Hydro Racing

July 28, 2008: David picks up first-ever win on the Columbia

Steve David talked Thursday about how he was feeling like NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth.

In 2003, Kenseth won the Winston Cup series title with just one victory, but a lot of consistency.

David, the driver of the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, was leading the American Boat Racing Association standings with consistency, but no victories.

Sunday, he changed all of that, winning the five-lap Lamb Weston Columbia Cup in dramatic style for his first victory of 2008.

"I'm not Matt Kenseth anymore," David said after winning a race that had more plot turns and twists than the best soap operas. It was also David's first victory in the Tri-Cities in his 19-year career.

And he did it with - what else - consistency. It just took a while to get there.

The seven-boat final looked to be a shootout, with any one of six boats having a legitimate shot at winning.

Attrition, however, began to take its toll.

It started when the U-3 Hoss Mortgage Investors Too - which had collected a win and two second-place finishes in the preliminary heats - pulled out of the final, thanks to a burned piston suffered in the last preliminary heat.

Team owner Ed Cooper said the piston contaminated the engine, and the job to clean everything up would have taken several hours instead of the one hour the team had.

The next contender to fall was Dave Villwock in the U-1 Ellstrom Elam Plus.

He was knocked out early, even before the race started as officials penalized him a lap for encroachment.

It happened in the score-up area just before the start. With the U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing's Jean Theoret, David and the U-10 Hoss Mortgage Investors' David Bryant on the inside, Villwock said they all swung out wide on the turn.

"I held my lane, they swung out wide, and I get penalized," Villwock said. "Of course, I guess I should have swung out wide."

At that point Villwock - with two heat wins and a second - knew he was out of the race. Even if Villwock thought he could get back in it, Bryant quashed that idea.

"What messed me up was the 10 jumped the gun by a mile," Villwock said. "Then the others created a fence that was hard to get around. I probably should have run in (to the pits), but people frown on that."

Instead, Villwock eased off the gas.

Bryant was the next to fall, as he was penalized a lap for jumping the gun at the start. It was close, and many thought he had nailed the perfect start.

"How far was I over? An inch or a mile, it doesn't matter, does it?" asked Bryant. "They said something to me over the radio, but I didn't listen. I just kept racing."

So most of the fans on the river thought that Bryant and David were chasing Theoret around the course.

And at one point, David looked like he was out of it. After sticking with Theoret through the first lap, David lost speed at the beginning of the second lap.

"I got a little airborne," he said, as Theoret increased his lead from one to four boat lengths. "At that point, I still had a chance to catch him. But I also wanted to protect my points lead."

He stuck to his guns and pushed the accelerator down. However, he could not gain much on Theoret.

The race was Theoret's to lose ... and that's what happened.

As he closed in to finish the fourth lap, he quickly shut the boat down and drifted out to lane 4.

"The boat was vibrating so bad," he said. "I knew what had happened. We threw a propeller blade. If you don't stop, and you keep going, it tears the boat apart.

"It was our race," he continued. "We had just 1 1⁄4 laps left."

That left David in the lead, and the veteran crossed the finish line for the victory.

David stood on the top of the boat and pumped his fists. Then he turned around, bowed his head onto the boat and said a prayer as a confetti cannon went off over his head.

When the smoke had cleared, Brian Perkins in the U-50 Miss Albert Lee finished second.

"It's absolutely incredible to me," Perkins said. "We keep trying just to have fun, and we keep getting surprises like this. The team has done an awesome job… just unbelievable."

Jeff Bernard in the U-5 Formulaboats.com had an up and down weekend. But the second-year driver who won earlier this season at Madison, finished third.

"For how it started and to come out third is great," Bernard said. "We got all wet at the start, and the boat didn't run well after that."

The best thing for David and the Oberto team was extending their national high-points lead to over 600 points over Bernard and the U-5.

"You know, I thought Jean would have won that race," David said. "But we were all so close in qualifying. No one has ever qualified this many boats so close at such high speeds. So when you have to start stretching stuff, you break stuff."

And you win national titles with consistency.

Just like Matt Kenseth, and maybe now Steve David.