KENNEWICK -- Two races into the Air National Guard Hydroplane Series and the team sitting atop the points standings is neither of the favorites heading into the season.
Atop the leaderboard is the U-17 Miss Red Dot, an all-volunteer team that is having a breakout season heading into this week's 46th running of the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities.
Qualifying is Friday, while racing is Saturday and Sunday.
While it's too early to declare a changing of the guard in the sport, the team led by owner Nate Brown is serving notice that it will be in the mix for the national high points championship, which has been won by the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto the past three years.
Our Gang Racing, which runs Miss Red Dot, has been competing on the tour for five seasons and has closed the gap on the tour's top echelon teams.
Whether it can keep the momentum for the entire season remains to be seen.
"We've had some good heat draws, raced well and had some misfortune by the two top teams," Brown said. "We've had some luck go our way, but we've also put ourselves in a position to take advantage of it."
The U-96 Spirit of Qatar and Oberto, two teams that are expected to be leading the points standings, are instead looking up at Red Dot Racing as they head into this weekend.
The Dave Villwock-led Qatar team is in second place with 2,600 points, trailing Miss Red Dot by just 82 points.
Oberto is further back in fifth place, nearly 700 points off the leader.
But the team will get its boat and driver, Steve David, back in Tri-Cities after tangling with the Qatar in the final of the season opener in Madison, Ind.
The boat sustained nearly $100,000 in damage, while David suffered cracked ribs in the crash.
Brown said the team "has stepped it up" this season after investing in new equipment, including turbine engines and gear boxes.
But he also credits the emergence of driver Kip Brown -- his nephew -- and backup driver Cal Phipps for getting the team to the top of the points leaderboard.
Kip Brown won his first two heats of his career in Madison and Phipps followed it up with two more heat wins at the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit.
"After two races you start to think about (being at the top)," Kip Brown said. "If we come out of Tri-Cities with the points lead, then there's something to this."
Nate Brown expects four or five teams to be in the national high points championship hunt by the finale in Doha, Qatar, in mid-November.
Brown's team operates on a tight budget and knows there is little room for error.
"It's going to be interesting and we're going to try as hard as possible to stay on top," Brown said. "But we're not going to lose any equipment to do it. We just can't afford that kind of mistake."
Third and fourth in the standings are boats owned by Ted Porter.
Jeff Bernard in the U-5 Graham Trucking is in third place, while sitting in fourth is rookie driver Scott Liddycoat in the U-7 Valken Sports.