Hydro Racing

Perkins, Hopp win Lights

KENNEWICK -- There really weren't any surprises Saturday in the first two heat races of the Graham Trucking Thunder Cup on the Columbia River.

Two of the top Unlimited Lights drivers on the circuit, Kayleigh Perkins and Greg Hopp, roared to victory in their respective races.

"I'm so happy I finished a race in the Tri-Cities," said Perkins, 21, who failed to race here last year when the only engine she had broke in testing. However, in May of 2008 Perkins did race in Richland.

This time she won in the UL-72 Foster Care-Change A Lifetime.

Perkins caught a break when Paul Becker -- one of her toughest competitors in the UL-14 Miss Critical Logic -- got to the score-up area too soon and incurred a 1-minute penalty.

"On the first lap my dad radioed me," Perkins said. "But you don't really count on the penalties until you get back to the dock. Either way, I was gonna race against Paul and give the crowd a show. It's better to be safe than sorry."

Tri-Citian Charles Xaudaro finished second in the UL-98 Miss Atomic Screenprinting.

"I still think we have more power," he said. "I got behind some boats, and it's a lot rougher driving from behind with that water. It's a lot easier if you get to the corner first."

Meanwhile, Hopp -- driving in the UL-1 Graham Trucking-Happy Go Lucky-Pump Tech -- dueled with UL-19 Interstate Batteries driver Ryan Mallow for 2 1/2 laps before Mallow's boat went dead in the water.

"We knew Ryan was going to be the one to beat," said Hopp. "We're still fighting our (dropping) oil pressure. Every time it dropped I slowed down, and he kept sticking his nose in there and I'd have to speed up. Being on the inside helped."

Vince Xaudaro, Charles' brother, placed second in the UL-9 U.S. Army-Napa Auto Parts.

"The boat ran solid," said Xaudaro. "I don't think I could have run any better than that. There's nothing else I could have done."

Today's racing continues with two more preliminary heats, a B main and the final set for 4:40 p.m. The top six boats who compiled points in the preliminaries make the final, joined by the top two boats from the B main.