Hydro Racing

Perkins ruling Unlimited Lights scene

KENNEWICK -- A year ago, Kayleigh Perkins came to the Tri-Cities with one good motor for her Unlimited Light.

"Last year, we blew our last motor here on Saturday and we spent the rest of the weekend watching," said the Black Diamond native.

And although she won the season's driver title, she couldn't stand that feeling of helplessness.

"When you have just one, you have to start driving consistently," she said. "You might have to pull back a bit. It's so hard because you want to race each race as it comes along. Instead you have to save it for next week."

The equipment bugaboo hit her again in the season opener this year driving the UL-72 Foster Care.

"We went down to Arizona for the first race of the season and we toasted a motor in the very first race," said Perkins, the lone female on the circuit. "It was a little bit discouraging. I thought 'Here we go again.' Fortunately we had a two-month break between races, and we found the problem. It was a plugged water hose in the engine."

Since then, her equipment has held up.

In fact, she has won all three of this year's races, and she hopes another one is coming in the HAPO Thunder Cup on Sunday on the Columbia River.

"So far, so good," said Perkins, who recently turned 21. "I'm surprised I've gotten so far this season without breaking things. It's so comforting knowing I've got a good engine in the boat and another one in the truck."

Kayleigh has watched her brother, Brian, drive in the Unlimiteds the last few years, and she would welcome the chance to do the same.

"I'd love to," she said. "But it would have to be at the right time and the right team. I love our team. This still has to be fun. Win, lose or draw, everybody has to have fun doing this. They're all volunteers, so they want to be here. And when you're having fun, things are still getting done."

For now, though, she's concentrating on the Unlimited Lights and this race.

"It'll be interesting come Sunday," she said. "I'm certainly not counting out Greg (Hopp). I'm certainly not counting out Paul (Becker). I'm certainly not counting myself out. It's gonna be fun. Whoever wins Sunday is going to deserve it."

NOTES: Friday was just testing for the 14 boats in the pits. They will qualify at 9:30 a.m. and have heat races at 2 and 2:20 p.m. ... Behind Perkins with her 3,680 points in the standings is Chris Grant in the UL-3 Miss Pepsi-Paynor Machine with 2,276, followed by Will Muncey (the late Bill Muncey's son) in the U-00 Warning ower.com-Trafficade at 2,065.