Chasing history at the Columbia Cup, Jimmy Shane built up a lot of confidence Saturday.
Taking on all challengers in his U-1 Miss HomeStreet hull, he topped the field in both heats he ran, establishing himself as the frontrunner for Sunday’s sets of heats and winner-take-all final.
If he comes out on top this weekend, he will be one of two drivers in 52 years of racing in the Tri-Cities to win on the Columbia River in four consecutive seasons. He’d also join Dave Villwock (8, only one to win four in a row), Chip Hanauer (7) and Bill Muncey (5) as the only drivers with five or more Tri-City victories.
“Each weekend is different for us,” Shane said. “We have a completely different setup than we’ve never run, which is good for us to learn from. It’s not like we run the same setup year, to year, to year and just expect to win. We’re going to have to fight for it this year.”
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While J. Michael Kelly hopes to find more speed in his U-12 Graham Trucking boat for the final heats, 2016 H1 Unlimited Rookie of the Year Andrew Tate looks to have the only boat, the U-9 Les Schwab Tires, that can challenge Shane this weekend.
Tate was the top qualifier on Friday and topped Shane in the Indiana Governor’s Cup final at the Madison Regatta at the beginning of the month.
But Shane got the better of Tate in their first tilt on the Columbia this season, as the second-year unlimited driver was running early on the milling period of Saturday’s final heat, 2B, forcing him to yield the inside lane, and momentum, to Shane. The race was far from decided when the pair hit the start/finish line, however, as Tate never got down by more than half of a rooster tail, but Shane held on to pick up the 400 points.
“Every win is special, and that’s what we’re here to do is win hydroplane races,” Shane said. “It doesn’t matter if I’ve won here one time or five times, every time I want to win.
“That’s our goal when we come here to race. We come here to win, we have the equipment to do it, we have the team to do it, and we have a wonderful sponsor in HomeStreet Bank that gives us a chance to do it. We’ll be there in the final heat, and we’ll be pushing for the win.”
EVERY HEAT COUNTS
While the highlight of the weekend will surely be the finale of the HAPO Columbia Cup for Unlimited Hydroplanes — especially after last year’s memorable, controversial, bizarre finish — individual heat races are now more valuable than ever.
A change in format this season turned the Indiana Governor’s Cup into an exhibition on the unlimited circuit, meaning the Columbia Cup is one of just four point-race weekends remaining on the schedule.
In pursuit of a fifth straight national championship, Shane was more than happy to slap the up-and-coming Tate with a heat loss Saturday to take an 80-point lead in the standings.
“(Getting two wins) that’s the best you can do,” Shane said. “Every heat matters because we only have four races this year that are scoring points, so any time you can beat who you think your biggest challenger is going to be during the season is a plus.”
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