KENNEWICK -- Twenty points.
That's the difference between being the fastest qualifier and the second fastest at the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup.
It's not much, but watching the top teams in qualifying Friday you'd think there was a major battle brewing with all of the strategic sessions going on.
For the record, Dave Villwock drove the U-96 Spirit of Qatar to a top qualifying speed of 161.928 mph on the Columbia River.
Steve David was second in the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto with a speed of 160.972 mph.
They were the top two of the 11 boats that qualified for Sunday's final.
But with one more qualifying session today before the heat races begin, neither driver is satisfied.
"We're looking for a great race boat, and I think we got it today," said Villwock. "Now we're going to scrounge around the floor and find a couple more miles-per-hour."
David had a chance in the second session to overtake Villwock, but he couldn't do it. When he got out of the boat and found out his speed, he was visibly upset.
"We just need another mile an hour," David said. "It's no problem to go from 150 to 154. But when you get to where we are, it's harder to improve on those tenths of a mile-per-hour. We will not sleep until we get there."
Well, to a point, said Oberto crew chief Mike Hanson.
"It's there," Hanson said. "We're in the hunt. But it's not worth beating up our parts for 20 points."
U-96 team manager Erick Ellstrom felt the same way.
Villwock never got on the water in the second session, and that was OK with Ellstrom.
"We'll just go out and run our race setup," said Ellstrom. "Getting those extra 20 points in qualifying helps. And given the opportunity we'll still try to dominate qualifying. But there have been years where we tried to race ourselves out in qualifying.
"We've been to this course for 16 years," Ellstrom said. "We have an idea of what to do."
Nate Brown sure did, as he drove the U-17 Miss Red Dot to the third-best speed at 157.199 mph.
Other qualifiers included the U-25 Superior Racing, with driver Dr. Ken Muscatel, at 156.513 mph; the U-13 Spirit of Detroit and driver Cal Phipps at 156.296 mph; the U-21 Miss Albert Lee Appliance, with driver Brian Perkins at 155.566 mph; the U-7 Graham Trucking and driver J Michael Kelly at 155.030 mph; the U-5 Formulaboats.com and Jeff Bernard at 153.861 mph; the U-100 Leland Unlimited and driver Greg Hopp at 152.219 mph; the U-37 Miss Peters & May with driver Jon Zimmerman at 150.763 mph; and the U-22 Matrix Systems, with driver Mike Weber at 136.622 mph.
The only driver and boat not qualified is Mark Evans and the U-57 Formulaboats.com, Ted Porter's backup boat that wasn't ready to hit the water Friday as it was being pieced together.
"Before we leave the pits tonight," said Porter, "we will trailer-fire that boat. Mark is an excellent driver and we'll get him out on the water in the morning."
But all eyes will be on Villwock and David today, as their two teams battle for the top qualifying spot.
With just 198 points separating the two in the season standings (David/Oberto have 3,305 points; Villwock/Qatar are at 3,107), every point will count with three races remaining.
Time is running out, said Ellstrom.
"We had a mistake in Madison," he said. "But we've done the best we could do. Oberto has been more consistent. They deserve to be in first place. We just can't make any mistakes at all."
NOTES: One more qualifying session will be run at 12:20 p.m. today. Heat 1A will be run at 3:50 p.m., with Heat 1B at 4:20 p.m. Four more preliminary heats will be held Sunday, with the final scheduled for 4:40 p.m. Sunday. ... Oberto won the Dash for Cash, an exhibition race made for television. The Albert Lee and the Leland Unlimited also competed in the exhibition. ... Former U-37 driver Jean Theoret was in the pits, hanging out with his old teammates. "I've come to see my friends," he said.