Kayleigh Perkins wasn't exactly awash in confidence after guiding her UL-72 boat to victory in the B Main, a warmup for Sunday afternoon's main event.
"I'm still a little hesitant, but I know my team is great and the boat is great, so I'm not super doubting us, but I'm not completely saying we're gonna win," she said. "So, I dunno. I will be surprised with what happens."
She was surprised, right along with everyone looking on during the Unlimited Lights race when she passed the malfunctioning UL-14 boat of Paul Becker on the last lap to win the Atomic Cup.
"I thought for sure it was all Paul," Perkins said. "I was just plotting for a happy second."
But a two-roostertail lead dwindled to none as Becker took a hard turn and his boat came to a standstill, drifting across Perkins' lane and eventually out of the race.
"Evidently they lost oil pressure, so it worked out for my behalf," Perkins said. "He cut right in front of me. Luckily I was just paying enough attention that I didn't run over the back end of his boat."
Becker's boat failure came after a weekend of brilliant racing. He was the favorite coming into the final.
"We got the start we wanted," Becker said. "We could run with Kayleigh; we could run hard. The boat was running very nicely and on the third lap going into the bridge turn, I hit a couple of rollers and - Bam! Bam! - the oil pressure went away. I shut it off and a belt came off the dryer pump."
The result was heartbreaking for Becker, who entered the race with the weekend's points lead after back-to-back heat victories Saturday. He led nearly the entire race in the final.
"It was going pretty good," he said. "You don't want to hear what I said (when I shut down). This is racing. You never count your chickens. I thought we had a very well-prepared boat, and here's one place where it just got us. We were very surprised."
Perkins took advantage of the misfortunate immediately, passing and never looking back en route to an easy victory.
"I thought I had a good second place, thinking, 'Congratulations to Paul and his team.' They worked really hard this weekend," she said. "Then all of a sudden it's like he's going dead, so here we go. I was looking around and I guess no one else was around me."
Perkins defended her Atomic Cup victory from a year ago with the win and further legitimized herself in the Unlimited Lights class as a force to be reckoned with.
"I'm pretty excited," she said. "It's a really fun race course because the fans are so into this race. They are front row and center, so it's a really fun race to get to win because it's very fan based."
Becker wasn't feeling so chipper.
"I wanna go home," he said. "I'm tired. It's great to be in Pasco, but it's been a hard weekend and I'm just bummed that there's a ton of effort and we worked really hard (for a DNF). The next emotion is what the heck can I do to fix it so it never happens again? I thought we had it nailed down, but we gotta figure out something."
The rest of the pack finished well behind Perkins, with UL-00 driver Wil Muncey taking second, UL-5 driver Rod Bourke third, UL-20 driver Bob Smets fourth, UL-11 driver Kevin Eacret fifth and UL-3 driver Chris Grant sixth.
Bourke was ultimately crowned the weekend's overall points champion, finishing with 925 after his final finish (225 points) and 700 points total from Saturday's races. Becker finished second in points with 800, while Smets was third with 794. Perkins finished with 625 total points, fourth best.