KENNEWICK -- Kudos to the U-17 Miss Red Dot team and driver Kip Brown, whose 156.565 mph qualifying time was third-best Friday at the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup.
The U-17 comes into this weekend as the national high points leader with 2,682 points.
And a big reason is the boat has gotten faster.
"The major difference is the change we made in our underwater gear," said Brown. "We had a really good machinest work on our fin."
Now, Brown says, it's like driving a Cadillac.
"We've thrown everything but the kitchen sink at it to get this boat to handle," he said. "And probably from the get-go it was the fin."
Now, he says, the boat ride is enjoyable.
"Previously, I needed help getting out of the boat after a race," he said. "I was wiped out. Now, I'm ready to go race right again."
Even the Red Dot team has been mentioned by other camps as a team they would like to emulate, along with the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto and the U-96 Spirit of Qatar.
"That's a nice compliment," Brown said. "It's great to be put in that category. Truth be told, though, we're a couple miles per hour short to be put in that upper echelon. But several teams here are better funded than us. This is a testament to how hard we work."
-- Erick Ellstrom, team owner and crew chief for the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, pointed out if his team was to win Sunday's final, it would make the U-96 the winningest hull ever in the sport with 24 victories.
Ellstrom picked up his first career victory here on the Columbia River in 2000.
"It was the most expensive day of my life," Ellstrom said.
Once he won, he had to have more victories. So he spent more money on equipment.
-- Steve David, driver of the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, has a new flak jacket to wear in the cockpit when he drives the boat.
"The company fitted it to me with a mold yesterday and had it delivered this morning," said David. "I decided to wear it and give it a try today. It works so far, so good."
David broke some ribs during the Madison, Ind., race earlier this month when he and Dave Villwock, driving the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, collided during the final heat.
He missed the Detroit Gold Cup to let the ribs heal.
-- Scott Raney, who along with his wife Shannon owns the U-11 Peters & May, is still learning his new boat.
The Raneys, who worked last season with the U-37 team owned by Billy and Jane Schumacher, made the move to start their own team and purchased the equipment of the U-25 team owned by Dr. Ken Muscatel.
"It was all new to us at Madison," Scott Raney said. "We started fighting a steering issue and found out later the rudder was bent. We fixed that, so one step at a time."
The majority of this crew comes from last year's U-37 team, and while this year will have a large learning curve, the Raneys expect success with their four-year plan.
"I want to fund this at a greater level," Scott said. "We want to run with the Oberto, the Qatar, the Red Dot. We watch a lot of video of our boat. Our sponsors are 100 percent behind us."
The Raneys have a four-year plan, with a brand new boat in the plans within a few years.
"But we've got to be smart," Scott said. "We want to step up our performance from our back east trip. We want to step up the program."
But it has to be a slow process, and one step at a time.
So what'll make the Raneys happy?
"If we could keep this boat in one piece, stay financially stable and get more depth in equipment and propellors," Scott said. "That would make me happy."
-- Mike Jones admits he can't get racing out of his blood.
"We keep messing with boats," Jones said.
Jones and his wife Lori have tried to sell the U-9 unlimited, which is racing this weekend as the Miss VisitTRI-CITIES.com.
"If somebody were to come along and make the right offer, we'd sell it," said Mike.
Meanwhile, the Joneses are racing the boat in the Tri-Cities and Seattle, and then they'll decided about San DiegoBut this isn't the boat's first race this season.
The U-9 was leased a few weeks ago to the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto for the Detroit Gold Cup.
"Jon Zimmerman got into it for the first time and ran almost 150 mph in that first lap in Detroit," said Mike.
Jones is willing to do even more this year.
"They keep talking about needing boats for exhibition races in China," he said. "Let us know, we'll help."
-- For nine months of the year, Jerry Hopp is a school bus driver in Snohomish.
In the summer, Hopp drives the yellow GP-15 Peters and May in the Grand Prix West series.
"Anything that's yellow, I drive it," he said.
The yellow on Hopp's boat is actually called Lemon Ice, the color chosen for the boat's previous sponsor, Mike's Hard Lemonade.
Though yellow is not Hopp's favorite color -- that would be metallic blue -- he said he doesn't think about changing the GP-15's color.
"We've won six national titles with the yellow boat and set various speed records," he said.
Lemon Ice continues to serve Hopp well: He leads the GP standings with 465 points.