private backroom. Marq flips out and bolts, and I decide that's my cue to head for the hills as well. That's Muscle Madness for ya'.

July 3rd, 2008
Sarasota Herald Tribune


The muscle is back
for huge rock bash
By STEVE ECHEVERRIA JR

"Diamond Dave" Branch is a very busy man this time of year. Not only is he preparing to compete in the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix, but his Muscle Racing Team is putting the final touches on a daylong rock festival.

"We've got the leather, we've got the chain-wearing rock stars, we've got the blowing pyros, and we've got the ladies from Cheetah's," Branch said.

A world and national offshore champion known for his "bad boy" persona, Branch decided to kill two birds with one stone — conducting the interview while getting a tattoo.

"Can you hear me over the noise?" Branch asked while the tiny buzz of a tattoo gun sounded over the receiver.

With Southern California glam rock legends Faster Pussycat and L.A. Guns topping the bill, the 2008 Muscle Party on Saturday features free barbecue and beer and plenty of racy festivities sure to make it a proud successor to the "World's Hottest Offshore Party."

Admission is $5 for the 21-and-older event. Gates open at 1 p.m. at the Muscle Fairgrounds, 2117 47th St., east of U.S. 301 and 47th Street in north Sarasota.

Having brought in metal icons Ratt, Whitesnake, Skid Row and others for past Muscle parties, Branch is taking the event to new heights this year.

"Over the years," he said, "I've started to run out of the top hair bands, so this year I decided to create a rock festival."

In addition to L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat, the day's lineup includes rock bands Bang Tango, High4 and Mad Margritt.

"The first band goes on at 2 p.m., and we'll have bands going on every hour," Branch said.

L.A. Guns perform a 90-minute set at about 8:40 p.m. with headliner Faster Pussycat hitting the stage about 10 p.m.

Not only have Budweiser and Rolling Rock donated 500 kegs for the event, but the famed Clydesdale horses will make an appearance.

"And since it's going to be hot out there," Branch said, "we're going to have three swimming pools filled with inflatable rafts, chairs and other stuff, so people can grab a beer, hop in the pool and listen to music."

Branch expects about 15,000 to show up for the festival, up from last year's nearly 10,000.

Creating an all-inclusive party for locals was the reason Branch and the Muscle Team held the first event in 1996.

"I can afford to go to all these racing events," part of the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix, he said, "but most people can't get into the majority of these parties they throw.

"I was like '(Expletive) this, let's do something in Sarasota that's good for everybody, and have the businessman standing next to the homeless guy standing next to the college kid and standing next to the guy who drives a delivery truck.'"

For more information, visit www.muscleracing.com.

June, 2008

The Jersey Boys of OPA
put out the challenge to
Diamond Dave

Augie and Smitty have made the challenge official - "Beat Smitty in the 2008 Geico Cup Series and you will be in the Jersey Boys Club" stated Augie "the Godfather" at the driver's meeting in Ocean City, MD. Diamond Dave accepted the sword and went on to take Smitty and the Wazzup team out in the final race.

"I'm getting in and I'm getting that Gold Medallion" stated Branch. These guys are as tough as they get, but I'm the Big Cat in this game.

Next Step ... New York.



May 3, 2008

Muscle Team inducted into the Prestigious Hall of Champions during the Ft. Lauderdale Race, May 3rd, 2008


November 1, 2007

Love Muscle Racing Wins Their
8th National Championship.

With 71 checkered flags under their belt, the Love Muscle Race Team has once again wiped out the competition with another National Championship. racing a 38' Fountain "V" hull with Mercury Racing Engines, the Muscle Team won 7 out of 13 races this season. "It was a slammin year, and we were really on all year" said "Diamond Dave" Branch, owner and throttleman. "I'm ready for some down time. We really pushed to make it happen".

Look for the Love Muscle to come out bigger in 2008.



June 28, 2006
Breaking News
Sarasota Herald Tribune
It's Clear:
Muscle and a FREE RATT concert
are HUGE in Sarasota!

