Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the most recent result of the GP final.
Jeff Campbell, the crew chief for the U-9 Les Schwab Tires, made his driver, Andrew Tate, sit in his boat at the dock at Lampson Pits a little longer during the HAPO Columbia Cup final on Sunday.
While everyone else in the seven-boat final was out tooling around the Columbia River course in the five minutes before the race, Tate waited and waited … then took off out on to the course.
“(Other drivers) were worried about where I was out there,” said Tate, who blazed to the victory final to give Mike and Lori Jones their first-ever win on the Columbia.
Tate ran pretty much the perfect weekend, collecting four heat victories and a final win for 2,080 points.
But if there was an MVP, it might have to go to Campbell.
It was Campbell who spotted something sketchy in H1’s data report involving the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank.
That occurred on Saturday afternoon, when U-1 driver Jimmy Shane beat Tate in heat 2B.
“Every day H1 officials give us data that involves everyone’s engines,” said Campbell. “We looked at the data. We found some anomalies (for the U-1). We brought it to H1’s attention. If we had problems with one of our engines, we’d want someone to let us know.”
H1 determined Sunday morning that the data coming out of the U-1 turbine engine report had problems, making it illegal.
H1 then disqualified the U-1 and moved U-9 up to first place for that heat, 2B.
The decision essentially knocked the U-1 team off kilter. The team had problems the rest of the day.
“It just snowballed for us,” Shane said. “We ran the same motor all weekend. We adjusted that motor later in the day. But it happened again and we were disqualified in 4B. Something is actually broke in that motor.”
It bothered the U-1 team enough that they decided, 5 minutes before the final, to change out the sketchy motor for another one.
Whether Campbell’s move caused mind games in the U-1 camp isn’t for certain.
“(Stuff like that) happens,” said Campbell. “It’s chess. Sometimes you get people off their game.”
But it still doesn’t replace hard work, which is what the U-9 team put in all weekend.
“In this final, we had the best of everything we have in the boat,” Campbell said. “The best gearbox, best propeller, best engine. Our guys stayed here last night and built a new gearbox for this in the pits.”
Tate’s late start out of the pits enabled him to settle into lane 2 for the start while everyone else was on the far side of the course.
With Brian Perkins in the U-21 Darrell Strong presents PayneWest Insurance on the inside line, everyone started to bunch up before the race on the Franklin County side of the course.
That’s when the fun started. Shane tried to slip into lane 3, but Tom Thompson was already there in his U-11 Reliable Diamond Tool presents J&D’s.
Shane’s move cut off Thompson.
“We were out there minding our business,” said U-11 owner Scott Raney. “And Shane cuts in front of us and washes us down. We ended up on Cal’s boat.”
Cal is Cal Phipps of the U-1918 Oberto Beef Jerky.
With all of this happening behind him, Tate got a clean start and was never threatened by the field in the five-lap final.
“When I came out of turn 2 (near the Blue Bridge) I let out a sigh of relief,” said Tate. “We kind of watched what all the drivers were doing this weekend, and we were taking notes.”
Tate’s win was for the entire team, the 29-year-old driver said.
“I couldn’t be happier for Les Schwab, Mike and Lori Jones, the entire team,” Tate said. “The crew worked their butts off. They stayed late Saturday night and were back in the pits at 5 a.m. today.”
Meanwhile, things got worse for Shane and the U-1 team.
H1 chief referee Doug Shelton handed Shane a Level 5 penalty for his move on the backstretch.
“A Level 5 penalty is a disqualification,” said Shelton, who originally levied a Level 3 penalty (1-minute penalty and a fine). “The reason it changed to that is his move was affecting the outcome of another boat, which was the 11.”
Shane lost more points because of that. But it bothered him that he affected the 11. In fact, Thompson was livid in the pits at Shane.
“All five boats were going up the back side of the course tight,” Shane said. “I saw the 9 moving back and forth in lanes 2 and 3, and I needed to make a move before I got boxed in. It was 100 percent my fault. I feel terrible that I affected the 11. I never wanted to do that. I truly apologize.”
Phipps would finish second in the Oberto, while J. Michael Kelly took the U-12 Graham Trucking from a trailer boat spot to a third-place finish.
Perkins in the U-21 got a fourth-place finish, while Thompson and the U-11 finished fifth. Dustin Echols in the U-440 Bucket List Racing placed sixth, and Shane got no points for the disqualification.
The problem for Shane and the U-1 team is they’ve fallen farther behind of Tate and the U-9 in the national high points standings at the halfway point of the H1 season.
Tate and the U-9 have 5,280 points, while Thompson and the U-11 are in second place with 3,507. Shane and the U-1 have dropped to third with 3,360.
“There are 13 heats of racing left in the season,” said Shane. “We need to make every one of these count.”
Heat 3A: Tate in the U-9 passed J. Michael Kelly in the U-12 on the second lap and never looked back. Although Kelly made it a race and was never farther back than two rooster tails.
Thompson in the U-11 picked up a third-place finish, while Jimmy King in the U-3 finished fourth.
Aaron Salmon in the U-99.9 finished fifth, but was later disqualified for numerous fuel violations.
Heat 3B: This was a parade, as Shane and U-1 led from the outset.
Perkins in the U-21 was second, while Phipps in the U-1918 was third. Echols in the U-440 finished fourth.
Heat 4A: King made it first into the first turn, but Tate came out of it ahead of the pack.
Turns out King was penalized 1 minute after jumping the starting line.
Tate won the race easily, while Kelly in the U-12 placed second.
Salmon placed third in the U-99.9, while Echols was fourth in the U-440. King finished fifth in the U-3.
Heat 4B: Shane won the race easily, but was later penalized for a technical violation by H1 Unlimited and disqualified again.
That gave Thompson in the U-11 the victory and the 400 points. Phipps got second-place points in the U-1918. Perkins and the U-21 had mechanical issues and opted not to run in the heat and get ready flor the final.
GP final: The GP-1 Miss DiJulio with driver Greg Hopp won the Grand Prix final on Sunday on the Columbia River.
The GP-1 had crossed the finish line first, but race officials assessed a 1-minute penalty on the boat for a lane violation, giving the win to the GP-20 The Truss Company presents Miss Tri-Cities and driver Ed Preston.
However, 30 minutes later, after reviewing videotape, officials reversed their decision and awarded first place to the GP-1.
5-liter final: Jeff Bernard drove the E-9 Clack Motorsports/Advanced Transmission Center to the final victory, leading from start to finish. Kurt Myers in the E-26 Flight Time was second.