With any realistic hopes for a ninth H1 National Championship all but dashed after last weekend’s disastrous race in the Tri-Cities, Washington, the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison team is ready to turn the page and begin looking to the future.

The HomeStreet team will in all likelihood debut the seventh boat to wear the City of Madison seal in 57 years when the H1 Unlimited fleet begins racing in Seattle this weekend for the annual Albert Lee Appliance Cup at Seafair.

The original plan for the defending series champions was to test both the current 2007-vintage hull and the new boat, which was just completed last week in Seattle. But those plans were blown up when the team suffered three disqualifications at Tri-Cities and saw its points deficit to series leader Andrew Tate and the U-9 Les Schwab Tires balloon from a manageable 400 points to nearly 2,000 with just three races to go.

With virtually no chance to catch Tate, the team now plans to send the newest hull out and see what happens.

“We’re not going to win the title now, that’s for sure,” Miss Madison President Charlie Grooms said on Wednesday. “So we’ll get the new boat ready and begin looking ahead.”

The new boat, listed as #1806 in the official registry for those interested in such things, saw action twice in the Tri-Cities, albeit both times in testing. Driver Jimmy Shane took the craft out for a quick but cautious spin on Saturday and then let it loose on Sunday.

“Jimmy was ecstatic. It’s smooth and it’s fast,” Grooms said. “On Saturday he just took it easy to literally see if it floats and to make sure nothing fell off. But on Sunday he really went out and did several laps of over 160 (mph), easy. He wasn’t pushing it and the boat wasn’t even set up. And he did them with no problem.”

The Miss Madison team has won eight of the last 10 National High Point championships — including four in a row — under the sponsorships of both Oh Boy! Oberto and HomeStreet Bank. Shane has won the last five driver’s crowns — starting his run with the Graham Trucking team — and was chasing Dave Villwock’s streak of seven-straight titles from 1998 through 2004 aboard the Miss Budweiser.

Barring a huge turn of events, those streaks are likely to come to an end this season. Tate swept all five heats of racing last weekend — his second sweep of the season — to give him a lead not seen at midseason since Villwock’s dominating string of championships in the late 1990s.

In 13 heats of racing this season, Tate has finished first 11 times and second twice. He has also been the fastest qualifier twice and second twice.

The result is a 1,773-point lead over Tom Thompson and the U-11 J&Ds, and a 1,920-point lead over Shane and the HomeStreet.

“This is the biggest points lead the Les Schwab boat has had, ever! We’ve acknowledged the fact, but won’t rest on it,” Tate said. “The team worked hard all week to make sure the U-9 is at the top of its game for Seafair.”

Thompson sits in second place despite being the victim of Shane’s lane encroachment at Tri-Cities that left his U-11 craft dead in the water and Shane disqualified and facing a two-race probation.

“We are making the necessary adjustments to try to follow-up with another great weekend of racing and maintain our second place points position,” Thompson said.

A total of eight drivers are expected to compete for the Albert Lee Cup. Along with Tate, Thompson and Shane, the rest of the field will include: J. Michael Kelly, U-12 Graham Trucking; Brian Perkins, U-21 PayneWest Insurance; Aaron Salmon, U-99.9 Miss Rock; Dustin Echols, U-440 Bucket List Racing; and Cal Phipps, U-1918 Oberto Beef Jerky.

Phipps is embracing his role as an underdog coming into the Albert Lee Appliance Cup but the team has been hard at work trying to make that boat more competitive for Seattle-based Oberto Beef Jerky, which is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary by sponsoring the team at Tri-Cities and Seattle. Oberto has even hired Villwock, the sport’s winningest driver with 67 career victories, as a technical consultant.

“We have made many changes this week trying to put our best combinations (engine, gears, and propeller) together going into Seafair this weekend. I am ready and we are excited to come into this weekend after a great second-place finish in Tri-Cities,” Phipps said. “I need to stay clean (no penalties) and let the chips fall in the final.”

Meanwhile, the Posey County, Indiana-based U-3 Go3Racing team and driver Jimmy King who ran with the Oberto’s colors at Seafair last season will not compete this weekend due to a lack of sponsorship.

The team has appeared at just one race this season, last weekend under the Grigg’s ACE Hardware sponsorship, but managed to score just 296 points after failing to finish heat 1B, failing to start Heat 2A, placing fourth in 3A and taking fifth in 4A.

Testing for the Albert Lee Cup will be from 1:40-3:25 p.m. EDT today with qualifying set for 7:50 p.m. The first set of heats will be at on Saturday at 8:15 p.m.