TITLE DEFENSE: Jimmy Shane celebrates after winning the 2013 H1 Unlimited championship in San Diego in the Graham Trucking. Shane begins defense of that title this weekend at Madison but with a new team — his former rival the Oberto/Miss Madison that was the series runner-up in 2013. (H1 photo by Chris Denslow)
TITLE DEFENSE: Jimmy Shane celebrates after winning the 2013 H1 Unlimited championship in San Diego in the Graham Trucking. Shane begins defense of that title this weekend at Madison but with a new team — his former rival the Oberto/Miss Madison that was the series runner-up in 2013. (H1 photo by Chris Denslow)
Last season Jimmy Shane broken thousands of hearts when he edged Steve David at the wire to win the National High Points Championship. Now Shane will try to mend those same hearts with another national title.

Shane begins his quest for a title repeat in Madison this weekend when the 64th Indiana Governor's Cup kicks off on Saturday. Shane will be driving for the hometown Oberto/Miss Madison Racing Team and is looking forward to the title defense.

"I expect that target to revolve right around to me this year. Obviously when you have success, that's going to come. I'm going to have a target, the team is going to have a target," Shane said. "All we can do is go out there and do what the team does best and that's put the best equipment out on the water and give me the best opportunity to go fast. And that's what we're going to do."

Shane is both the fan and betting favorite to win the season opener. He claimed four victories on the circuit a year ago and now has six in his young career, tied for 22nd all-time. The only other driver with a career win who will be at Madison is J. Michael Kelly with one.

But while Shane is confident that he has the boat and the team to take control of the sport, he is also aware that there is a crowded field of drivers ready to take him down.

Kelly, who took over Shane's old seat in the National Champion Graham Trucking, is arguably the top contender. Young, but still a veteran with 12 years of Unlimited experience, Kelly returns to the team where he has had his greatest success.

Kelly's teammate, Cal Phipps, will be driving the "other" Graham Trucking boat and is perfectly capable of scoring a win. And Jon Zimmerman, who was sitting in third place a year ago before a blown propeller at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, ended his season, is a serious threat aboard his Jones Racing entry that will be wearing the colors of the Spirit of Qatar this weekend.

"J. Michael was in good equipment but now he's going to be in very proven equipment. He's going to be strong all season long," Shane said. "Jon Zimmerman is going to be good. They've been working on that boat year after year after year and it's gotten faster and faster and faster. There's no reason that that boat won't come out and be even faster this year and it's going to be.

"The Oberto/Miss Madison team is going to have to be at the top of their game," Shane added. "It's going to be competitive and I don't see it any other way. It's a good thing."

Sitting just behind the four leaders is Tom Thompson and the Peters & May boat, the former Miss Budweiser T-4 hull. Thompson and Zimmerman are the only drivers to have tested their equipment this offseason and Thompson thinks it will give his team an advantage.

"Little, simple things just didn't go well," Thompson said of the first day of testing at Evansville two weeks ago. "Things that happened here would have happened Saturday at Madison and we quite possibly may not have made the first heat, or at least the first test session which would have been detrimental to run the first heat. (The test) was absolutely critical and to get a chance to do this, we along with the Jones team, will be ahead of everybody else."

Three other teams will be on hand and cannot be counted out. Veteran Greg Hopp and the Miss DiJulio team is ready to start its second season on the circuit while rookie Jamie Nilsen is ready for his first full season aboard the GoFastTurnLeft Racing. Mike Webster driving the Webster Racing, a former Miss Madison hull, rounds out the field.

But the one boat everybody will be watching is the newly-painted Oberto/Miss Madison. Shane became the first driver not named Dave Villwock or Steve David to win the driver's title since Mark Tate in 1997 last season and he expects to do the same thing this year.

"It's very rewarding to have that many wins in two years. At the same time, I don't want it to slow down. I want it to keep rolling," Shane said. "That's part of the reason why I made my decision to come over to Oberto. I'm really looking forward to showing what the team can do."

Race schedule adjusted

The weekend race schedule has changed since it was published in Saturday's special section. On Saturday, a new testing session for the H1 Unlimiteds has been scheduled from 9-10 a.m. and exhibition runs for the vintage Miss U.S. and Gale V have been scheduled for 10-10:20 a.m. and 3:30-4 p.m. The Dash for Cash will be held at 4 p.m.

On Sunday, Heats 1A and 1B have been moved up two hours to 11 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. Heats 2A and 2B will be at 1:10 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. with Heats 3A and 3B set for 2:45 p.m. and 3:05 p.m. The final will be at 4:05 p.m.

River level remains good

The Ohio River water level has stabilized at around 19.5 feet but NOAA still forecasts it to continue to drop throughout the week.

The latest forecast late Tuesday night has the river dropping to around 15 feet by the first heat of racing on Sunday. The highest depth the river can be and still allow for racing is 29 feet.

Idaho race dead in water?

The Diamond Cup Unlimited race set for Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Labor Day weekend appears to have been canceled.

Race organizers failed to get the proper permits filed in time and Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger denied the request on Tuesday.

"We are certainly disappointed at hearing this news, but we remain committed to the event and the people trying to make it happen," H1 Chairman Sam Cole said. "We will continue to work with the organizers in hopes we can arrive at a positive outcome for the Diamond Cup in 2014 and on into the future."

Unlimited racing returned to Coeur d'Alene last year after a 45-year absence. Jimmy Shane won the event last season.
H1 Unlimited Boat Roster

2014 Madison Regatta Indiana Governor's Cup

Driver - Boat - Owner

J. Michael Kelly - 1 Graham Trucking - Ted Porter

Jimmy Shane - 6 Oberto/Miss Madison - City of Madison

Cal Phipps - 7 Graham Trucking - Ted Porter

Jon Zimmerman - 9 Spirit of Qatar 96 - Mike & Lori Jones

Tom Thompson - 11 Peters & May - Scott & Shannon Raney

Greg Hopp - 12 Miss DiJulio - Jay Leckrone & Denise Garl

Jamie Nilsen - 21 GoFastTurnLeft Racing - Greg & Brian O'Farrell

Mike Webster - 22 Webster Racing - Steve & Sue Webster