May, 2006
Muscle gets asked to cover boat or leave the state
by the Governor of Tennessee

The new Muscle was on display at the Pickwick Offshore Gran Prix in Tennessee and the fans were going wild. "I have never seen so many cameras on our boat" said Diamond Dave. Then it happened .... police escorting a government employee showed up at the Muscle camp and issued the team a warning to cover the "T & A" or remove the boat from Tennessee ... direct from the Governor himself. Wow! The team complied ... but not before Tennessee's finest took pictures next to the beauties.

FEB 2006 - THE LOVE MUSCLE GETS A NEW LOOK
Diamond Dave (now known as "Big Cat") is happy to unveil the new look of the completely refurbished "Love Muscle 5". I feel we have reached a new level in beauty and our appreciation of the female body stated the Big Cat. The new boat clad in cheetah skin also features 4 nude Playboy models at their best. We have made temporary bikinis to put on the girls for the highway so as not to distract other motorists stated Strick, Muscles crew chief. Once
we get to the race ... off they come!

 June, 2005 - Muscle rolls and sinks in Marathon Gran Prix
Moving into first place in the Marathon Gran Prix, the Muscle rolled over at 105 mph as they attempted to slingshot the 4th turn and overcome the Rodriquez team. Diamond Dave and K-Man were trapped in the cockpit on the bottom of the ocean as rescue divers tried to free them. The guys were rescued unhurt, but the boat ... Love Muscle 5 was in bad shape. Thanks to all the great rescue people said the K-Man ... you can always count on them.

Jan, 2005 - Muscle builds "state-of-the-art" 38 ft. Fountain.
Muscle Race Team has contracted with Reggie Fountain to build a one of a kind 38 vinyl lustre race boat for the 2005 season. This is the Muscle's 4th Fountain boat. The new girl will have a single canopy with merc bravo xr drives. "This will be the boat to beat, and good luck trying" said "Big Cat" Branch.

 July 5, 2004 - Muscle (re)Bound

The 2004 Extreme Boats Muscle Article

 July 5, 2004 - Muscle (re)Bound

below are excerpts from the Sarasota Herald Tribune Article dated 7/5/04
all rights to Perry D. Pentz / Herald Tribune

 Muscle (re)bound
Sarasota boat ends two-year dry spell with win in Super boat Vee Limiteds

By PERRY D. PENTZ
perry.pentz@heraldtribune.com

SARASOTA -- After two years of being unlucky on its home course, Muscle regained its winning form to win its class at the 20th annual Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix on Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 40-foot Fountain, crewed by Sarasota driver Bruce Kruglick and throttleman David Branch, took advantage of competitors' mistakes to take home the laurels in the Superboat Vee Limited Class over 14 other boats, including runner-up Reichman Motor Sports.

Since its inception in 1985, the Offshore Grand Prix has benefited the Suncoast Foundation for the Handicapped Inc.

The annual races have raised more than $6.5 million for the construction of new facilities to serve the needs of physically and mentally challenged youth in the area.

Muscle led the first lap but dropped into second then third, then reclaimed second place.

"Once we lightened up on fuel, the boat was able to set up a lot better, and that's when we made our charge," said Branch, whose boat was cruising at 105 mph.

"Two of the lead boats got confused on the race course and missed the turn buoy and at that time, it let us get into first place and we maintained our spot the rest of the way."

This is the fifth time in 10 years that Muscle has won in Sarasota. The last time was in 2001.

"Last year we led the entire race and a half-mile mile from the end, our bottom (of the boat) peeled off," said Branch. "The year before that, we were left to sit out there for three hours because of turtles. We ran out of gas 1,000 yards from the finish line in first place. The last two losses were tough. This was a long-time coming."

Branch and Kruglick have been racing together for 10 years.

"It doesn't get any better than winning here in Sarasota," said Branch.

The Grand Prix was sanctioned by Super Boat International Productions Inc. and marked the return of the American Power Boat Association Pro Grade Series to Sarasota.

Some 70 boats were registered this year, double last year's total.

Muscle was the only area powerboat to win a race but four other area boats placed in the top three in three classes.

