It was an hour after the championship heat at the HomeStreet Bank Cup at Seafair. Unlimited hydroplane teams were breaking down their set-ups. Fans had long filed out of Genesee Park.
And word started spreading through Stan Sayres Pits: The U-6 Miss HomeStreet hadn’t won the championship after all. And the national title it had been celebrating just a short time before had been put on hold.
The winner was J. Michael Kelly in the U-12 Graham Trucking presents Beacon Plumbing. It was a big reversal considering after the race, Kelly had been penalized for going under 80 mph in the prerace milling period.
But after H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series, the governing body for the sport, reviewed the tapes, it reversed the penalty on Kelly, and gave Jimmy Shane a one-minute penalty (essentially a lap) for twice going under 80 mph. Shane and the U-6 HomeStreet finished fifth after the penalty.
“It’d be nice to celebrate the right way, though,” said Kelly, who won his third Seafair title. “It’s unfortunate these kinds of things happen.”
But most watching the race would have no idea of the change. It came well after the television broadcast ended.
“There’s nothing worse than something like that taking place,” H1 Unlimited chief referee Rick Sandstrom said. “Makes us look like idiots.”
Further complicating the situation is the fact that in the 2019 H1 Unlimited Rule Book it says all infractions in the final heat “shall be announced within 30 minutes after the finish” of the heat.
Sandstrom said it took about 30 minutes to review the footage. The change in results wasn’t reported to the Seafair press box until 5:52 p.m., more than an hour after the final.
But Tim Austin, the H1 Unlimited chairman of the board, said the decision of the chief referee will stand.
Shane didn’t comment after the penalty.
“I think it’s really abhorrent as to what has transpired,” said Charlie Grooms, who is president of Miss Madison Racing, which runs the Miss HomeStreet team. “I don’t have enough strong words to explain what happened and why.”
Shane needed to finish ahead of Kelly to clinch his sixth national title. He still has a big lead in the national points standings and likely will clinch next month in the season finale in San Diego.
Kelly won using a cowling borrowed from the U-7 Boitano Homes. His cowling, which covers the engine, broke loose during Heat 3A and was damaged.
Kelly is still alive for the national title, but he needs the HomeStreet team to stay home.
“We want all the boats we can get out there,” Kelly said. “We want to race against the best boats no matter what.”
In the final, Kelly took the advantageous inside lane, which offers the shortest distance around the course. Shane was in Lane 2 and with more boat speed.
The on-site race announcers informed the crowd during the first lap that Kelly had incurred a penalty. Shane had to just maintain his speed to win the Seafair title and claim the national title.
Shane returned to the pits to much congratulations. They handed him his trophy and congratulated him on his sixth title, which would have tied him for fourth on the sport’s career list with Steve David. The record for national titles, held by Dave Villwock who won the bulk of them in the Miss Budweiser, is 10.
It’s the third consecutive year Seafair has been decided by a penalty. Last year, Andrew Tate was awarded the victory after the same penalty that was given to the Miss HomeStreet.
“It’s the same old thing,” Sandstrom said. “It would be nice if we could end a race and it’s done.”
Final order of finish: 1, U-12 Graham Trucking presents Beacon Plumbing. 2, U-1 Delta/RealTrac. 3, U-11 J&D’s presented by Reliable Diamond Tools. 4, U-1918 Oberto Super Salami. 5, U-6 Miss HomeStreet Bank. 6, U-98 Graham Trucking American Dream. 7, U-99.9 CARSTAR powered by KISW Miss Rock.