Joel Weber left the sport of Top Alcohol Hydro drag boat racing on top in 1998. He won the world finals and every other race he and his crew entered.
But twin boys were on the way, and "I just thought it was the responsible thing to do" to retire.
Jaryd and Chase Weber are 11 now, and last weekend watched their dad return to the winner's circle.
Joel Weber and his What a Tomato Too boat won his division's championship last weekend at the NAPA Auto Parts/Lucas Oil World Finals in Chandler, Ariz. Weber set speed and elapsed time records along the way.
"My kids had seen the pictures and watched the videos of when we used to race, and they got real interested in seeing it again," said Weber, 44, who lives near Colwich.
Weber's return to championships is remarkable not only because of the time away but with the ease in which it came.
In May 2009, a former rival asked Weber to test a boat. Later in the summer, Bob Pizza of Danville, Calif., had two boats made — one for himself, one for Weber.
Weber, Pizza and a 14-man Wichita-based crew got the boats ready for the November 2009 world finals in Arizona, but Weber's boat hit something in the water and destroyed the boat, sending Weber to a hospital for three days with neck and back injuries.
"I sat out for (11) years, next thing I know I'm in intensive care," Weber joked.
But testing success showed Weber and the crew that they could compete again. The goal was to be ready for 2010 summer events, but nagging injuries kept Weber off the water.
By fall, Weber was ready to go and he and Pizza took new boats to Chandler last week. Weber's first 1,000-foot run was at 205.9 mph and 4.40 seconds, both records. Weber was the No. 1 seed through qualifying.
Pizza lost in the second round, but Weber won the championship, lowering his elapsed time record to 4.39 seconds.
Weber, an engineer at Triumph Aerospace Systems, said it's unusual to not compete all season then win in the world finals. But it's a testament to the crew, headed by Wichitan Mark Kastens.
"We had a dream team of people," Weber said. "All of the engineering is based on concepts and real physics. One thing that remains constant in the sport is physics."
Drag boat racing is not a money-making venture, but Weber hopes the team's success can lure sponsorships that will make it break even.