It’s becoming a Seafair tradition: Final heats settled by penalty.
J. Michael Kelly drove the U-9 Boitano Homes to a win in the Final at the HomeStreet Bank Cup at Seafair on Sunday on Lake Washington.
Kelly picked up the victory after early leader Jimmy Shane was hit with a penalty for jumping the gun in the U-1 Miss HomeStreet. It’s the third consecutive race that Shane saw a win at Seafair taken away via penalty. And it’s the fourth consecutive Final at Seafair decided by penalty.
The last Seafair, in 2019, Kelly was the beneficiary of a Shane penalty for going under 80 mph in the Final and got the win.
“You take whatever is given to you,” said Kelly, who, like all boat racers, have had plenty of wins taken away via penalty. “No matter what, a win’s a win.”
In the final, Shane stayed in the outside lane, relying on the superior boat speed he’d shown all weekend and fast start to win. But he started just a bit too fast.
“Not ideal,” Kelly agreed about the streak of penalties. “But it’s just kind of how it works some times. We all know what the rules are.”
It’s also a win for his new race team, Strong Racing, in its debut at Seafair. Kelly was driving for Graham Trucking when he won in 2019. Shane ended up third Sunday behind Miss Madison teammate Jeff Bernard in the Goodman Real Estate.
It was a busy weekend for the Strong crew, which entered the racing thinking it had one of its best motors, but when qualifying came Friday, it was fourth in the five-boat field.
It replaced the engine with the one that it had been racing and worked on the propellers, finally finding a set up that worked, said Strong Racing owner Darrell Strong. The team even sent a prop out Saturday night to alter in a gambit that worked.
“It’s all props, baby, in this sport,” a happy Strong said holding the Seafair trophy.
Shane was the top qualifier Friday, won the match race mini-tourney Saturday and won the second preliminary heat Sunday. He would have won the first heat as well, but he was dinged for an early start in that heat, too.
Shane could only blame himself after the loss. He had stayed way outside and figured he needed a good jump on the field.
“The boat is unbelievable,” Shane said. “It really is my goof.”
The boat showed impressive speed all weekend, not bothering to fight for an inside lane as Shane knew he had the speed to win easily.
“Without question we have everybody in this field covered,” Miss Madison president Charlie Grooms said. “It doesn’t mean it will always be that way, but it is that way right now.”
Kelly made up some ground on Shane in the National High Points title chase with one race to go, San Diego Bayfair on Sept. 16-18. Shane leads the team standings by 590 points, which isn’t a huge difference in hydro racing.
Shane does lead the drivers’ standings by 1,581 points, which means he’d basically have to not race in San Diego to avoid clinching that title for the seventh time in the past 10 seasons.
The bulk of the Strong team’s points came from Corey Peabody in the U-9 Lynx Healthcare. After that boat flipped in Madison, Indiana, the team transferred the hull number, sponsor and team points to Kelly’s boat, the U-8 Miss Tri-Cities.
The previous three Seafairs had been decided by penalty. Shane had the Seafair win taken away the last time he raced in Seattle in 2019 because he went under 80 mph in the prerace milling period. The announcement came well after the race and after Shane celebrated winning the national title. That had to be put on hold until San Diego.
Shane was accessed the same penalty after winning the 2018 title, which made Andrew Tate the winner in the U-9 Les Schwab Tires.
Shane won the 2017 title when Tate was penalized for hitting a buoy in the prerace milling period.
“I don’t let that stuff get to me too much,” Shane said before adding with a wry smile: “I guess the streak continues for me at Seafair.”
- Dave Villwock in the Miss Beacon Plumbing and Jamie Nilsen in Miss The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse were disqualified for not maintaining a minimum 80 mph speed before the start.
- With the season over, Peabody provided some color commentary to the announcing that’s played at the racecourse.