Chief referee Brian Hajny was pretty clear in the H1 Unlimited drivers meeting Friday in the Lampson Pits before qualifying for the APBA HAPO Gold Cup.
Stay out of the so-called DMZs — areas on the course where rescue personnel are parked. An infraction that used to cost a team a couple hundred dollars would be more severe, Hajny said.
“If you go through any of my DMZs, I will disqualify you,” said Hajny.
Hajny was true to his word all weekend, including when Jean Theoret cut through a portion of one of the DMZs in the warmup to the Gold Cup final.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Theoret continued to race the U-96 Ellstrom Elam Plus boat while officials reviewed video. And the French Canadian, who hadn’t raced an unlimited hydroplane in the Tri-Cities since 2008, dominated the field in what looked like his second career Gold Cup victory.
But within 10 minutes of the race, Theoret was disqualified, and the Gold Cup went to Jimmy Shane and the U-1 Oberto, who crossed the finish line after Theoret.
It all started when Shane, driving to Theoret’s right during the warmup period, did a double take when he thought he saw Theoret cut to the Pasco side of the course on the wrong side of the buoy — on the map it is buoy No. 10.
“It was right next to me,” said Shane. “I told my radio guy, Jeff Bernard, ‘I think he just went through the DMZ.’ I didn’t know if anyone else saw it.”
After he told Bernard, he let it go.
“At that point I was just thinking about the race,” Shane said. “The water was extremely rough, but I knew I had to be inside to beat the 96 or the 5 (J. Michael Kelly in the Graham Trucking).”
That didn’t work at first. Theoret got a great jump and was never threatened. And Kelly had the Graham in second place for the first few laps.
Shane credited Bernard in pushing him to try to catch Kelly.
“Jeff kept on me,” said Shane. “I had to catch the 5 boat to get second place.”
Kelly wasn’t pleased after the race, with himself or race officials.
“I thought the U-1 was going too slow at the start,” Kelly said. “But we didn’t put ourselves in the right spot. I was outside at the start. I kind of let it get away from me.”
Kelly had a chance, he said, to take the inside lane at one point against Shane. But he didn’t get it.
It was a tough way to lose out on the Gold Cup.
“I would have rather jumped the gun,” Kelly admitted. “Knowing I was running for the Gold Cup, that one mistake of not getting the inside lane cost us.”
In the aftermath in the pits, where everyone thought Theoret had won, Shane was standing on the dock.
“Then I saw (Oberto crew chief) Larry Hanson and (crew member) Cindy Shirley jumping up and down, all excited,” said Shane. “I ran as fast as I could up to the boat in the pits.”
The announcement had been made of the disqualification. There was bedlam in the Oberto camp.
“It’s probably not the best way to win,” Shane admitted. “But we worked hard and came out on top.”
For Charlie Grooms, the team president for the U-1, it was a pleasant surprise.
“That puts the ‘Oh Boy!’ back in the Oberto,” Grooms said. “I’ve been preaching to the guys that we’re just a points race team. We want the national title. Don’t make mistakes. And I told Jimmy before he went out for the final, ‘I hope you’re a Gold Cup champion, but I want you to be a national champion.’ ”
It was a tough pill to swallow for the Ellstrom team.
“There are too many stupid rules in this sport,” said Ellstrom crew chief Mike Hanson in the heat of the moment. “It keeps you from going to a race.”
Team manager Erick Ellstrom saw the video evidence, then went over and congratulated the winners.
But it was still frustrating.
“They won the race, but it’s hard when there was no lane advantage,” said Ellstrom. “He cut the course where he could.”
Theoret was stewing for a while, and didn’t want to talk until he could settle himself down.
It was a disappointing end to a weekend for a 96 team that everyone in the pits agreed had the fastest boat in the fleet.
“It’s an awesome boat and an awesome team,” said Theoret. “The thing that is bad is that (the penalty) had no impact on the race. It’s hard to swallow. If you make a big mistake, take a boat out for example, than sure that’s a penalty. This does nothing.
