The undercard of the Lamb-Weston Columbia Cup turned out to be pretty entertaining Saturday.
Greg Hopp, driving the GP-12 Fox Plumbing and Heating, outdueled everyone to win twice in preliminary heats.
My game plan today was to just get the feel of the boat, watch the oil pressure and take it easy, Hopp said. But my right foot had a different idea. It wants to press down on the gas. Ive got an issue with my right foot.
In the first heat race, Hopp running in lane 2, sat on Dustin Echols hip in the GP-17 Shockwave Racing. Echols stayed on the inside lane the entire race.
For two laps, Hopp stayed right on Echols hip. But on the final lap, Hopp made a move.
He passed Echols with half a lap to go and held him off for the victory.
Hopp had to make a move on that last lap.
I saw a lot of calm water on the outside, said Hopp. Dustin hit a bunch of holes on the inside and I got by him.
Hopp drove back to the docks, got out of the cockpit and let out a whoop.
What a whale of a race! said Hopp. I didnt even know if I had won when we crossed the finish line.
Echols took the first race loss well.
It was a good race, he said. Ive got (boat owner) Rick (Bridgeman) on the radio telling me Greg is coming up. And the closer he got, I could see him in the rearview mirror.
A loss is a loss, said Echols.
Hes more concerned about the Sunday final.
Ultimately, were looking to get the boat faster, said Echols. Were just trying to get faster.
In the days second heat, Echols jumped the score-up bouy and was penalized a minute.
But it didnt stop him from staying with Hopp, his father Jerry Hopp in the GP-15 Happy Go Lucky, and Dave Warren in the GP-19 Ice Harbor Brewing, as the four boats raced deck-to-deck for much of the three-lap heat.
On the final lap, Jerry Hopp fell back about 10 boat lengths. But Greg Hopp and Warren stayed with each other until the final turn, when Hopp pulled away for the win.
Warren was second, and Jerry Hopp took third.
All four boats jockeying back and forth, said Greg Hopp. I was thinking I would rather enjoy watching this one from the shoreline.
For Jerry Hopp, its all about winning the season high-points title.
Our goal is to finish every heat, he said. So far, we have.
The key for victory is getting through that first east-end turn.
The way the current is pulling all the rollers from far down from the west end of the course to the first turn is making that fist turn rough, said Echols.
Greg Hopp agreed.
The downstream current turn is very soupy, said Greg Hopp.
If anyone knows, its Greg Hopp. Not only has he driven on the Columbia River for years in Grand Prix West boats, but hes piloted the unlimiteds as well.
Ive done a lot of damn laps on this river, he said.
The final is set for 2:30 p.m. today.