There is still one day before boats hit the water at the HAPO Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities.
But fans can get a close-up look today at some of the 13 unlimited hydroplanes set to compete this weekend.
From 4-6 p.m. at the Columbia Center Mall, three boats — the 1 Graham Trucking, the 12 Miss DiJulio and the 17 Our Gang Racing, will be on display.
Many of the drivers will be in attendance too.
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It’s a prelude to what is expected to be one of the most anticipated unlimited races in years, with Sunday’s final set for 4:40 p.m.
The favorite has to be Jimmy Shane and the 6 Oberto team, who won the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit two weeks ago. Shane, who drove the 1 Graham Trucking to the national high points title in 2013, has only lost one race in the first two events this season.
J. Michael Kelly now drives the 1 Graham Trucking, and he won the Indiana Governor’s Cup final July 6 in Madison, Ind.
Between Shane and Kelly, those two drivers have dominated the H1 Unlimited field so far this season. But there are plenty of great story lines coming into this weekend.
Erick Ellstrom and his team is set to debut the new 96 Spirit of Qatar on Friday, with Kip Brown driving the boat.
“We’ve got to put it in the water, be smart when we test it,” said Ellstrom. “We want to shake it out, get our driver comfortable with it.”
Meanwhile, Dave Villwock — the winningest unlimited driver in history with 67 victories — comes out of retirement this weekend when he’ll drive the 37 Beacon Plumbing.
Jon Zimmerman hit a roller on the Detroit River during preliminary heat racing a few weeks ago, flipping the boat. The boat had been looking strong this season. Crew chief Jeff Campbell said the boat has been repaired and should be just as fast as it was before the flip.
And Nate Brown is bringing his 17 Our Gang Racing boat to the Tri-Cities, giving fans a chance to have their name on the boat as it runs around the Columbia River.
It all begins Friday with unlimited testing at 10:10 a.m.
Meanwhile, here’s a quick roundup of the field:
1/7 Graham Trucking boats: They’ve been parked at the Shiloh Inn in Richland since Wednesday. The 1 boat will be at the mall from 4 to 6 p.m. today.
6 Oberto: The team will have three souvenir stands on the river this weekend — one in Pasco and two in Columbia Park.
9 Les Schwab-Red Dot: Crew chief Jeff Campbell was up past 2 a.m. Wednesday painting the boat.
11 Peters & May: Co-owner Scott Raney and his team have been getting the boat ready. Meanwhile, driver Tom Thompson won a title last weekend at the APBA Summer Nationals, in 2.5 Lite Modifieds.
12 DiJulio: Seattle Seahawks fans will like this boat’s color scheme. It’s the team’s colors and the number obviously reflects the fans.
17 Our Gang: Team owner Nate Brown has started getting the signatures on the boat. It’ll be happening most of today too.
18 Bucket List Racing: This will be Kelly Stocklin’s first time back in the boat and in the water since September of 2012 in San Diego.
21 Lakeridge Paving: The team will be coming into Tri-Cities fresh off of a second-place finish at the Detroit Gold Cup.
22 Webster Racing: Mike Webster drove his boat to the Gold Cup final two weeks ago.
37 Beacon Plumbing: The team should have the boat at Cost Less Carpet, 1925 Fowler Street in Richland, starting at 11 a.m. today.
96 Spirit of Qatar: The new graphics went on to the boat Thursday. The team’s new uniforms arrived Wednesday.
100 Leland Racing: David Warren began driving the boat last season. However, it wasn’t until after the Tri-Cities race. So this will be his first time here in the 100.