A screenshot of the U-98 Graham Trucking American Dream as it races toward the Madison-Milton Bridge during the virtual APBA Gold Cup in Madison on Saturday as part of the H1 Unlimited E-League. (Submitted photo)
A screenshot of the U-98 Graham Trucking American Dream as it races toward the Madison-Milton Bridge during the virtual APBA Gold Cup in Madison on Saturday as part of the H1 Unlimited E-League. (Submitted photo)
Kelsey Best channeled his Jimmy Shane impersonation and drove the U-6 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison to victory in the virtual APBA Gold Cup race in Madison as part of the H1 Unlimited E-League Racing Series on Saturday.

Best nailed the start and pulled away in the final heat, holding off race favorite Peyton Hopp on the final lap.

“This one was for you guys,” Best said to the citizen-owners of Madison, Indiana. “I’d like to think HomeStreet Bank and the citizens of Madison, Indiana for being a part of this sport.”

The race, which was run on the HydroSim platform, was the second E-League race for H1 Unlimited, which has tried to salavage some action out of a summer in which nearly every actual race has been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like the season-opener on the virtual course in Guntersville, Alabama two weeks ago, actual H1 personalities pulled the lane assignments with Miss Madison drivers Steve David and Jeff Bernard as well as Miss Madison crew-member Trey Holt and his father Rob each drawing a heat. U-98 Graham Trucking American Dream driver Corey Peabody also drew a heat. Longtime race announcer Brad Luce again provided play-by-play on the live stream with U-11 J&D’s co-owner Scott Raney providing the color.

Unlike the Guntersville race, which saw six different winners in preliminary heats, the Madison race was a two-man show early on. Hopp, the son of H1 driver Greg Hopp, won all four of his prelims aboard the U-10 Spirit of Detroit II while Scott Pryzbylski — who is also the game’s developer — won three heats in the U-9 Delta/RealTrac with his only loss coming to Hopp in Heat 4A.

The final heat was a different story. Cei Bowen flipped his U-3 Grigg’s Ace Hardware during the warm-up period and both Pryzbylski and Tim Goodman in the U-91 Goodman Real Estate/Miss Madison jumped the starting gun, turning the final into a three-boat affair.

Best secured lane one, nailed the start right on time and quickly pulled away. Hopp and Eddie Kanfoush in the U-99.9 Bucket List Miss Rock gave chase but neither could seriously challenge. Hopp made it close at the end but Best scored the wire-to-wire win.

“No one was going to let up and I was pushing that whole time,” Best said. “Jeff Bernard was in my ear giving me the locations of where they were at. My heart is still pumping. That was a lot of fun.”

Best got his start in hydroplane racing not behind a keyboard, but behind the wheel of the real thing driving for the Bononcini family in Seattle where he met Shane, who has driven for the Miss Madison Racing Team since 2014. Work took Best to Mesa, Arizona but he has been able to stay apart of the sport he loves thanks to the HydroSim game.

Shane served as Best’s spotter for the first race of the season but was unable to do so on Saturday. Bernard, Shane’s teammate and spotter, took up the position for the Madison race.

“(The Bononcini family) is a big reason why I’m involved in hydroplane racing. I just wanted to give them a shout-out,” Best said. “I have very good memories with them and circumstances made me move to Arizona. Unfortunately, boat racing isn’t as big here as in the northwest, but thanks to Scott (Pryzbylski) and this platform, I can still get the adrenaline pumping.”

The H1 Unlimited E-League is expected to continue throughout the summer. The next scheduled race has yet to be announced.