EVANSVILLE - With the way Jimmy King was running away, Jeff Bernard didn't think he had any chance at victory.

But when the propeller broke on King's U-3 Master Tire on lap three, the door was open for Bernard and the 24-year-old burst through, holding off teammate J. Michael Kelly to win a controversial Thunder on the Ohio Unlimited hydroplane race in Evansville Sunday.

"(King) had us covered. I had to back off a little at the start and that piston motor just accelerates a lot better than a turbine does," said Bernard. "I told Jimmy before the heat that if I couldn't win I would love to see him win. He's been in that position so many times and he can't get a win. His bad day is my good day.

"He had this race won."

Bernard had lane one after a perfect day of racing in the U-5 Formulaboats.com but King quickly rendered that advantage moot. Tearing off at the start, King roared past Bernard and was off to the races, running the nearly 70-year-old Allison V12 engine as well as it has run in years.

But exiting turn two of the third lap, the propeller on the U-3 broke a blade and the boat came to a stop. King, who has been driving Unlimiteds since 1994, would have to wait for another day to pick up his first career win.

"When I saw the U-3 go down, I had a big smile," Bernard said. "Then I looked to my right and I saw my teammate J. Michael Kelly. Well, I knew I had my work cut out for me. We have two boats for one team, but when it comes to that last heat, it's every man for himself."

Kelly, in lane three aboard the U-7 Graham Trucking, was only a few boat-lengths behind Bernard when King went dead and chased his teammate for three laps. But Kelly was forced to swing wide three times to avoid the stranded U-3, losing valuable real estate in the process. Bernard's winning average heat speed of 140.395 was only a one-half-a-mph faster than Kelly's.

The victory was the third of Bernard's young career, adding to wins at Madison and San Diego last year. The win was also doubly important for Bernard who lost his stepfather Terry Troxell, also a boat racer, to a fatal heart attack in June.

"This is great for the Formula boats team and this one is for my stepfather Terry," said Bernard, choking up. "I wanted to win one so bad for him this year and coming here to Evansville, there were only two more races to go. So this is awesome."

Bernard not only won the race, he dominated the weekend, claiming all three preliminary heats after finishing fourth in qualifying. A critic of the American Boat Racing Association's lane assignment rule, Bernard had to admit that it worked out well for him Sunday.

"I don't like that rule. I guess everybody knows that," Bernard said. "But I won today, so I guess I'll like it for a while."

Steve David finished third in the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison despite starting the final from lane six. David originally thought he would get lane four and be able to make a run at the win, but was informed by ABRA officials before the start of the final that he had actually been penalized 150 points for an incident in an earlier heat and would have to start from the outside.

Despite the handicap of running a longer course from the outside, David stayed with the leaders for much of the race and even made a run on Bernard after King's mishap. But a patch of rough water in turn one of the final lap forced him to settle for third.

"The guys did a phenomenal job. They gave me a great setup to run through that slop," David said.

Greg Hopp finished fourth in the U-100 Mirage Boats, Ken Muscatel was fifth in the U-25 Mister Home Loans and Nate Brown finished sixth in the U-17 Seal Shield, which was running under the U-16 Miss Elam Plus name for the final two heats.

The original Elam was damaged in a blowover accident in Heat 1A, the same incident that cost the Oberto its 150 points. Driver Dave Villwock walked away from the accident with only a wrap on his knee.

"I'm OK. I just hate wrecking boats," Villwock said. "The boat's not bad. Any boat wreck is expensive but the boat is not really damaged all that bad."

In order to keep its National Championship hopes alive, Miss Elam Plus owner Erick Ellstrom leased Brown's U-17 for the final two heats. Brown finished fourth in Heat 3B before placing sixth in the final.

The top three boats in the points race are separated by only 780 points as the series shifts overseas for the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship in Doha, Qatar, in November. David leads Bernard by 316 points and Villwock by 780.