Steve David saw Chip Hanauer approaching him in Lampson Pits on Sunday afternoon.
"Chip," said David, "I protected your record, brother."
Hanauer replied, "I got a two-week reprieve. I'll buy you a hot dog."
It was a funny moment to cap off a strange ending to the 45th Lamb Weston Columbia Cup, in which David didn't even know he had won in his U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto until he got back to the pits, Dave Villwock thought he'd won after crossing the finish line, the national high points lead changed hands four times over the course of the day, and Villwock stayed in third in all-time wins at 60.
Villwock, driving the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, looked like he would complete a perfect weekend after winning all three preliminary heats and starting from lane 1 in the final.
And he led from the start in the final.
But things started to go wrong before the race began.
Villwock's throttle stuck and he was not getting enough speed - despite leading the field.
During the third lap of the five-lap final, Brian Perkins hooked his U-21 Miss Albert Lee Appliance in the west end turn. Officials, however, kept the race going.
David started reeling Villwock in slowly. And by the last lap, his deficit had gone from five roostertails down to a just a couple.
But David was having his own problems.
His radio died five minutes before the race, so he was out there alone, just trying to catch Villwock.
Then, as he closed in on Villwock entering the final turn, David entered in lane 2. Villwock was in lane 4, and he cut in at the apex, cutting David off in the process.
Chief referee Mike Noonan had no choice but to give Villwock a one-lap penalty for an illegal lane change.
Villwock was notified right after he had crossed the finish line, thinking he had won.
"Things happen," said U-96 team manager Erick Ellstrom. "When we finished, we shut it down because of the throttle situation. Then we were told to run a one-lap penalty. It's tough, but the officials do the best they can."
Villwock started the boat up again and completed the penalty lap.
Villwock could be seen after the race throwing his clothes around inside his motorhome as he changed out of his race uniform. He came out to talk to the media and was visibly upset.
"I was having trouble with the throttle and I knew Steve had taken away the overlap, so I was trying to leave him room," said Villwock. "They told me on the radio there was a dead boat in lane 2 or 3 and another one (the U-37 Miss Peters & May) ahead of us moving to the outside. I tried to get us through all that with low sun in our eyes and I thought I left room. The referee didn't think so."
David wasn't buying the excuses.
"Wear dark sunglasses," said David. "It's one thing to make a mistake. It's another to take someone out. We have had no infractions this season. This is Dave's third."
Noonan wasn't buying it either. H1 Unlimited rules state that when a boat enters a turn with less than a seven boat-length lead, that lead boat must enter and leave the turn in the same lane.
"Dave turned sharply at the apex of the turn from lane 4 into lane 2, where Steve was, and came out of the turn in lane 4," said Noonan. "Steve did a fantastic job of avoiding a collision. He's expecting to turn on an arc, and he had to turn sharply. It was a tough call, and I hate to do that on the last lap of the last race. But I had to."
While David was mad, he wasn't sure a penalty would be called. So he thought he'd finished second.
"Then I get back to the docks, and everyone is showing me three fingers, as in three-peat," said David, giving the Oberto team its third straight victory on the Columbia.
"You mean tree-peat, Steve," said a crew member.
"Yes, these guys are more excited about this tree," said David. The winner of the Columbia Cup gets to set up camp under the big tree at the east end of the next season.
J Michael Kelly in the U-7 Graham Trucking finished second, while Jeff Bernard in the U-5 Formulaboats.com was third.
"It was really good to get second," said Kelly. "And my teammate, Jeff Bernard, gets third. I was trying to close in on Steve, but he kept pulling away."
Nate Brown in the U-17 Miss Red Dot was fourth, while Villwock was fifth.
Jon Zimmerman drove the U-37 Miss Peters and May to a sixth-place finish.
Oberto leaves the Tri-Cities back on top in the national high points standings at 4,754. The U-96 is second at 4,384.
Hanauer stays in second all by himself in all-time wins at 61. Villwock is in third at 60, while the late Bill Muncey is still No. 1 at 62.