HYDROS: Liddycoat takes a backseat

July 26, 2013 

Mallory near Collision 2013

Josh Culver, left, driver of the Y-19 1-liter hyroplanes, narrowly mavoids colliding with Kayleigh Mallory in the Y-26 1-liter hydroplane, Saturday during their Dash for Cash race. Mallory later said in a radio interview that she lost control of her boat when the steering wheel came during a turn.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Scott Liddycoat quietly goes about his business in the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto camp.

Two years ago, Liddycoat was the H1 Unlimited rookie driver of the year.

Last year, Liddycoat drove the 88 Degree Men boat.

Now? He misses driving.

“But I enjoy being with this team,” Liddycoat said. “I’ve learned a lot from them.”

Liddycoat and the Gregory family from Las Vegas had plans to race the 88 again this season.

“What happened was we had a three-year deal with Degree,” said Liddycoat. “But once (Degree) decided they weren’t going to sponsor any race teams, the Gregory family decided not to run.

“They’re waiting for a sponsor to step forward,” he continued. “I hope they do find one one day.”

It left Liddycoat without a ride.

“It’s kind of a bummer,” he said. “We were talking about a new boat.”

Now, he’s one of the guys on the crew.

“I guess you can call me the ground guy,” Liddycoat said. “I check the wing, make sure it’s tight. I re-torque all the bolts on the skid fin. And when the boat hits the water, I strap in Steve David.”

Some day, Liddycoat may drive for David.

The 59-year-old David can’t drive forever, so the Oberto will need to groom a replacement. Liddycoat would be an obvious choice.

“I hope so,” he said. “I’d love the the opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to drive this wicked machine?”

From the diamond to the water: Federal Way’s Jamie Nilsen grew up racing since he was 12 years old.

“J-Stock hydroplanes, outboards,” Nilsen said. “I’ve loved racing boats. My dad took me to Lake Washington to the Seafair races all the time.”

But after high school, boat racing took a back seat for Nilsen.

He played shortstop for the Central Washington University Wildcats baseball team, and he was good too.

He was a two-time Great Northwest Athletic Conference player of the year at Central, and he hit .468 with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs his senior season in 2008.

To top it off, the Kansas City Royals signed Nilsen to a free-agent contract later that summer.

But he lasted just that season with the Royals organization.

“I could have tried to play independent baseball,” Nilsen said.

But he got back into boat racing instead.

“I’d always sneak in a race or two between (baseball) seasons,” Nilsen said. But over the last few years, he’s gotten more serious with the racing.

This weekend, Greg and Brian O’Farrell want to get Nilsen qualified as an unlimited driver, so the owners of the U-21 Snoqualmie Casino will give him the opportunity.

Brian Perkins will still be the main driver, and will race the U-21.

But Nilsen must get 15 laps in, with 10 of those at 130 mph or better.

If he qualifies, Nilsen will drive the U-48 for the O’Farrells at Seafair next week.

Ready to rock: Mike Webster couldn’t race in the Tri-Cities last year because he flipped his U-22 Webster Racing boat in Detroit a few weeks before.

But he was able to get the boat rebuilt in time for the 2013 season, and it was in Lampson Pits on Friday.

But he never took it out on the water for a spin.

“On Thursday, our setup day, we found that we required some parts for the boat that had to come in from Seattle,” Webster said. “We got them today, but we just couldn’t get everything ready for qualifying. We’ll be ready to go in the morning to do some testing.”

Webster did get some good news Friday.

He came into the Columbia Cup without a sponsor.

But Payne West Insurance stepped up Saturday to sponsor the team.

New guy in town: Tommy Thompson went looking for an unlimited ride back in 2011, when he showed up at Seafair with his resume in hand.

Thompson, 51, lives in Maryland and has raced boats for 28 years, setting world records and winning several world, national and division titles.

“But I’ve always wanted to drive an unlimited hydroplane,” he said. “I came out to San Diego in 2011 and worked with the 11 Peters & May team.”

Shannon Raney, who owns the Peters & May with her husband, Scott, was impressed enough with Thompson that she told her spouse if the driver spot ever opened she wanted Thompson as her driver.

After Seafair last year, J.W Myers — the team’s regular driver — announced he was stepping down to heal an injured shoulder he hurt in Detroit in 2012.

Thompson was named the team’s new driver.

He’s been improving each race, including a third-place finish at the Gold Cup on July 14.

“The team is very upbeat,” Thompson said. “We work well together.”

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