Jimmy Shane of the Miss HomeStreet team lost last year’s Southern Cup by the slimmest of margins to Andrew Tate. But Shane exorcised that demon and then some in this year’s Southern Cup championship in the HydroFest finals.
First, he set a new course qualifying record with an average speed of 162 miles per hour in a lap around the 2-1/2 mile oval on Browns Creek. He said later he hit 194 miles per hour in the straight-aways, about 2 miles per hour faster than he went last year.
Then in the finals, he blew away the rest of the field, winning by about half a lap.
He said afterwards that the start made the difference for him.
“We got a really good start,” he said.
The Graham Trucking boat driven by J. Michael Kelly actually led coming out of the start and for the first half lap. But Shane tracked down Kelly, passed him in Turn 1 and never looked back. He appeared to be gaining more ground on the field as the 5-lap final race went on.
The finish turned out to be anti-climactic as Shane cruised to victory.
It was perhaps fitting that Shane and this boat won on Guntersville Lake. The Miss Budweiser boat famously won Guntersville’s unlimited hydroplane race in 1969, fifty years earlier.
Shane was driving a brand new boat for his team, but the sponsons came off the last of the Miss Budweiser boats, the T-7 Budweiser hull.
“The team took the sponsons and built a brand new boat between them,” Shane said.
The vessel was light, sleek and lightning fast as the entire weekend’s proceedings showed.
More about Shane’s victory is elsewhere in this paper.
Lots of folks thought this year’s crowd was better than last year’s. The weather was certainly better. High winds and a strong thunderstorm were hindrances last year.
There was one shower late Friday this year, but it did not force an evacuation of the venue as the storm last year did.
There was a slight weather delay on championship Sunday when a storm appeared to be headed towards Guntersville. It ended up tracking off to the west and missing the race site. The delay was only about half an hour or so.
Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau chief Katy Norton said she wasn’t sure if the crowd was larger. She said it would be later this week before they would be able to count everything and come up with attendance figures. But she said the crowd was at least as good as last year’s, when an estimated 11,000 guests saw the championship race.
The pair of concerts, a contemporary Christian performance by Zach Williams on Friday night and a 70s rock performance by Orelans and Firefall on Saturday night, were both well attended.
Folks who were at both concerts said Williams drew the larger crowd. People who didn’t even attend the boat races showed up to hear him sing.
Mayor Leigh Dollar said the overall crowd looked good to her.
“This was a great, great event for the city,” she said.
The top 3 H1 Unlimited drivers each spoke at the awards ceremony following the Race for the Southern Cup.
To a man, they spoke at length about the wonderful hospitality they experienced in Guntersville.
Bert Henderson finished 3rd in the race and he talked about the “Southern hospitality” and “Southern charm” of the city. He thanked the many volunteers who made HydroFest possible.
Kelly, the runner-up, shared similar sentiments.
“I definitely missed out by not coming to this race last year,” he said.
Shane said everywhere he’d been in town, people asked how they could help him and what could they do for him.
“I hope the partnership with Guntersville and H1 lasts many, many years,” he said.
The weekend saw history being made as Jayme Durand of South Carolina became the first woman to ever win in the Pro Tunnel 1 series of Powerboat Nationals.
She finished in 2nd place awhile back at Knoxville and has been racing for about 3 years.