The mental games between Steve David and Jimmy Shane were apparent Sunday down on the Columbia River.
When David zigged, Shane zagged. When Shane moved one way, David would be there too.
In the end — on a day that fans witnessed two boats blowing over — it was the 59-year-old veteran David, driving the 1 Oh Boy! Oberto, outdueling the 27-year-old Shane in the 5 Graham Trucking for the 48th Lamb Weston Columbia Cup title.
It was the Oberto team’s first chance to win a race after losing the Detroit Gold Cup two weeks ago on a controversial decision by a race official. And the Oberto team showed Sunday that it means business.
“We’re here to win every race from here on out and all three heat races each weekend,” David said. “We also have a 237-point lead over the Graham team going into Seafair.”
Earlier in the day in heat 3B, the only other time this weekend the two titans went up against each other, Shane got the inside lane at the start and held off David for the victory.
“So we had a feel for what we wanted to do in the final,” David said. “I said (to crew chief Mike Hanson) just give me a box ratio with top-end speed for the final.”
As the final was getting ready to start, Kip Brown came out of the pits well ahead of the field in the 95 Spirit of Qatar.
One minute later, David and the Oberto left the dock, followed quickly by Shane and the Graham.
In fact, Shane shadowed David’s moves throughout the pre-race milling period.
Brown settled in to the inside lane a good 4 minutes before the race was to start, and was barely trolling in the water.
Shane then slid in next to Brown, and David came up into lane three. But Shane and David picked up speed as everyone approached the 1-minute score-up buoy, and Brown came along for the ride.
Brown, in fact, was called for crossing the score-up buoy too early and was hit with a 1-lap penalty.
“Them’s the breaks,” he said. “I was right on my mark, and frankly I thought I was legal. The inside lane was my shot at the final. I’m not out there racing for fifth place. I’m either going for the win or last place.”
Meanwhile, David put his foot on the gas ahead of Shane and found his way into the inside lane.
“If we drug them all the way to the end, I knew (Shane) would slow down,” David said. “I raced him all the way down the backstretch, but then I shut things down at the entry pin (before the start).”
Hanson said it’s a fine line what drivers have to do to get ready for a race.
“You have two starting clocks you’re racing against,” said Hanson, who changed the gearbox-propeller ratio every time the boat went out this weekend. “There’s the 1-minute score-up buoy, and then the start of the race. To hit them both right on is a hard thing for a driver to do.”
For four laps, Shane stayed within striking distance of David, riding on his hip within a few boat lengths.
But David had too much speed, and Shane could never catch him.
David pulled back into the pits, got out of the cockpit, and did a little dance on his boat.
“We got the Bernie tree back,” said David, referring to the defending champion each year getting to set up camp under a huge oak tree that former Budweiser owner Bernie Little saved from death decades ago. “This team works far too hard to not have the Bernie tree. I’m glad I could give it to them.”
Jon Zimmerman in the 9 Fox Plumbing presents Team RedDOT powered by Les Schwab finished third, while Mark Evans drove the 57 FEDCO to a fourth-place finish.
Tommy Thompson finished fifth in the 11 Peters & May, and the trailer boat, the 21 Go Fast Turn Left with driver Jamie Nilsen, placed sixth. With the penalty, Brown was seventh.
Earlier in the day, J. Michael Kelly flipped the 37 Miss Beacon Plumbing in heat 2B. Kelly wasn’t hurt, but the team will be working all this coming week to get the boat ready for Seafair.
Also, replacement driver Kelly Stocklin flipped the 100 Central Coast Airbrush in heat 3B. Stocklin complained of back pain after the flip and was taken to the hospital. The Leland team said it would be bringing anotgher boat to Seafair.
Shane, who won the Columbia Cup title last year, said he wasn’t disappointed in the loss.
“We had tremendous speed on the outside,” Shane said. “Our boat just got out of control a couple times. But it was a good weekend.”
Shane’s boss, team owner Ted Porter, offered no excuses.
“Our boat was very fast,” Porter said. “Steve just had the inside lane. The 95 was up there, and they were kind of holding us back. We had to do most of lap 1 out in lane 3. I like Kip. Maybe his radio guy didn’t tell him about the penalty soon enough.”
Porter said stuff like that won’t happen again.
“Maybe we were too nice,” he said. “I think that Jimmy has gotten inside of Steve’s head. We’d like to race him every time if we could. But I tell ya, we’re gonna fight a lot harder next time.”
Starting next weekend at Seafair.