The American Boat Racing Association is getting a heavy dose of star power, NBA-style.

Gavin and George Maloof, owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, as well as The Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, have entered into a three-year sponsorship agreement with the sport, ABRA Chairman Sam Cole said Monday.

The Maloofs will sponsor a cash prize to the fastest qualifier at each race for the next three seasons beginning with this weekend's season finale in San Diego. The award of $750 will be called the Sacramento Kings Fast Lap Award.

Gavin Maloof will be in San Diego this weekend to give away the first award.

"We're excited about getting the Maloofs on board and the excitement back into the sport," Cole said in a conference call with media on Monday. "This is a good step forward."

Joining Gavin Maloof in San Diego this weekend will be Jose Luis del Palacio. Del Palacio doesn't have the name recognition of the Maloofs, but he could end up playing a bigger role in the sport's future.

A former head of Formula 2 outboard racing, del Palacio is putting together a race circuit through Europe and the Middle East and he wants the Unlimiteds involved.

"We've been talking to (del Palacio) for over a year now and he wants five or six of our boats to go over there and race," Cole said. "He has put on races in Portugal, in Russia, in Korea and in Indonesia. It's an exciting opportunity."

Del Palacio is not involved with the group that Miss Elam Plus owner Erik Ellstrom has been negotiating with for a similar opportunity. Ellstrom has set up an exhibition in Dubai for this winter.

With the new presence in the sport, Cole said that the ABRA will be looking for ways to freshen up the sport.

"We're going to look at our format and at changes that we can make," Cole said. "This is a great opportunity and both are going to be instrumental in our future."

The big news on Monday came in stark contrast to the ongoing stagnant situation in Evansville.

Last month, the Evansville Freedom Festival announced that it would no longer put on the annual Thunder on the Ohio race. A new organization, the Growth Alliance of Greater Evansville, has taken over but has yet to indicate whether there will be a race in 2009.

Cole expressed his displeasure with the situation, particularly the backroom infighting between proponents and opponents of a race.

"We're waiting for GAGE to gauge the situation," Cole said. "We are prepared to do what it takes to race in Evansville next year, but we're frustrated because we can't get anybody to return our calls. What is sad is that local politics are getting in the way of putting on a race. It's very, very frustrating."

The Freedom Festival still owes the ABRA $50,000 from this year's race and while Cole did not rule out legal action, he indicated he would rather just work things out without going to court.

"We have been very professional with them, I think," Cole said. "But, frankly, nobody will talk to us. There is a lot of political maneuvering that is going on and it's not fair to the race fans and it's not fair to the race teams. Phone calls need to be returned."

While the ABRA still plans on racing in Evansville next year, Cole said that the organization has two exhibitions planned in the near future that could lead to full-time races.

An exhibition in Chattanooga, Tenn., is scheduled for Oct. 10-12 and could include both the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison and the U-5 Formulaboats.com. Cole also said that an exhibition in Kelowna, British Columbia. is set for next August with a possible race in Canada by 2010.

We're ready to move on, but we're not done with Evansville yet," Cole said. "We ain't ready for it to die."