Offshore GP Note
In a move to mend the differences between SBI and APBA, John Carbonell, president of Super Boat International Productions, and Jim Poplin, president of the American Powerboat Association, agreed to share the water by attending each others' events, while protecting the individual personalities of each racing organization.

As a result, the Offshore Showcase, which was sanctioned by the APBA last year in Sarasota, won't be run.


 AUGUST 2002 MUSCLE CELEBRATES SEASON LEAD

The Love Muscle team celebrated their National points lead at the offshore party in South Beach this weekend. "We are excited about our season so far and love the way this fountain boat is rampaging with the new Mercury motors" said The K-Man driver of the Muscle. The Muscle team has 4 wins out of the six races so far this year and would be undefeated if not for technical problems. Pictured above is throttle man Diamond Dave who hung with one of Muscle's local fans, O.J. Simpson. "We have a great run going on and we look forward to another championship. I headed out for the night with O.J and realized this cat can party! We were going to Morton's for a steak but after thinking about the size of the steak knives they have, I talked "the Juice" into Sushi. He is a sexy man with huge hands and we like that", stated the Diamond one. The Muscle team now heads for the next two races in New Jersey and New York.

 August, 2002 - Muscle finishes FIRST OVERALL
at the Fountain Gran Prix in Washington, North Carolina

The Love Muscle takes its fourth victory of the year and 34th career win in the Washington, North Carolina Fountain Powerboat Gran Prix. "These guys are as tough as they get and are going to be a handful to beat", stated Reggie Fountain.

"We have so much focus right know that I feel our competitors know that we are going all the way. I plan on winning the National and World Championships this year. I want it and I can feel it" said Diamond Dave.

"We are a fierce team and the other racers are very concerned about our pressure. We are rolling and are extremely hard to beat", said Driver Bruce Kruglich (a.k.a. - The K-Man). "We have been invited to Key West to compete in the APBA World Championships in November, where the golden boy there is the Nick Carter #1 boat".

"I think we will have to go, pull his pants down, and show this kid there is more to this sport than singing love songs to 9 year old boys", stated Diamond Dave"

 July, 2002 - Muscle WINS Deerfield Beach Gran Prix
after sinking in Sarasota 4th of July Offshore Event

After leading the entire race, "The Muscle" headed into the last turn of the Sarasota Offshore Gran Prix with a 40 second lead over Firewater, the second place contender. Within 25 seconds, the 42 ft Fountain sat on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. "It was surreal", stated "K-man", the driver of the Muscle. "After a grueling 91 miles running 120mph the whole way, we could not believe our victory was gone". The Muscle broke the main water feed to the motors on the last lap and despite turning on 4 sea pumps, the water and rain were too much. "I was looking at the checkered flag waving in front of me and the boat began to slow down quick. Before you knew it, the bilge was full of water and she went right down. It was beyond belief", stated Diamond Dave Branch the Muscle's throttleman.

Working 24 hours a day, the team stripped the entire boat and replaced everything in order to make it to the Deerfield race 5 days later. Not only were they there ... but they won! "Mercury stepped up and delivered 2 brand new motors and our team dove in and got the job done", stated K-man. "No one thought it could happen, but it did and we are back in front in the national points standing, the only place for this team to be", Stated Diamond Dave.

March, 2002 - Muscle Team teams with Mercury Racing and Fountain Powerboats for 2002 season

Five-time National Champions, "The Love Muscle" have signed a deal to exclusively race Mercury SuperCat motors for the 2002 season. The 540 cu in. motors, which push over 800 horsepower each should give the Muscle Team the edge they are looking for.

"We finished second on the National circuit and second at the World Championships and that just does not work of me", stated Diamond Dave the throttleman for the team.

"This year, Reggie Fountain put a new hull on the boat, and we feel the Mercury guys will give us the edge". The Muscle has a 12 stop season ahead which starts in South Beach in April and ends in New Orleans in November.


