To say that this hasn’t been the best of seasons for the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison racing team is an understatement. A slew of penalties will do that.

But while the national championship may be lost, driver Jimmy Shane and the HomeStreet team can salvage the season with an impressive finish, starting with the team’s defense of the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit this weekend.

“It has been a challenging season and we are looking at the Detroit race to turn the corner and have a great race,” Shane said. “The Gold Cup is the most prestigious award of the season and a chance to race for it again is an honor.”

Shane came into the 2018 season fully intent on winning his sixth-straight driver’s title and the team’s ninth in the past 11 years. Two penalties in the season opener at Guntersville Lake, Alabama in June got the season off to a rough start and, after an impressive sweep on their home waters in Madison, a disastrous weekend at Tri-Cities — including three disqualifications — sunk the season.

Shane and the team appeared to be on their way to redemption at Seattle earlier this month, but another penalty — this one for violating the 80 mph minimum speed before the start of the final heat — drove the nail in the points championship coffin.

But if there is a silver lining to that race in Seattle it came in the form of team’s new boat. With no national championship to chase, the team is opting to finish out the season with the newest Miss Madison and it did not disappoint with Shane claiming top qualifying honors and three preliminary heat wins before the untimely penalty in the final.

Shane came away impressed with the new hull, which has been dubbed “White” due to its color scheme, and the team is so confident in the boat that the team’s 2007 boat has remained in Seattle.

“We are excited to get our new Miss HomeStreet race boat on the larger race course and see how it performs,” said Shane, who has won three of the last four Gold Cups. “It was amazing when we debuted it in Seattle. In fact, it was the fastest lap the team has ever run on a two-mile course.”

Shane’s new white-and-blue HomeStreet may draw the eyes, but it will be hometown hero Andrew Tate who will have the Detroit fans’ attention.

Tate, who lives in nearby Walled Lake, Michigan, grew up in the Detroit pits following in the footsteps of his father Mark Tate, who won two Gold Cups while driving the Smokin’ Joe’s. Andrew Tate won the President’s Cup race in Detroit last year but finished second to Shane in the final of the Gold Cup the following day.

In just his third season as an Unlimited driver, Tate has emerged as the top dog on the circuit. He has steered his U-9 Delta/Realtrac to three wins in four races so far and has been the fastest qualifier three times. Even more impressive, Tate has won 14 of the 17 heats he has entered this season.

In light of that dominance it’s not surprising that Tate is running away with the National High Points race. With just two races to go, Tate leads Shane by 1,998 points and has a chance to clinch his — and his team’s — first-ever national crown.

The Delta/Realtrac will not be the only team with some local flavor this weekend in Detroit. The locally-owned U-7 Detroit Machinery Center will make its season debut with Bert Henderson behind the wheel. Owned by Dave Bartush of Detroit, the former Miss Budweiser T-5 hull missed the first two races as the team finished repairs to the damage sustained in last year’s Gold Cup and the last two races with transport truck issues.

Henderson, who qualified as a rookie driver at Detroit last year, spearheaded the team’s rebuild efforts and is anxious to get on the water.

“It has been a huge amount of anticipation waiting for my return to H1 Unlimited racing. Watching Online has been difficult as I really wanted to be on the water competing,” said Henderson, who is from nearby Brockville, Ontario. “(The team) wanted the boat to be prepared and look like something they would be proud of. The team is as stoked as I am.”

Three other teams will round out the smallest Gold Cup field in more than 40 years.

Tom Thompson currently sits third in the points standings aboard the U-11 J&Ds, which has had its most successful season to date with two podium finishes.

Dustin Echols, whose U-440 Bucket List Racing is one of only four teams to make all five races this season, and Jimmy King and the U-3 Roostertail — 60 years of Parties, round out the field.

Testing for the APBA Gold Cup will begin Friday afternoon with qualifying set for 5 p.m. on Friday. The first set of preliminary heats will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday with the final heat set for 4:40 p.m. on Sunday.

The qualifying record at Detriot is held by Andrew Tate and the Delta/Realtrac at 163.141 mph during the 2017 Gold Cup.

All heats will be streamed live at www.h1unlimited.com. Radio station WORX 96.7 FM will also carry all heats live both on the air and Online at www.worxradio.com.