KENNEWICK -- Though Jerry and Greg Hopp are driving separate boats this weekend in the Grand Prix West series, the father and son from Snohomish County remain connected on the racing circuit.
Jerry, 64, drives the GP-15 Peters and May, while Greg, 43, pilots the GP-12 Bob's 401k. Their bright yellow hydroplanes have sat side-by-side in the Lampson Pits during the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup. The father's crew will work on the son's boat, and vice versa. During down time, father and son talk shop and joke around.
Heck, they even co-own the GP-15.
But where was Jerry's son in the Grand Prix standings?
With a Cheshire Cat grin on his face, Jerry said: "Behind me."
Not for long.
Greg won both GPW heats Saturday and collected 200 points, leapfrogging his dad, who ran out of gas in Heat 1, and setting up today's Hopp vs. Hopp final showdown set for 3:50 p.m.
Though the younger Hopp thundered to victory, the "ancient one," as Jerry is referred to by his crew -- "I don't know whether that's out of respect or they're picking on me" -- perhaps stole a little bit of that thunder in the second heat.
After emerging from a battle for third with Scotty Pierce (GP-99 Cowgirls Espresso) and Dave Warren (GP-329 Lucas Oil), Jerry charged past Ryan Mallow (GP-19 Miss Everett) in the backstretch of the final lap to place second. The runner-up finish garnered 95 points and elicited big cheers from the fans, many of whom were experiencing the GPW series for the first time.
"I could see him catching us," Greg said. "That boat is pretty intimidating."
Really, both Hopps have done their fair share of intimidation. They were fixtures in Unlimited Lights, enjoying great success together in the Tri-Cities. The UL-1, co-driven by Jerry and Greg, finished third in the Tri-Cities in 2004 on the way to retaining its national high points title, and Greg won the Thunder Cup final in 2006 and 2008.
Even with all the Hopps' achievements, Greg was tired and considered quitting -- until Hopp Racing Team member Bob Schellhase said he wanted to buy the UL-9 American Eagle.
"Ours was the fastest UL, but the Eagle could run with us or beat us," Greg said.
The Eagle entered the Hopp Racing fray, but eventually, the big separation came. Schellhase decided to move in a different direction, Greg said, and he asked the younger Hopp to drive his boat. Greg went along for the ride and now competes under the Schellhase Racing flag.
Though father and son are on different teams, they still are each other's biggest supporters. Greg, who is pulling double duty this weekend by driving the U-100 Beacon Plumbing, said he would put his dad's propeller on his boat for this morning's test session to see whether it might be related to Jerry's fuel issues Saturday.
Don't think it will stay friendly all day, though.
"We're playing into each other's hand pretty good on this deal," Jerry said.
Said Greg: "We'll have a little lipping off and some insults."
* Six boats started the Grand Prix West heats Saturday, but only five are moving on to the final.
The GP-17 Shockwave Racing, driven by Dustin Echols, is out of commission the rest of the weekend after breaking its gearbox in the first heat.
"That's racing," said Rick Bridgeman, the boat owner and crew chief. "On to the next one."
Heat 1 --1. GP-12 Bob's 401k (Greg Hopp), 100 points; 2. GP-19 Miss Everett (Ryan Mallow), 95; 3. GP-329 Lucas Oil (Dave Warren), 90; 4. GP-99 Cowgirls Espresso (Scotty Pierce), 85 DNF -- GP-17 Shockwave Racing (Dustin Echols), GP-15 Peters and May (Jerry Hopp).
Heat 2 -- 1. GP-12 Bob's 401k (G. Hopp), 100; 2. GP-15 Peters and May (J. Hopp), 95; 3. GP-19 Miss Everett (Mallow), 90; 4. GP-329 Lucas Oil (Warren), 85; 5. GP-99 Cowgirls Espresso (Pierce), 80; DNS -- GP-17 Shockwave Racing (Echols).
* Katie Dorsey: 509-582-1526; email@example.com