May 2, 2001 -Website Article

  COMPETITION
News From The Pits
May 2, 2001

Dave Branch flexes his new Muscle

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., May 2, 2001 - What can we say about the Muscle 40 footer except "Wow!" Dave Hunter outdid himself on this paint job. "There are so many things about this boat that scream Dave Branch!" Hunter laughs, "He told me, 'You know how proud you are of that Virgin boat? I want you to be as proud of my boat as you are of that one,'" he relayed of his initial conversations with the mad man of APBA Offshore. The boat not only screams of Branch, but of heavy metal and animal sensuality—we are talking the Muscle Team here--and Branch and Bruce Kruglick look absolutely in their element in this racy and foxy boat.

Decked in black, of course, and trimmed in leopard fur—not just on the paint, but down to the padding on the trailer—the boat is dressed for success, but not in business attire. Well, perhaps a different kind of business…MUSCLE is spelled out in three dimensional-looking capital letters that appear to be metal, riveted onto the boat. A woman's hand, accessorized in studded black leather, with bright red evil looking nails, tears down the side, ripping through the leopard skin and Muscle team logo of red lips and tasty tongue. The boat also rips through water, as the team proved in Daytona, so watch for this boat to be raising eyebrows along with checkered flags! Oh, and did I mention that the boat and trailer truck's new tag line is "She purrrs with the stroke of my hand"? Like we said, it screams of Dave Branch.

Ft. Myers is right around the corner.
Stay tuned. — Marilyn DeMartini
copyright 2001 Speedvision


July 12, 2000 - Website Article

COMPETITION

A Racing Team that Flexes Some Muscle

Sarasota, Fla., July 12, 2000  Whether you love them, or hate them, the Muscle Racing Team is undoubtedly one of the most well-known teams on the APBA national racing circuit. With a flash of black and bravado, they saunter into each race site, bringing a little well, a lot--of "T&A," excitement and definite presence, and leave a wake of temporary tattoos, T-shirts, and great memories for fans behind them.

Led by owner and throttleman, "Diamond" Dave Branch, himself a study in a laid back style of intensity, the Muscle Racing Team is the antithesis of what Offshore Powerboat Racing wants to be about. Though they tout an image of being a family sport, and due to cultural demographics, have become that, Offshore Racing is still a sport filled with passion, the thrill of speed, testosterone and women endowed with a significant number of "after-market" parts, (as dubbed by George Steiner, Warlocks new marketing director). Scantily clad women have graced the seats of power boats since day one, so why all the furor over the ones painted on the Muscle Teams fleet of vehicles?

And a fleet it is, requiring a 9,000 s.f. warehouse facility. The recently retired XXX Muscle, a 42" custom Fountain still makes a Pit appearance at races, though this season, the team brought the B-1 33 "Thee Muscle" Powerplay back out of retirement, with the announcement that "The Bitch Is Back!" Among the vehicles in the entourage are a 96 Viper, a 2000 Porsche, two custom softail Harleys, with a matching trailer, a Peterbuilt truck with a 40 Warrior Race Trailer, that doubles as a lounge (complete with a "Petting Zoo" loft boudoir with shower and bath where tattoo of the month contestants can compete) and machine shop, a dooley, and RV, a souvenir trailer (manned by Branches Momma Muscle and Dad), a limo and a Chevy Suburban, all custom painted in black with the Muscle Team logo, of a woman's lips and very sensually depicted tongue along with assorted now, bikini clad women.

The design and custom painting of the vehicles is all handled by team member Dave "All Night" Hunter, who also navigates on the V-boat. Branch was a customer of Hunters Ft. Lauderdale shop, where he had created graphics and painted a variety of race boats and custom cars. "I had done so much work for them and knew the boat, that it was a natural fit for me to be in the navigator seat," Hunter says, "It really is a blast, we combine having a great time and being responsible about racing. There are different animals in the boat ones that are very careful about safety," he continues, "Dave is a terrific friend everybody on the team is a real pleasure to be around."

