Its first race back after a six-year layoff didn’t turn out so well for the Cooper team on Sunday.
After finishing second in the team’s first heat on Saturday, the U-3 Griggs presents Miss Ace Hardware was disqualified in Heat 2A on Sunday morning when driver Jimmy King drove through a DMZ before the race and was disqualified by race officials.
King drove to a fourth-place finish in Heat 3A before the team had to withdraw because of a broken canard.
“I thought we’d be in the top three,” said King. “But the driver screwed the pooch with the DQ. I turned one buoy too soon. And we were chasing a motor that we thought we could straighten out.”
It was frustrating for King.
“The first heat we came out and looked good,” said King. “Then I came out and had a brainfart.”
Team owner Ed Cooper had higher expectations too, but that’s racing, he said.
“I would tell you I got a lot of support from H1 this weekend,” Cooper said. “They fulfilled their commitments, and we had a good time running our boat.”
Cooper enjoyed seeing old friends in the Tri-Cities.
“Paul Parrish, Kevin Smith, John Culver. So many others I can’t all name,” said Cooper. “All of the displays for Ace Hardware. The customers, the constant lines. I can’t tell you how many of them came up to Charlie Grigg when I was there and say ‘Thank you for sponsoring them. I’ll never shop at another hardware store from now on.’ ”• It was an evenly matched Gold Cup field this weekend.
There were five different winners in the the first five heat races — Jean Theoret in the U-96, Jimmy Shane in the U-1, J. Michael Kelly in the U-5, Scott Liddycoat in the U-9, and Cal Phipps in the U-27.
Later on Sunday, Theoret, Shane and Kelly each won a second heat.
Shane’s Gold Cup victory was his second consecutive title. Shane also defends his victory on the Columbia River from 2014, meaning the Oberto team — or whatever it’ll be called next season — gets to park underneath the big Bernie Little tree next season. The winner of the Tri-Cities race always gets the shade from the tree the following season.• The third-place finish by Phipps in the U-27 Dalton Industries was especially impressive, as was the 1,585 national high points the team rolled up for the weekend — putting it only behind Oberto and its 1,805 points.
Charley Wiggins purchased the boat and all of the equipment in the offseason from Nate Brown. It was the U-17 Our Gang Racing when Brown had it, before Wiggins moved the boat to Alabama.
One thing about that boat and equipment: It’s always been in great shape and has run well.
“We also purchased all of the computer data, so we know what it ran last year with what gearbox,” said Wiggins.
Wiggins also inherited some of Brown’s old crew, who wanted to stay on with the boat.
Probably the best part of the deal was Brown himself had to help the team this year in both the Tri-Cities and in Seattle next week.
His knowledge of the boat and Phipps’ ability to drive were a great combination.• Mark Evans got the U-12 Miss DiJulio qualified Sunday morning and later drove it to a fourth-place finish in Heat 4A.
Evans tried to get the boat qualified on Saturday before time ran out and the close closed. So he had to wait for two sets of heats to be run before he could try it again.
This time he did it. But he ran through the DMZ in his first heat race Sunday afternoon and got disqualified, before he finished fourth in his next race.
But he says this was just a one-time thing. He won’t be driving the boat in Seattle.
Rookie Patrick Sankuer needs a few more qualifying laps, then he’ll be the team’s driver.
“That’s OK,” said Evans. “Numerous times I’ve come in and helped a team get the boat qualified. I just felt proud to be able to drive in another Gold Cup.”
Evans said he’s got plenty of other things to keep him busy, including a four-seater hydroplane that he’s almost finished. He’ll sell rides in it.