Greg Hopp still Grand Prix West king in Tri-Cities

July 29, 2012 

Greg Hopp has a winning streak going in the Tri-Cities.

He’s 2-for-2 in Grand Prix West finals on the Columbia River after Sunday’s six-boat race.

Hopp’s GP-12 Shooters Sports Bar Presents Miss Slabjack held a two-roostertail lead as it went through Turn 2 of the third and final lap.

By the finish, it had an even larger advantage over the GP-15 PumpTech NW.

There might have been an air of invincibility as Hopp defended his title, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

“The water was really rough,” said Hopp, who fought the current to win Saturday’s two heats. “The left sponson made a pop. Some stuff popped loose, maybe a brain cell.”

Hopp had enough brain cells to know what could be coming behind him: His father, Jerry, was driving the GP-15, and he had a big propeller that could help him catch the GP-12.

But Jerry Hopp decided not to push his boat after a red light began to flicker, signaling a drop in oil pressure. He still took second, beating out David Warren (GP-19 Sahara Pizza), Dustin Echols (GP-17 Little Caesars Pizza/EF-65 Hand Cleaner) and Scotty Pierce (GP-55 Cabo Marine).

The Hopps didn’t get to have a father-son finish in last year’s GPW final. A battery meltdown kept Jerry at the dock as Greg roared to victory.

That was a tough weekend for Jerry Hopp, who arrived in the Tri-Cities as the national high points leader. By that Sunday, his son had taken over the top spot.

Though Greg Hopp remains the man to beat in GPW this season, Jerry Hopp was happy they both finally got in a full race here.

A problem developed with the GP-15’s intake manifold during the first heat Saturday, and the boat was scratched from the second heat.

“There was no playing around,” Jerry Hopp said. “This was foot-to-the-floor racing.”

Unfortunately for Leslie “Poodle” Warren, she didn’t get to push her GP-43 ExtremePlay Racing to the limit.

After the boat hit a high roller just yards from the shore, the left sponson was submerged, water cascaded over the top of the canopy, and Warren’s race was over before it really began.

The GP-43 ended up drifting toward the blue bridge as the other boats sped around the course.

“When you’re coming off the beach, water is coming up from the boat, and I didn’t see the roller,” Warren said. “I didn’t have a chance to let off the throttle. I didn’t have a chance to do anything.”

Warren was less sad for herself than for her crew, which repaired sponson damage before the final.

“We’re all disappointed,” she said, “but it’s not over. We’ll be back.”

In all likelihood, so will Greg Hopp for a crack at title No. 3.

“Bob (Schellhase, boat owner) spent a lot of money on the boat this year,” he said. “Hopefully, there’s enough in the coffers for next year.”

Grand Prix West final

1, GP-12 Shooters Sports Bar Presents Miss Slabjack (Greg Hopp), 100. 2, GP-15 PumpTech NW (Jerry Hopp), 95. 3, GP-19 Sahara Pizza (David Warren), 90. 4, GP-17 Little Caesars Pizza/EF-65 Hand Cleaner (Dustin Echols), 85. 5, GP-55 Cabo Marine (Scotty Pierce), 80. GP-43 ExtremePlay Racing (Leslie “Poodle” Warren), DNF. GP-60 (Gordy Gillmer), DNS.

w Katie Dorsey: 582-1526; kdorsey@tricityherald.com

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