Kip Brown celebrates (above) on top of his Spirit of Qatar boat (above) after winning the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit on Sunday. Brown reacts with uncle and boat owner Nate Brown (below) on the dock. The win was the first of Brown’s career, the first driver since Jim McCormick in 1971 to win his first race in the Gold Cup. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Kip Brown celebrates (above) on top of his Spirit of Qatar boat (above) after winning the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit on Sunday. Brown reacts with uncle and boat owner Nate Brown (below) on the dock. The win was the first of Brown’s career, the first driver since Jim McCormick in 1971 to win his first race in the Gold Cup. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
DETROIT, Mich. - Steve David's third penalty of the weekend cost him a chance at Gold, leaving the door wide open for Kip Brown to achieve immortality.

Brown picked up his first career victory and did so in the biggest race of the season, winning the American Power Boat Association Gold Cup on the Detroit River on Sunday.

Brown joined his father-in-law and uncle in the Gold Cup-winning fraternity. And in doing so, put himself among the elite of the sport.

"I just don't know what to say. I had no inkling that I was going to win this race," Brown said. "We were about the fourth-fastest boat out there all weekend long. We garnered enough points despite my terrible driving yesterday to get into the final and we got a little luck which is what we needed.

"I could quit today and be remembered as one of the good ones," he added. "That's something that is humbling and overwhelming."

Brown got his chance at the Cup in one instant that saw both of the favorites taken out at the same time. As the field exited turn two of the first lap in the final, David was assessed a one-lap penalty for encroachment after officials said that he veered out of his lane three and into lane two, cutting off Jimmy Shane.

Shane drove his Graham Trucking boat through David's roostertail and damaged his front canard wing, taking him out of contention. David steered his Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison through the field to finish fourth, but his shot at winning the Gold Cup ended like his previous 23 attempts, in disappointment.

David was upset at the call and insisted that he was not in the wrong.

"It was a bull (manure) call," David said. "We asked (the officials) on Friday and re-affirmed Saturday that if you have a seven-boat overlap going into the turn, the inside boat cannot make up that room in the turn. They are stuck where they are. We had seven boat-lengths going into that turn, we held him tight and he went through our tail and they called us for it. It's complete bull."

It was the third time in five Gold Cup heats that David was assessed one lap infractions. On Saturday, he was hit with penalties for both encroachment and striking a buoy that lowered him to seventh in the weekend points standings.

David took the blame for the infractions on Saturday but added that he felt like most calls in the past have gone against him.

"(The officials) keep continually doing this to us," David said. "The officials are a joke. They couldn't manage a kindergarten class."

But a pair of wins on Sunday put David back on top going into the final.

"It was our race, it really was," David said. "Everything was perfectly aligned except, well, you know ..."

With David and Shane out of the picture, the Gold Cup turned into a two-boat race between Brown and Jon Zimmerman in the Team Red Dot. For four laps, the two drivers dueled with Zimmerman appearing to have the better chute speed and Brown having the inside lane.

Zimmerman was slow exiting turn one on the final lap and that little opening was all that Brown needed to pull away down the backstretch and secure the historic win.

"I think Jon got into some bad water. He had a couple of boat-lengths on me. He got a little loose and had to get out of it," Brown said. "That was my opportunity. I never lifted from that point on."

Zimmerman ended up running a strong second while Tom Thompson was a distant third aboard the Peters & May. David finished fourth, Shane was fifth and Mike Webster, the trailer boat in the final, did not finish.

"We knew that we were racing for the Gold Cup when the Oberto had the problem," Zimmerman said. "It was a great race. We got into a little trouble and Kip just drove away."

It was the highest career finish for each of the top three drivers, but it is Brown's name that will added to the Gold Cup, the oldest active trophy in motorsports racing.

Brown's uncle and boat owner, Nate Brown, won the Gold Cup in 2004 and a year later, the late Terry Troxell, Brown's father-in-law, authored arguably the biggest upset in Unlimited history when he won the Cup.

"It's really cool. It's one of my dreams. I won the Gold Cup as crew chief of the Winston Eagle, I won it as a driver and to win it as an owner is pretty cool," Nate Brown said. "But beyond that, it is really good to be able to give this to my team, because they're the ones that did it. I sit around on my butt all day long.

"This has been a dream of (Kip's). This is the pinnacle for him," Nate Brown added. "He doesn't realize it yet but he will come to realize it. Men have died trying to win this Cup."

Nate Brown gave a lot of the credit for the win to David and the Miss Madison team. The Qatar boat used a skid fin that was made by Oberto crew chief Mike Hanson and once the penalty took the front-running David out of contention he allowed Brown and Zimmerman to settle the race between themselves.

"Steve David is the reason why we won this race, not because of the penalty but because of the way he drove," Nate Brown said. "He gave us a clean race and allowed us to fend off the 9. It was a classy move and I told him so."

Shane, David and Brown each won two preliminary heats while Webster and Zimmerman had the other prelim wins.

The victory by Webster in Heat 1B was the first of his career and came nearly a year to the day after he flipped and nearly broke in half the same boat at Detroit.

"It's hard not to get emotional about this win," Webster said. "The crew has just worked so hard."

Brown became the first driver since Jim McCormick in 1971 to record his first career win in the Gold Cup. McCormick, ironically, drove the Miss Madison.

Despite the setback, David takes a 183-point lead in the National High Points standings into the next race - in Tri-Cities, Wash., in two weeks - after entering Detroit trailing Shane by 23 points.