J. Michael Kelly in the U-12 Graham Trucking hit a perfect start Sunday, all but securing a win before the rest of the field even crossed the start line to claim the 2017 Columbia Cup, the signature event of the Tri-Cities Water Follies.
Kelly barreled through the start line at the first possible second and at full speed, with the rest of the field still firing up the horsepower and jockeying for inside position.
Jimmy King in the U-3 Griggs Presents the Miss Ace Hardware and three-time defending champion Jimmy Shane in the U-1 Miss HomeStreet battled for second place until King pulled ahead in the fourth lap. That left Shane and Andrew Tate in the U-9 Les Schwab Tires in a race for third. The two drivers dominated qualifying and heat races throughout the weekend, but had to settle for three-four (Shane then Tate) in the big race.
J. Michael Kelly makes a statement, they found the speed, and it looks like he'll get his first win in the Tri-Cities pic.twitter.com/nnJW0kKJFq— Dustin Brennan (@Tweet_By_Dustin) July 30, 2017
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Heat 4A provided some drama and a surprise finish.
It took three laps to review the tape, but race officials finally slapped U-12 J. Michael Kelly with a lap penalty for jumping the start by a split second. Unfortunate for the Graham Trucking team because he beat U-3 Jimmy King and national champ U-1 Jimmy Shane on the water from the inside.
King pushed his piston-powered U-3 past Shane from Lane 2 and picked up his first heat win of the weekend. It was the first heat Shane didn’t win, but he still picked up 300 points in 2nd.
And then in Heat 4B ...
Thompson was in Tate's hip pocket, even led at times, but swung out and lost momentum in final lap Turn 1. Tate picks up 3rd win— Dustin Brennan (@Tweet_By_Dustin) July 30, 2017
The final day of the Tri-Cities Water Follies is at hand, and the big event — the Columbia Cup finale — draws near.
Racing fans already have had a chance to watch a pair of heat races, with two more scheduled for this afternoon ahead of the 4 p.m. main event.
In Heat 3A — according to Herald hydros writer Dustin Brennan:
U-11 Tom Thompson had the inside lane after the milling period with U-9 Andrew Tate and U-3 Jimmy King running three wide to the outside, and they stayed like that through the first lap.
Thompson led until near the end of the second lap, when Tate shifted the U-9 into gear and pulled away on the front stretch. But Thompson had an encouraging run, staying within a rooster tail over the final two laps.
King took third, U-99.9 Greg Hopp was happily able to get the boat up once again and logged another finish, fourth.
In Heat 3B, Jimmy Shane nailed another start, the field made mistakes trying to beat him, and the four-time national champion rode the U-1 to his third heat win of the weekend.
J. Michael Kelly was early in the milling period, got hit with a low-speed warning with about a minute left, then a penalty for making a loop around the infield to get in position for the start. He still netted a second-place finish in the three-boat heat.
U-440 Dustin Echols started his first race of the weekend but spun before finishing his third lap. He’d already been lapped by Shane and Kelly.