Kennewick, Wash. — Meet the home team, Tri-City hydroplane fans.
They're the U-57 Formulaboats.com/Tire Factory boys, and for the first time in decades an unlimited hydroplane's home port is in eastern Washington.
In this case, it's Chelan, where brothers Mark and Mitch Evans, and business partner John Walcker come from.
And the Chelan boys are expecting a large group of people coming to town this weekend to cheer them on.
It all started in the winter, when Ted Porter was looking to unload his three race boats and the equipment.
"Ted just called me one day and wanted to know if we wanted to buy the boat," said Walcker, who for years worked with Ed Cooper and the U-3 piston-powered boat.
Walcker then talked to Mitch Evans, who had been out of the hydroplane business full-time since 2003. He has a very successful business at Lake Chelan called Evans Marine, maintaining yachts and other large boats for customers who own homes on the lake.
Mitch surprised Walcker when he said 'Let's do it.'"
"John was the one that started the whole process," said Mark Evans. "Then Mitch got interested. He had more of a twinkle in his eye about this than I did. I was about the last to know."
But Mark remembered working with Mitch a few years ago in San Diego.
"When Jim Harvey fell two years ago in San Diego and hurt his back, I was so happy that Mitch could step in and be my radio man," said Mark. "I talk a lot on the beach, but I'm pretty quiet in the cockpit. When he became the radio man it was so comfortable."
For Mitch, the decision to buy a boat was a surprise even to himself.
"The opportunity came along one day," he said. "It was like, business is doing pretty good. I felt I could be constructive and helpful."
And both he and Walcker knew a few things about running a team.
Both had worked with Ed Cooper and the U-3 piston-powered boat for years.
"I felt I was an owner of that boat, even though I wasn't financially responsible," said Mitch. "We watched every penny we spent. I always felt I had an ownership in the U-3."
Walcker had similar experiences.
"I helped raise money for the team with Cooper," he said. "And I run two races in Chelan."
So the three formed Evans LLC, buying the boat and equipment from Porter.
"By them buying that boat, they helped me stay in the sport so that we could concentrate on running one team this season," Porter said.
It's been a learning experience for the three, especially for Mark, who never had to worry about anything but driving.
"Oh my gosh," he said. "One time when I was driving for Fred Leland and I was bugging him about testing. And I kept bugging him. Finally he took me back into his truck. He said 'Mark, see that propellor? Every time you go out it costs me money to run that."
He said he finally understands what Leland meant.
"I've always wanted to be an owner and a driver," Mark said.
He just has a different mindset now.
"We were in the inside lane in Madison a few weeks ago when I realized I shouldn't be in there and I pulled out. I wouldn't have done that if it was someone else's boat. But since it's my money now, I thought about that."
Mitch was an accomplished driver himself. But he's fine as the crew chief.
"People ask me if I miss driving," he said. "I definitely don't have a burning desire to drive anymore. To come back has been fun. We're sharing that crew chief duty. In our world nobody has an assignment -- except for Mark, who drives."
Walcker is still trying to find more money as team manager.
"The hard part is finding sponsors," he said. "We can leave things on the charge card, and we can ask people for money. But we are a no-budget team. We're having fun, but if we don't make some money we won't have fun for long. So far, we're OK."
Still, it's been an eye-opening experience for the threesome.
"That we can call the shots is kind of fun," said Mark. "But it's a lot more stressful."