J. Michael Kelly knows where he and the U-1 Graham Trucking sit in the H1 Unlimited standings — behind Jimmy Shane and the U-6 Oberto.
But after winning Saturday’s Heat 1A at the 49th annual HAPO Columbia Cup, Kelly is chipping away at Shane’s lead.
“It was another barn burner,” Kelly said. “We want to draw the fastest boats. The only way to gain points is to draw the 6 and finishing in front.”
Heat 1A was chock full of speed and talent with Kelly, Shane and veteran Dave Villwock in the U-37 Beacon Plumbing. When the boats hit the start line, all three, along with Tom Thompson in the gbr-11 Peters & May and Jamie Nilsen in the U-21 Lakeridge Paving, were flagged for jumping the gun.
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That left Kelly Stocklin in the U-18 Bucket List Racing with the only clean start.
The penalty for starting too early is one extra lap. Kelly and Shane knew they would have to go that extra lap, and both lapped Stocklin right before the finish line to place 1-2, with Stocklin finishing third.
More than 30 minutes later, it was determined no one jumped the gun and race fans were treated to a bonus lap of racing by the two fastest boats in the field.
“It’s good to know we didn’t jump and we were on our marks,” Kelly said. “As long as we all jumped, that was OK, but I’d rather not have the penalty.”
Kelly turned in a lap of 160.745 mph during the heat, with his average speed hitting 150.683.
“Nearly 161, that is extremely fast,” Kelly said. “That might be faster than what I qualified.”
For Stocklin, third was great while it lasted.
“Our boat is significantly underpowered,” said Stocklin, who ended up last. “Our engine is half the size of the others. My radio man, John, said they all jumped the gun and to protect my position, then the fun began. It would have been nice to have been first. We aren’t in the points race, but we are having a good time.”
Kelly was lucky to have gotten on the water for Heat 1A. Just before the boat was to be lowered into the river, crew member Tommy Alfono noticed the adjusting rod on the A-frame was broken. It was a quick fix, but could have been costly if overlooked.
“Had we not had caught it, the frame and wings would have separated and that would have been catastrophic,” said Graham Trucking crew member Kent Block. “It would have been thousands of dollars in damage.”
And that’s not the end of the damage.
“The right front sponson is tore up a bit and we have to replace the wing,” Kelly said. “It could be a long night.”
Heat 1B was just as full of drama. No one jumped the gun, but Mike Webster in the U-22 Ranch & Home Presents Payne West Insurance went from fourth to second with less than a half a lap to go to finish right behind heat winner Jon Zimmerman in the U-9 Les Schwab Tires-Team RedDOT.
Webster wished for a better start, but once the race got going, he was able to slip into a pocket of space and jump up into second.
“We are ecstatic about the weekend, and we represented our sponsors well,” Webster said. “The opportunity presented itself — we’ll take what we can get. We won’t be picky.”
Zimmerman led from start to finish, with Cal Phipps in the U-7 Graham Tracking II a roostertail behind most of the race until Webster made his move.
“The boat ran great,” Zimmerman said. “We blew it up in Detroit and made the repairs. It’s as good as it ever was. Four hundred points puts us in a good spot for the weekend. We gave up a lot of points in Detroit. We have to chip away at that, and this helps.”
Today’s heats pit Kelly against Shane once again in Heat 2A at 10:15 a.m. Joining them will be Nilsen, Thompson, Greg Hopp in the U-12 Miss Di Julio, and the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, which didn’t get 100 feet from the dock in Heat 1B on Saturday.
In Heat 2B, Villwock will lead the charge against Zimmerman, Webster, Stocklin, Phipps and Jeff Bernard in the U-17 Our Gang Racing at 10:40 a.m.
w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; email@example.com; Twitter: tchicequeen