" “We were experiencing multiple issues all day with the strobe lights going off while boats were clearly going over 80 mph ... It’s unfortunate that the lights were not working as they should but we wanted to make sure each team was on a level
playing field before we started what is arguably
the most important race of the season.”


H1 Unlimited Chief Referee Doug Shelton
"
By DAVID CAMPBELL

Special to the Courier

sports@madisoncourier.com

A decision by H1 Unlimited officials before the start of Sunday’s final heat of the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit did not sit well with members of the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison Racing Team, especially driver Jimmy Shane. On Tuesday, H1 Unlimited Chief Referee Doug Shelton took to Facebook to clarify his reasons behind the decision.

Shelton said he decided before the start of the heat to remove the bright strobe lights that sit on top of each boat. Designed by U-9 Jones Racing crew chief Jeff Campbell, the strobes were designed to flash whenever a boat’s speed drops below 80 mph, thus incurring a one-minute penalty.

But the lights have not worked properly since they were introduced a few years ago, including at Seattle earlier this month where the U-1918 Oberto Beef Jerky team reported that their light was flashing throughout the race — even at full speed. That’s the same race where the HomeStreet was assessed a one-minute penalty for a flashing strobe even though it appeared to be going just as fast as Andrew Tate in Jones Racing’s boat.

Similar problems popped up at Detroit, and not just in the tight “Roostertail Turn” where most boats slow to below 80 mph in order to just get through the tight turn. After watching strobes going off all day, Shelton decided to make the call to remove the lights.

“We were experiencing multiple issues all day with the strobe lights going off while boats were clearly going over 80 mph. With the input of our chief inspector I made the decision to remove the lights before the final heat,” Shelton wrote on Facebook. “(The) worst thing I felt we could do was penalize a boat in the final of the Gold Cup based off a light that was not reading properly. We use calculated timing marks at several different points on the race course to try to make sure the teams were maintaining the 80 mph. It’s unfortunate that the lights were not working as they should but we wanted to make sure each team was on a level playing field before we started what is arguably the most important race of the season.”

Shane declined to specifically say he was upset with the decision. But he did note that once drivers were all put on an “honor” system of maintaining at least 80 mph, he didn’t feel all drivers did their best to follow the rules.

“The officials made a change, just before the final heat and didn’t say too much about it and I wasn’t too happy about what they did,” Shane said. “I’m not going to get into too much detail, but what happened on the race course is exactly what I predicted. We were the only ones that were honest in our timing marks in the warm-up period and we should have come away with the Gold Cup win.”

The incident was just the latest in a series of setbacks for the HomeStreet team, which entered the season hopeful of winning its fifth-straight National High Points Championship only to see that goal smashed in the matter of a few races.

The team opened the 2018 campaign with two disqualifications for flagrant fuel violations at Guntersville, and after sweeping Madison, was hit with three more disqualifications at Tri-Cities — one for a driving mistake by Shane and the other two when Campbell and the U-9 team reported the HomeStreet to H1 officials for N2 violations, discovered after the fact. Then came the penalty at Seattle.

Along with the strobe light issue, Shane also felt that winning driver Tate should have been called for lane encroachment in the first turn of the first lap Sunday. But no call was made.

“It’s been a culmination of penalties and a culmination of a few things that we have done as a team, but for the most part, it has been stuff out of our control,” Shane said. “It’s disappointing. It’s hard to take in and adjust to that. To me, it’s not the season that it could have been for the fans.”

If there has been a bright spot to Miss Madison Racing’s season it is the performance of the team’s new boat, which debuted at Tri-Cities and has been used exclusively the past two races. Over that span, Shane has been the fastest qualifier twice and won seven of the nine heats he has entered.

“(Detroit) was the roughest I’ve ever had to run in and the new boat handled it great,” Shane said. “I’m ecstatic.”

Grooms clarifies Tukwilia shop rumors, HomeStreet

Miss Madison Inc. President Charlie Grooms took time on Saturday to address the Internet reports that his team has closed its shop in Tukwila, Washington, and is moving all of the team’s equipment back to Madison.

While Grooms admitted that the equipment is coming home, he said that the shop itself will remain open.

“We have a five-year lease with the city of Tukwila for that shop and we fully intend on honoring that lease,” Grooms said. “The shop is not closed.”

Miss Madison Racing purchased all remaining assets from the former Miss Budweiser team last year and took over the lease on the shop. It was Grooms’ intention at the time to open the shop to all H1 Unlimited teams, giving every team in the series access to the equipment.

But Grooms also said at the time of the sale that Miss Madison Racing will remain in Madison. However, the team’s small shop on Milton Street is no longer big enough to accommodate all of the new inventory. As a result, the team is looking for a place to build a new shop in Madison.

“We are currently looking at sites,” Grooms said. “We need to have a shop that is big enough to hold two boats and two trailers and two trucks, as well as 10 turbine engines and all of the Bud molds. So it will have to be a big place.”

While the Tukwila shop will remain open, former Miss Budweiser crew chief Mark Smith will no longer be on hand. Smith, who has been in charge of the shop for the past 20 years, recently informed Grooms that he is planning on retiring to Hawaii.

Grooms also said that the team’s relationship with sponsor HomeStreet Bank is solid, despite rumors to the contrary.

“The last thing that (CEO) Mark Mason told me when we left Seattle was how happy he was and how he had no problems,” Grooms said. “That’s good enough for me.”