SEATTLE — The kids may be catching up to the kings of the hydroplanes.
Steve David, driver of the Oh Boy! Oberto, enters this weekend’s Chevrolet Cup at Seafair fresh off a victory in the Columbia Cup in Kennewick.
David, the defending champion of the Seafair regatta, is having the best year of his career. With two events remaining on the 2008 racing schedule he is on top of the point standings.
David is enjoying success at an age when most professional sports figures are golfing and well into retirement. He is 54, the same age as Dave Villwock, driver of Ellstrom E-Lam Plus. Villwock was the national champion driver in 2007.
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But the sport viewed to favor older drivers with years of experience in smaller classes is changing. Several young upstarts are demonstrating their ability to compete with the established veterans: Jeff Bernard, J. Michael Kelly, Brian Perkins and Jimmy Shane are all in their 20s.
That’s fine with David.
“When you look at it from a legacy standpoint, it’s comforting to know we have sharp young drivers coming along,” he said this week in advance of today’s first qualifying heats on Lake Washington and Sunday’s finals. “We have young fans and they’ll be able to relate to the young drivers.”
Unlimited hydroplane racing has always been home to drivers of all ages. Billy Schumacher, owner of Miss Beacon Plumbing, was only 18 when he began driving unlimiteds in 1961. Walt Kade was 68 when he drove in the 1972 Gold Cup.
“It’s neat racing against a guy like Steve David, because I grew up watching him and cheering for him,” said the 23-year-old Bernard, the driver of Formulaboats.com.
He is second to David in the point standings, and won the race at Madison, Ind., in early July.