Hydro Racing

Roostertales: Hopp does double duty this weekend

Greg Hopp is pulling double-duty this weekend, driving the U-100 Mirageboats.com and the UL-15 Graham Trucking GT-Happy Go Lucky presents Pump Tech of Moses Lake. It's the first time anybody will do that this year.

Hopp has driven the UL-15 in four races already this year, and the U-100 in two others. At Madison, the bottom of the U-100 buckled on him.

"I knew the bottom was broken at Madison," he said. "I could feel it. I started as trailer boat and caught the U-50 Spirit of the Navy in the Madison final. We both hit a hole and ended up facing each other at 150 mph. We got it straightened out, but I hit that same hole the next time around.

"This time the bottom buckled," he said. "At that point I was afraid for my life ... and my family jewels. The safety hatch didn't give way, but it bent enough that water was coming through. I had my hand on the escape hatch and was ready to pull it. I wasn't going to get cleaned out like that."

As for driving two boats this weekend, "it's a lot of driving. I'm involved in setups with both boats. When Monday comes around I'll be worthless. It never fails too. They always put both of my boats at opposite ends of the pits. I have to do a lot of running."

Hopp works for Boeing as a member of the 767 wing crew.

"They probably don't like me now," he said. "I get all of my vacation in April, I work three days a week, and all of my vacation is gone by October. Then Boeing owns me all winter long."

-- Although the Hopps - father Jerry and son Greg - seemingly have had their way on the Unlimited Lights series (their four-year run atop the points standings was interrupted last season), it hasn't all been easy beans.

Jerry pointed to some routine maintenance this winter that was anything but.

"When we went to inspect the boat in December to get ready for the season, we thought we had one broken rib in the right spar," Jerry said, noting that once they got a look inside, they found that every rib was broken.

"It was a three-month project, 450 man hours, all volunteer. It went from being a Thursday afternoon and a Saturday afternoon to seven days a week. But it's paid off. That boat's really going."

As a co-owner with his son, Jerry has a couple of measuring sticks for success.

"Speaking as a team owner in this sport," he said, "if the credit cards are paid off at the end of the year, it's a good season."

-- David Williams has hydroplanes on the mind.

Williams, who is driving the U-48 Albert Lee presents Lakeridge Paving this weekend, is also the executive director of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum.

But he also writes books. His latest is Hydroplane Racing in the Tri-Cities that has just recently come out.

"It's 128 pages with a lot of photos, and I tried to get photos that most people haven't seen," said Williams. "In 1973 I came here for my first race. I've always loved this race. The fans are so well educated."

Williams has become an accomplished writer.

"This is the third book I've done for Arcadia Publishing," said Williams. "I did one on hydroplane racing in Seattle, and another on turbine racing in Seattle."

He's signed another three-book deal with Arcadia that will detail hydro racing in Detroit, Madison and Evansville, and he's ghostwriting former driver Mark Evans' biography.

"It takes me about six months to complete a book," Williams said. "Mondays are my day off from the museum. So I spend Mondays writing."

-- Today's Heat 2A draw, set for 11 a.m.: U-1 Ellstrom Elam Plus, U-3 Hoss Mortgage Investors Too, U-5 Formulaboats.com, U-7 Formulaboats.com, and U-50 Miss Albert Lee.

-- Today's Heat 2B draw, set for 11:20 a.m.: U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, U-13 Graham Trucking, U-25 Miss Procraft Windows, U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing.

-- Today's Heat 2C draw, set for 11:40 a.m.: U-10 Hoss Mortgage Investors, U-17 Our Gang Racing, U-48 Albert Lee presents Lakeridge Paving, and U-100 MirageBoats.com.

-- Ken Muscatel lost control of his boat, the U-25 Miss Procraft Windows, in Heat 1C when the boat hooked hard left into the infield.

"The steering failed. It's a catastrophic failure," said Muscatel, who looked beat up after the race. "A hard turn like that beats the hell out of the body. I've got a headache, and I'm gonna be sore tomorrow. I don't feel it now because I'm still on adrenalin."

-- The biggest change this year in unlimiteds racing has to involve the jockeying for starting positions. Drivers have to have their boats up on a plane 1 minute before the start of the race.

If they don't, an official warns them over the radio to get it up on a plane within 5 seconds. If that doesn't happen, the driver is penalized one minute.

If the driver then gets on plane on time, then off plane again, chief referee Mike Noonan said "he'll have a very tight 5 seconds."

A boat not on plane would have water running over the front of it, rather than the sides.

The entrance buoy on turn 2 on the Franklin County side is where boats must have their lanes established just before the start of the race.

-- It will be interesting to see what ticket sales are for this race. Larry Oberto, whose company sponsors the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, said the Madison race had record ticket sales this year.

"A lot of it was people who couldn't go anywhere because of the economy," he said. "They couldn't visit family in Georgia or Florida. So they stayed home this year and went to the races."

-- How bad is that first turn, even with just four boats out there.

"The noise in my cockpit is terrible," said Steve David, driver of the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto. "Hear that F-16 going overhead? It's that loud. Just 'Bam! Bam! Bam!' inside the cockpit."

-- There was talk after Heat 1B that Jimmy King might be penalized for hitting a buoy with his U-3.

King said he did hit the buoy. "But I didn't dislodge it," he said. "That's where the penalty would come in."

-- J.Michael Kelly had a great Friday with one of the fastest qualifying times. So he was pretty disappointed today when his U-13 failed to start in Heat 1B.

"The throttle cable came off," he said. "It wouldn't have taken even two minutes to get that fixed. The guys told me it will never come off again."

Now, he's in a hole.

"I'm gonna have to have a really good day tomorrow to be on the front line in the final," he said. "We definitely don't want to go into the provisional if we don't have to. We're gonna need to finish every heat."

-- Erick Ellstrom is slightly limping after suffering a broken foot during his son's soccer practice.

"I didn't want to wear a walking cast," he said. "I tried the crutches, but they made my armpits hurt worse than my foot does."