The Muscle Team burst onto the Offshore Powerboat scene in 1996, then known as the Love Muscle, which was edited, due to APBA Officials dictates was the nude woman on the side of the boat hence the new painted-on bikini. "There are rules about lewd and vulgar names or graphics on the boat it is not the image that the APBA wants to portray. We have always promoted grassroots races and the inclusion of children, and their show is offensive to a lot of people and families. All I did was uphold the ideals of the organization," that official commented. "I remember when they first came into Ft. Myers," recalled VP Racing Fuels distributor, Mark Klein, "Everyone was snickering and raising eyebrows, no one expected them to win. But here they are, five years later, almost as the grandfather of racing teams they've been around longer than any of the others!" In a sport where teams come and go, depending on money, sponsors, racers or lack thereof, The Muscle has been not only a consistent presence in both APBA and SBI circuits, they have been contenders.

"In the beginning, they said, you're gone!" says Branch, "But I like being here, and have a good time its not me against them," he explains his love-hate relationship with the APBA, while wearing a black body hugging T-shirt with "Nasty Reputation" on its sleeve. And no one can contest that anyone has much fun at, and with, the APBA pro series than the Muscle Team Branch loves being both the scourge of the sanctioning body, as well as one of its biggest promoters. As a marketer, Branch sees the big picture and knows that sex sells.

The Muscle compound in the Dry Pits is always a rock and roll party, filled with fans, groupies, a 12+ man crew, many of whom are not paid, but just come along to help field the show and enjoy wearing the XXX Muscle Team black crew T-shirts. No brightly colored polyester racing shirts for this bunch, Branch and "Special K" Bruce Kruglick make that Doctor Bruce Kruglick who is an emergency room physician at Sarasota Memorial Hospital talk about intensive care normally clad in black lycra or leather, showing off not only sculpted biceps and tattoos, but an attitude and disregard for what is "normal" in racing.

But all of the flamboyant and sexy image aside, (and Branch will tell you himself, that he is "one very sexy man"), did we mention that this team can really RACE? Over the past five years, the Team has accumulated 22 checkered flags (many of which Branch has given to kids), and an assortment of titles including 1999 Gold Cup, 1998 National Championships, Award of Valor, Offshore Racing Medal of Honor, Bill Soris Memorial Trophy, 1997 Runner Up in V-Class National, World Championship and Gold Cup, and National Champ Runner Up in B Class. In 97, they also won Sports Team of the Year and received the Caesars Marine Charity Award, while Branch was named Driver of the Year and Kruglick won a World Championship with his former race team. In 96, they were named Rookies of the Year, APBA National Champions, World Kilo Speed Record Holders in V-Class and won 3rd place in Gold Cup High Points.

"When we came in, we knew wed have to win [to be taken seriously]," says Branch, "At that Ft. Myers race, we made a statement, and they knew we were for real after that." Branch furthered his "good guy" reputation among racers, when he threw away chances at a title, by jumping out of his boat, into gasoline filled water, to save Jim Horne, who had been thrown out of his 47 Fountain at the beginning of the World Championship SBI race in Key West. "I knew I had just spent $100,000 to go to this race, but there was never a question for me. We saw him flip and he was face down in the water of course I was going in!" he states.

Such demonstrations of unselfishness, and yes, bravery, do not go unnoticed in a sport where people risk their lives in the name of sport and fun. The cultivated image as perverted "Bad Boys," belies the personal depth and commitment shown when more important things count, and have earned Branch the respect, if not necessarily the friendship of most racers. "A lot of these guys don't like it when they see us surrounded by 150 fans in the Pits, signing autographs, selling T-shirts, and having fun. They say, They're perverts, they make us look bad, but they don't get it you have to promote look at NASCAR, that's part of everyone's contracts, you have to create exposure." Branch tells other stories of fan loyalty, "muscle heads" who come to every race, who have had their own real tattoos done to replicate the fake ones put on many a woman's body parts at the trailer, the fan from South Carolina who bought $600 worth of race apparel at one time and even the fan who got 2,000 names signed on a petition to fight the APBA's dictum to change the teams name. He reports the www.muscleracing.com site gets 1,000 hits per week, and acknowledges some "weirdo's" too, who will approach him when he is in his personal Ferrari or spending time with his family. But, Branch accepts it as part of the aura of fame or infamy, in which he has enveloped himself.

