CALIFORNIA DREAMING: Jimmy Shane, aboard the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison (left), and J. Michael Kelly, in the U-5 Graham Trucking, battled deck-to-deck through the Roostertail Turn at Detroit last month. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
CALIFORNIA DREAMING: Jimmy Shane, aboard the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison (left), and J. Michael Kelly, in the U-5 Graham Trucking, battled deck-to-deck through the Roostertail Turn at Detroit last month. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Jimmy Shane has been down this road before. He knows what it’s like to come into the season finale holding the National High Points lead and he knows full well that any mistake could turn a dream season into a nightmare.

So when the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison pilot hits the Mission Bay course in San Diego this weekend, the game plan will be simple: Do the same things that got you here.

“We have a good points lead going into the weekend. We would really like to be top qualifier and at that point, it’s just a points game,” Shane said on Wednesday. “We just want to put ourselves in position to win as much as we can in the qualifying heats to seal the National Championship before the Final Heat. If we do that, we can just let it all hang out in the final. And that worked out really well for us last year because we were able to really cut the boat loose and go for the win.”

Shane enters the H1 Unlimited season finale with a 584-point lead over J. Michael Kelly and the U-5 Graham Trucking. And while that lead is hardly unsurmountable, a strong weekend by Shane all but assures the points title will be his.

Shane knows the position Kelly is in as well. In 2013 while driving the Graham Trucking, Shane entered the season finale chasing Steve David and the then-Oh Boy! Oberto-sponsored Miss Madison by just a handful points. Shane didn’t have the luxury of taking it easy; he had to win every time out and hope the chips fell in his favor.

As it turned out, he ended up on top when David was penalized in the final heat to give Shane his first — and owner Ted Porter his second — National High Points title.

For Shane, defending the points lead is akin to playing cards. You do what you need to do to win, knowing full well that depending on how the deck is shuffled the cards may not work in your favor.

“It’s kind of like a game of blackjack. Not knowing what the dealer has but knowing you have to make the dealer hit or bust. It’s all a part of the game,” Shane said. “If we get into the position for a win in the qualifying heats, that’s obviously what we’re going to do. Our boat has the capability to win every heat that we’re in and we’re really going to try to extend the points lead and wrap it up as soon as possible.”

Should Shane secure the National Championship, it would place him in rarefied air. Including his title in 2013 with Team Porter, the championship would be Shane’s fourth-straight, a feat that only Dave Villwock has accomplished in the history of the sport. It would also be the Miss Madison’s seventh crown in nine years, a run that has been surpassed only by Villwock in the Miss Budweiser.

Shane said he doesn’t look at all that. Instead, he prefers to look at the work his talented team has done around himto create a dynastic atmosphere.

“I really just try to race one race at time and do the best that we can at that race. You do the calculations and you have to score about 1,500 points per race in order to win the national title and there are only usually about 1,700 in a weekend. You have to perform well every heat of racing,” Shane said. “This team is really good at doing that. They have the whole package. They have the experience, they have the knowledgeable crew. We really focus on the whole package and that’s why this team is successful at winning national championships.”

Of course, Shane and Company haven’t won anything yet. He was quick to note that four heats of racing are still left in the season and on the wide-open, salt-water course in San Diego, anything can happen.

“We still have four heats left to go and we can’t look too far ahead. We have to stick to our game plan,” Shane said. “Taking one heat at a time, or one qualifying session at a time, or one test session at a time and having the boat performing the best that it can be.”

Barring something unforeseen, the national championship should happen for Shane and the team. Winning the race, on the other hand, may not be as easy.

Kelly has won two of the four races on the schedule so far this year and has seven wins over the past three seasons including a victory at San Diego two years ago. Rookie Andrew Tate has been a pleasant surprise, scoring a victory at Seattle aboard the U-9 RealTrac Performance and is a serious threat to hoist the Bill Muncey Cup on Sunday.

And this weekend will also mark the return of the U-27 Dalton Industries team, which was running strong when badly damaged in a wreck at Madison during the season opener in early July. Driver Cal Phipps won two preliminary heats that day and was second only to Shane in the final when he caught a gust of wind and blew over approaching the Madison-Milton Bridge.

Those three contenders, along with Brian Perkins in the U-21 All Access Equipment — currently third in the points standings — and Jeff Bernard in the U-7 Graham Trucking II give the Bayfair field a strong showing of fast boats.

“When you look at it, realistically six boats can win this race. The racing has been very close,” Shane said. “I had somebody tell me at Detroit that the past couple of years was the closest the racing has been in a long time and I believe him. It’s been very close.”

The one big wild card on the weekend is the Bayfair water.

San Diego’s wide 2.5-mile course — the only salt water track on the circuit — has been known as one of the fastest in the series but running on salt water is always a factor. While teams have largely learned how to deal with the affects of salt on turbine engines over the past 25 years, all it takes is one bad moment to ruin a weekend.

“You take a big gulp of salt water and that can just ruin the engine. And with the new 80 mph rule (before the start) the roostertails are higher and if you get washed down, it can get right into the engine,” Shane said. “You really have to watch coming out of the pits or coming back in to not take on too much water. It’s a factor. Of course the best way to avoid the water is to be out front and that’s what we plan on doing.”

This year’s San Diego Bayfair will be sponsored by HomeStreet Bank, giving Shane even more of a reason to do well this weekend.

“San Diego is in their market and that’s why they wanted to be well-represented there and that’s why they stepped up and sponsored the race,” Shane said. “Now it’s on our shoulders to perform well from the racing standpoint and keep the HomeStreet blue boat out front and looking good on the water. That’s the whole part of the big picture of this sport that not a lot of people get. It is all about the racing on the water, but at the same time, it’s about the marketing and how people perceive the sport as a whole. And I think our team does a very good job of representing the sport.”

Testing for the HomeStreet Bank San Diego Bayfair begins at noon EDT on Friday with a two-hour qualifying session set to run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The first set of heats will be on Saturday while Sunday’s heat racing begins at 4:45 p.m. with the Final Heat slated for 7:15 p.m.
2016 H1 UNLIMITED STANDINGS

National High Points

(Through 4 of 5 races)

BOATS

Boat, Points, Back


1. U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank, 6,690

2. U-5 Graham Trucking, 6,106, -584

3. U-21 Go Fast Turn Left Racing, 4,667, -2,023

4. U-9 Jones Racing, 4,262, -2,428

5. U-11 Peters & May, 3,354, -3,336

6. U-27 Wiggins Racing, 3,139, -3,551

7. U-7 Graham Trucking II, 3,072, -3,618

8. U-16 Oh Boy! Oberto, 2,290, -4,400

9. U-99.9 KISW Miss Rock, 1,355, -5,335

10. U-57 Spirit of Detroit, 900, -5,790

11. U-3 Go3Racing, 0, -6,690

11. U-18 Bucket List Racing, 0, -6,690

DRIVERS

Driver, (Boat) Points, Back


1. Jimmy Shane (1), 6,690

2. J. Michael Kelly (5), 6,106, -584

3. Brian Perkins (21), 4,667, -2,023

4. Andrew Tate (9), 4,182, -2,508

5. Tom Thompson (11), 3,354, -3,336

6. Jeff Bernard (7), 3,072, -3,072

7. Jean Theoret (16), 2,290, -4,400

8. Jimmy King (3), 2,039, -4,651

9. Kevin Eacret (99.9), 1,355, -5,335

10. Cal Phipps (27), 1,100, -5,590

11. Corey Peabody (57), 450, -6,240

12. Dustin Echols (18), 0, -6,690