“It’s just disappointing to the team,” Theoret continued, “Most of them don’t get paid.”
The emotional swing was huge for a guy who 30 minutes earlier had gotten out of his cockpit in front of the pits, climbed on top of the boat and raised his hands in exultation.
“You are on a big high,” Theoret said. “They’ve announced it all along the river that you just won the Gold Cup. Then you don’t. This stuff doesn’t happen. We won that race.”
It was high drama for a long weekend.
“If there is no drama,” said H1 Unlimited chairman Steve David, “it’s not an unlimited race.”
• Kelly finished second in the U-5, while Cal Phipps — driving the U-27 Dalton Industries for the first time this season — placed third. ... Shane leaves the Tri-Cities headed for Seafair this coming week with 1,805 points to lead the national high-points race. Phipps is second at 1,585, and Kelly third at 1,434.
HAPO APBA Gold Cup
Gold Cup: 1, U-1 Oberto, Jimmy Shane, 145.756 mph, 400 points; 2. U-5 Graham Trucking, J. Michael Kelly, 145.088, 300; 3. U-27 Dalton Industries, Cal Phipps, 135.122; 225; 4. U-21 Fasteners Inc., Brian Perkins, 132.970, 169; 5. U-9 Les Schwab/RedDOT, Scott Liddycoat, 130.754, 127; 6. gbr-11 Peters & May, Tom Thompson, 117.464, 95; DQ U-96 Ellstrom Elam Plus, Jean Theoret.
Heat 2A: 1. U-5 Graham Trucking, J. Michael Kelley, 151.194 mph, 400 pts; 2. U-96 Ellstrom Racing, Jean Theoret, 150.947, 300; 3. U-1 Oberto, Jimmy Shane, 141.862, 225; 4. U-22 PayneWest Insurance, Mike Webster, 132.877, 169; DQ U-3 Griggs Ace Hardware, Jimmy King.
Heat 2B: 1. U-9 Les Schwab/RedDOT, Scott Liddycoat, 144.763, 400; 2. U-27 Dalton Industries, Cal Phipps, 142.634, 300; 3. gbr-11 Peters & May, Tom Thompson, 137.615, 225; 4. U-21 Fasteners Inc., Brian Perkins, 133.122, 169; 5. U-7 Graham Trucking II, Jesse Robertson, 127.327, 127; 6. U-100 Miss CARSTAR, Kevin Eacret, 124.308, 95.
Heat 3A: 1. U-27, Phipps, 142.899, 400; 2. U-21, Perkins, 136.371, 300; 3. gbr-11, Thompson, 133.956, 225; 4. U-3, King, 123.656, 169; DNF U-7, Robertson; DQ U-12 Dijulio Family, Mark Evans.
Heat 3B: 1. U-96, Theoret, 148.129, 350; 2. U-1, Shane, 145.225, 300; 3. U-9, Liddycoat, 130.191, 225; 4. U-22, Webster, 128.664, 169; 5. U-100, Eacret, 123.453, 127; 6. U-5, Kelly, 143.863, 95.
Heat 4A: 1. U-1, Shane, 144.999, 400; 2. U-27, Phipps, 144.148, 300; 3. U-21, Perkins, 137.092, 225; 4. U-12, Evans, 122.054, 169; 5. U-7, Robertson, 130.324, 127.
Heat 4B: 1. U-5, Kelly, 145.018, 400; 2. U-9, Liddycoat, 135.705, 300; 3. U-22, Webster, 134.011, 225; 4. U-96, Theoret, 141.194, 169; 5. U-11, Thompson, 123.384, 127.
H1 points race: 1. Jimmy Shane 1,805; 2. Cal Phipps 1,585; 3. J. Michael Kelly, 1,434; 4. Jean Theoret 1,319; 5. Scott Liddycoat 1,271; 6. Brian Perkins 1,118; 7. Tom Thompson 797; 8. Mike Webster 593; 9. Jimmy King 509; 10. Kevin Eacret 447; 11. Jesse Robertson 411; 12. Mark Evans 169; 13. Kelly Stocklin 0.