KENNEWICK -- The Unlimited Lights got off to a couple of false starts Saturday, but after the first day of competition at the Atomic Cup, Paul Becker looked impressive with two heat victories.
Becker, driving his self-sponsored UL-14 The Yellow Boat, held off Will Muncey in the UL-00 Atomic Screen Printing/Warning Power.com not once, but twice for 800 points.
"Will Muncey is a great guy," said Becker. "I met his dad (the late Bill Muncey) a few times. Will likes to run hard and run close. It's always great to race with him."
The first race was a deck-to-deck battle between Muncey and Becker.
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Bob Smets in the UL-20 Smetco.com totally missed his start and was half a lap behind the other two.
Muncey and Becker traded the lead a couple times for two laps, until Becker pulled away to win by two roostertails for 400 points.
Muncey was second for 300 points, and Smets earned 225 points for third.
Becker admits that at this point of the season, everyone usually has their boats dialed in. But with this being just the second race of the season, everyone is struggling.
"It's just great to be here," said Becker.
In Heat 1B, Rod Bourke in the UL-5 Miss Kim and Dan McCulloch in the UL-77 MPH Auto Marine/Butch's RV & Boat Storage Coulee Miss went deck-to-deck.
But Bourke pulled away from McCulloch after one lap to take first and earn 400 points, while McCulloch got 300 points for second.
Kayleigh Perkins in the UL-72 Foster Care/TRIAD Technologies finished third for 225 points.
"The boat sounded great," said Bourke. "We nailed the start. We had to put a bigger prop on it, and I didn't want to do that. Being one of the two small-block engines in this field, the best thing I can do is get out front and run in as much clean water as I can."
It was just the second career heat win for Bourke.
Smets not only timed his start better in Heat 2B, he won the thing.
"It felt good," said Smets, who was planning to run the boat easy in the heat. "We had a broken strut on a shaft bearing inside the boat. But it kind of felt good out there. And the water was smooth."
Becker, Bourke, Smets and Muncey have all qualified for today's ULHRA Thunder Cup final, set for 4:20 p.m.
The rest of the field will battle for the four remaining spots in the final at 12:45 p.m. in the B Main race.
Heat 1A of the Unlimited Lights got delayed when Kevin Eacret in the UL-11 Power Punch Racing/Advanced Auto Glass/KNN Engineering spun out in warmups.
The race was black-flagged and then delayed while a B-2 Bomber had to make its flyover. The race was then restarted without the UL-11.
Heat 2A had to be re-run when the race clock malfunctioned.
Kamiakin High graduate Vince Xaudaro in the UL-929 Ice Harbor Brewery/Conover Insurance failed to finish either of his heats. He will try to compete in today's B Main.