Kruglick, who joined the team in 98, after racing as a competitor with the Banker team, laughs about his association, "I got a message from my son that Dave Branch called and wanted me to go car racing with him, I didn't think the message was right, didn't think much of it and never returned the call, then he called again and said, Man, I want you to come racing with me! We hooked up and have been good friends ever since." Kruglicks wife, Sunny, a vivacious blond, is a part of the team, playing the Biker Babe role well, while keeping some of the adoring female fans at bay. Branch, despite his Bad Boy image is also a devoted father to a beautiful daughter and son, and husband to Leigh, who is more a participant observer of the entourage. The kids attend a few of the races and just take it all in stride, riding in the boat parades and accepting the trophies at award ceremonies, at their young ages, oblivious to the antics of the their Dad. "If I wasn't married, Id be dead," Branch states matter-of-factly, "Its the way I live my life. I play hard, I go hard, but on Monday, its over."

Branches Muscle and sex show might seem extreme to some, but understand that he was introduced to the sport by the granddaddy of Offshore Showmen, Al Copeland. As a college student in New Orleans, who had raced motocross, Branch met Copeland of the legendary Popeye's Racing Team, who asked him to cook crawfish for him at a party. Then he invited him out on a turn boat at a race. "The first time they went around a corner, I said, Holy Shit! When I make money, this is where I want to go! And I'm going in BIG!" True to his promise, after becoming extremely successful in the oil business, Branch has continued to build a variety of businesses, including Horizon Diagnostic Centers, a medical MRI testing firm he now heads, which provides him the flexibility and financial strength to race "big." "I thought it was really ironic that last year, I sat with Al Copeland, who I met as a college kid and who brought me into this, and we were both judging the bikini contest at the Key West race! We laughed about it, and here I am, still in the sport!" Copeland, who has retired from racing, still brings his boats, helicopters, limos and big boy toys to the Championship races for show a symbol of the carnival that used to be Offshore Racing and that Branch is keeping alive.

Branch plans to finish this season in the B-Class, though the competition is slim right now. He has the boat dialed-in with new Bandit engines that were questioned by inspectors at the Sarasota race. Having been called in from his daughters Water mouse race, to deal with a required dismantling of the engines for inspection, Branch was more outraged by the implication that he was cheating, than the $3,000 price tag for the engine work not to mention missing his daughters race and his own awards ceremony in his home town, where he took his 22nd checkered flag. "A bunch of racers like Art Lilly and Bill Hill were behind methey even told the inspector, This guy has given away a championship to save someone's life he's the last guy who is ever going to cheat out here!"

Branch is building a Super Cat that will bear the name of his new sponsor, who will come aboard next season. Penthouse magazine is a logical partner for the Muscle Team and while the magazine plans to use the boat for promotional purposes and photo shoots, Branch assures that the image at the races will still be family-friendly at least as much as current presence. But despite suggestive popsicle eating contests, strategically placed tattoos, rock n rock groupies and beer drinking, the Muscle Team is not only a winner, but a donor of many thousands of dollars to charities. All of its winnings are donated to the host cities beneficiary or to underprivileged children. The team also created a Muscle Racing Scholarship Foundation which funds two college scholarships a year for needy high school seniors.

"I do believe [The Muscle Team] brings a healthy dose of controversy and bad boy imagery, and thus theater to APBA Offshore," says Mike Allweiss, Chairman, "They have gone over the line at times and when we have asked them to step back, they have. Overall, they are a positive for the sport and best of all, they are real racers. They win and they are champions, so you cannot really argue with that."

So flex those muscles guys, and keep up the effort. Says Hunter, "Dave's promise has always been to build the sport. Whether they come to hate us or love us, or wear a T-shirt, they take part in racing."


 February 4, 2000 - "XXX" RETIRES
Diamond Dave announces the retirement of the love of his life, his mistress, his baby ... the 42' XXX Muscle. She has raced 4 long years and has 16 checkered flags. It's time for her to shut down. Look for a new XXX on the water next year!