“There is no doubt that this was the worst weekend in this team’s history that didn’t involve a wreck. We’ve never had DSQs like this before.”
Miss Madison Racing President
Charlie Grooms on the team’s poor finish at Tri-Cities
“There is no doubt that this was the worst weekend in this team’s history that didn’t involve a wreck. We’ve never had DSQs like this before.” Miss Madison Racing President Charlie Grooms on the team’s poor finish at Tri-Cities
By DAVID CAMPBELL

Special to the Courier

sports@madisoncourier.com

A faulty fuel control is to blame for the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison’s two disqualifications at last weekend’s HAPO Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities, Washington.

Jimmy Shane drove the blue-and-white craft to wins in all four preliminary heats but two of those were disallowed duel to “technical violations.” A third disqualification in the final heat for a lane encroachment all but sank the team’s hopes of winning a fifth-straight H1 Unlimited National High Point Championship.

Miss Madison Racing President Charlie Grooms, who also happens to be the interim chairman of H1, confirmed that it was a faulty part that ruined the team’s weekend.

“We worked and worked on this part all weekend long,” Grooms said on Wednesday. “Nothing we tried worked.”

Grooms said the first issue occurred during Heat 2B on Saturday but nobody caught the infraction until late Saturday night. Jeff Campbell, crew chief of the U-9 Jones Racing Team, was looking over the HomeStreet’s data and noticed what had happened.

According to Grooms, the problem had to do with the engine’s operating capacity, or “N2.” Boats are not allowed to exceed 118 percent of the engine’s capacity without incurring a penalty. But each boat has a governor on its engine that cuts off fuel flow to the engine before exceeding to 118 percent.

The Miss HomeStreet’s governor failed and the result was the engine was revving as high as it could go.

“We weren’t just a little bit over, we were at 140 percent, 145 percent, then back down to 120 percent. And it was on every lap,” Grooms said. “There was clearly an issue with the engine because we would never do that on purpose. That rule is there to keep you from tearing up engines, not necessarily for a competitive advantage. Believe me, had we known about it, we would have stopped it.”

As soon as Campbell showed H1 officials the data, they quickly moved to disqualify the HomeStreet from Heat 2B. On Sunday, the same issue happened again with the same engine in Heat 4B again resulting in another disqualification.

While Grooms acknowledged that the Miss Madison team technically broke the rule, he took issue with how H1 dealt out its punishment.

“Once the ‘9’ team showed them what happened, they threw us out without even talking to us or trying to find the context,” Grooms said. “We broke the rule and I understand that, but the very first paragraph of the rulebook states intent will be taken into consideration and we certainly didn’t have the intention of doing that. We smoked our best motor doing that; it’s toast. That is something we would have not done on purpose.”

The capper to the weekend was in the final heat when Shane was disqualified for cutting off the U-11 J&Ds before the start of the race. In that situation, Shane simply was caught with no where to go during the milling period and tried to create a lane that did not exist.

According to Grooms, Shane was initially fined $250 for the maneuver. But after a protest by the U-11 team, the penalty was increased to $500 plus the disqualification. And to make matters worse, Shane was placed on probation for the next two races.

“There is no doubt that this was the worst weekend in this team’s history that didn’t involve a wreck,” said Grooms, who has been with the team in various capacities since the 1970s. “We’ve never had DSQs like this before.”

Despite the issues, Grooms expressed faith in first-year crew chief Cindy Shirley, who has seen her first career win at Madison sandwiched in between two penalty-filled races at Guntersville and Tri-Cities.

“I still believe in Cindy and of course she is beating herself to death because she’s had five disqualifications this season,” Grooms said. “They weren’t necessarily her fault, but when you’re in that position, everything feels like your fault. But we do have some things we need to look at because obviously we’re not doing something right.”

The rough weekend in eastern Washington left the team in a position it hasn’t been in since the early 2000s — out of the National High Points chase. Although there is still three races left in the season, Shane and the HomeStreet trail Andrew Tate and the U-9 Jones Racing by nearly 2,000 points.

Because of that seemingly insurmountable deficit, Grooms said the team will adjust its season focus starting this weekend in Seattle.

“The national title is gone. We’re not going to win that now,” Grooms said. “We’re changing our plan and starting this weekend we’ll move forward with the new boat. There’s really nothing else we can do.”

The team launched its newest boat last weekend at Tri-Cities but limited the just-finished hull to two brief shakedown test sessions that included a fast lap in excess of 160 mph on the 2.5-mile Columbia River course in the second session.

That likely won’t be the case this weekend when the team expects to turn more focus on the new hull in an effort to qualify it and see just how well it will perform in race situations on Lake Washington in Seattle. That should provide good data going into the APBA Gold Cup later this month at Detroit, at the season finale at San Diego in September and starting with the 2019 season when the team will try to resume it’s drive for a points championship.