KENNEWICK - Greg Hopp's jubilation was palpable as his GP-12 Bob's 401k returned to the dock after Sunday's Grand Prix West final.
Hopp pumped his fist and his crew cheered after he fended off Ryan Mallow in the GP-19 Ice Harbor Brewery Presents the Miss Everett to become the GPW's first Tri-City race champion.
Though Hopp won Saturday's two heats, he admitted to some pre-final anxiety as he steeled himself for a duel with Mallow, his co-driver in the U-99 Miss HAPO Community Credit Union on the unlimited series.
"I also figured my dad would be sticking his nose in there," Hopp said.
Instead, Jerry Hopp ended up stuck at the dock with a blown battery in the GP-15 Peters and May. It wasn't Jerry's first problem this weekend in his GP: He ran out of gas in Saturday's first heat before rebounding in Heat 2 to take second.
"I didn't know my dad didn't start," Greg Hopp said. "I lost radio communication off the dock, so I was deaf and dumb."
The GP-15 was the GPW's second casualty of the weekend. The GP-17 Little Caesars Pizza, driven by Dustin Echols, was finished after its gearbox broke in the first heat Saturday.
As a result, four boats raced in the final, including the GP-329 Lucas Oil (driver Dave Warren) and the GP-99 Cowgirls Espresso (Scotty Pierce). Warren finished ahead of Pierce.
"The thing is we want the boats running and coming back," Mallow said. "Keeping our stuff together has been pretty hard."
Mallow said he wanted to get a jump on the competition off the dock, but his boat wouldn't start at first. Mallow got it to turn over and went on to have an impressive showing around the 1 2/3-mile course, eventually moving inside the GP-12's roostertail on Lap 2 before Hopp pulled away to secure the wire-to-wire victory.
The loss was bittersweet for Mallow, who had a second- and third-place finish in Saturday's heats.
"It's not as good as winning, but Greg's one of my best friends," he said.
* Will the Grand Prix West boats return to the Tri-Cities in 2012?
Judging by the audience's reaction, Greg Hopp expects the young series will come back.
"I was hearing nothing but goodness," he said. "The fans were loving the noise."
Six GP boats competed in the Tri-Cities, and Warren -- who serves as the Grand Prix West president -- said at least three more boats will come aboard the circuit next year.
"We'd love more, but of course, the economy plays into that," he said.