The Strong Racing Group completed its first race on the H1 Unlimited Racing Series in a big way with boats that finished first and second in the Guntersville Lake Hydrofest in Guntersville, Alabama.
J. Michael Kelly of Bonney Lake, Washington, was the winner of the Southern Cup driving Miss Tri-Cities and Corey Peabody of Kent, Washington, drove Pinnacle Peak Consulting to second.
Both boats are owned by Vanessa and Darrell Strong of the Tri-Cities, Washington, who purchased both H1 Unlimited hydroplanes last winter and are competing in their first year on the racing circuit.
Dave Villwock of Monroe, Washington, the most successful driver in the sport’s history, returned to the H1 Unlimited Racing Series this year with a third-place finish. In action earlier in the day, Kelly also won two of the preliminary heats while Andrew Tate and Jeff Bernard also scored heat victories.
In the day’s winner-take-all final heat, Kelly powered to the lead in the first lap and stayed there to the finish line. He was initially followed by Jeff Bernard of Kent, Washington, driving Miss HomeStreet, but when it was announced that he had crossed the starting line too early and was assessed a one-lap penalty, Bernard eased back on the throttle and the second-place position went to Peabody.
Also receiving a penalty for starting too early was Jamie Nilsen of Fife, Washington, who was driving J&D’s. Andrew Tate of Canton, Michigan, was disqualified before the race started when he drove the Graham Trucking through the Safety Zone.
The third-place finish by Villwock redeemed a difficult two days of racing for the 10-time national champion. Because of various mechanical issues, his Miss Beacon Plumbing had been unable to start any of the preliminary heats. He was allowed to start behind the others in the final, nevertheless, and with the penalties and disqualification to others, crossed the finish line third.
In addition to winning the final, Kelly also had a successful day during earlier heats on Lake Guntersville. He started by winning Heat 2A, where he outpaced defending national champion Jimmy Shane of Covington, Washington, who was taking a turn driving Miss HomeStreet.
Kelly later added another victory in Heat 3B. Peabody, who surprise the fans on the event’s first day when he was the fastest qualifier and took a victory one of the preliminary heats, meanwhile had a difficult day of competition until finishing second in the final. In Heat 2B, he was battling Andrew Tate deck to deck through the first lap until his boat suddenly hooked in the second turn and was thrown into the air by Graham Trucking’s roostertail.
Peabody’s boat landed right side up and continued racing, but it was damaged and finished the heat at a much-reduced speed. In Heat 3B, Peabody was assessed a one-lap penalty for bearing out on another boat before the start then was disqualified after inspectors checked the data recorder on his boat and found that he had not maintain sufficient speed before the start.
Jeff Bernard was back in the cockpit of Miss HomeStreet for Heat 3A and thrilled the Guntersville fans with an exciting deck-to-deck battle with Jamie Nilsen in J&D’s that lasted the entire three laps.
Bernard ended that race with an average speed that was only 4/10ths of a mile an hour faster than Nilsen’s.
The H1 Unlimited Racing Series will continue next weekend when the fastest boats in the world will compete for the APBA Gold Cup, an event first held in 1904 and the oldest trophy in motorsports.
Guntersville Lake Hydrofest
HEAT 2A—1, J. Michael Kelly, Miss Tri-Cities, 400 points, 154.559 avg. speed: 2, Jimmy Shane, Miss HomeStreet, 300, 151.647; 3, Jamie Nilsen, J&D’s, 225, 144.097.
HEAT 2B—1, Andrew Tate, Graham Trucking, 400, 144.978; 2, Corey Peabody, Pinnacle Peak Consulting, 300, 129.055; Dave Villwock, Miss Beacon Plumbing, 0, DNS.
HEAT 3A—1, Jeff Bernard, Miss HomeStreet, 400, 153.327; 2, Jamie Nilsen, J&D’s, 300, 152.934; Dave Villwock, Miss Beacon Plumbing, 0, DNS.
HEAT 3B—1, J. Michael Kelly, Miss Tri-Cities, 400, 151.091; 2, Andrew Tate, Graham Trucking, 300, 141.032; 3, Corey Peabody, Pinnacle Peak Consulting, 0, DISQ.
FINAL HEAT—1, J. Michael Kelly, Miss Tri-Cities, 400, 148.990; 2, Corey Peabody, Pinnacle Peak Consulting, 300, 147.769; 3, Dave Villwock, Miss Beacon Plumbing, 225, 135.586; 4, Jeff Bernard, Miss HomeStreet, 169, 116.615; Jamie Nilsen, J&D’s, 0, DNF; Andrew Tate, Graham Trucking, 0, DISQ.J. Michael Kelly,
ACCUMULATED POINTS—J. Michael Kelly, Miss Tri-Cities, 1580; Jeff Bernard and Jimmy Shane, Miss HomeStreet, 1329; Corey Peabody, Pinnacle Peak Consulting, 1100; Andrew Tate, Graham Trucking, 925; Jamie Nilsen, J&D’s, 825; Dave Villwock, Miss Beacon Plumbing, 295; and Dustin Echols, Bucket List Racing, 0.