The U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison won the 2017 APBA Gold Cup on Aug. 27 to carry a 279-point National High Points lead into the H1 Unlimited Hyroplane Series season finale this weekend at San Diego. The team, pictured in Detroit at that Gold Cup celebration, has won two of the four points races this season to date and is seeking its fourth-straight national championship and eighth title in the last 10 seasons. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
The U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison won the 2017 APBA Gold Cup on Aug. 27 to carry a 279-point National High Points lead into the H1 Unlimited Hyroplane Series season finale this weekend at San Diego. The team, pictured in Detroit at that Gold Cup celebration, has won two of the four points races this season to date and is seeking its fourth-straight national championship and eighth title in the last 10 seasons. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
The abbreviated 2017 H1 Unlimited season comes to an end this weekend when a small fleet of hydros descend on San Diego for the HomeStreet Bank San Diego Bayfair on Mission Bay.

Only five boats are expected to make the trek to southern California for the race, the smallest field the sport has seen since the late 1970s. But what the fleet lacks in quantity, it will more than make up for in quality with the top three boats in the points standings battling it out for a national championship.

Season points leader Jimmy Shane, driver of the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison, acknowledges that the small field is a problem that needs to be addressed in the offseason, but he also admitted that with all three boats facing each other every time out, this could end up being the best race of the season.

“This might be one of the more exciting San Diego races that people have come to watch,” said Shane, who has won two of the previous four races this season. “If we have five boats in every heat and four qualifying heats and a final, there is going to be a lot of racing on the water. You’re going to see four of the best boats in the sport going head to head every single heat. That’s going to make it exciting hopefully for the fans.”

Shane, who claimed victories at Seattle and Detroit, enters the weekend with a 279-point lead over Andrew Tate and the U-9 Delta/RealTrac. J. Michael Kelly is third, 594 points back in the U-12 Graham Trucking.

All three of the points leaders will be in San Diego battling it out. And while Shane is the favorite, he knows all too well that either of his two rivals could put together a perfect weekend and steal the crown away from the Miss Madison Racing team.

“In my personal opinion, it’s going to come down to the last heat to decide the points race,” Shane said. “You know as a driver that every heat matters with this being the last race of the season. What that means is that as drivers, we know that we have to use our heads, but there’s going to be some added pressure of ‘Hey, I have to beat the U-1’ or or ‘Hey, I have to beat the U-9’, or Mike’s on the inside and we have to beat him in this heat. I think that’s really going to add to the drama of the weekend and I really think you’re going to see some great racing because of that drama.”

While the focus this weekend will be on the top three, a fourth driver could easily steal the show. Tom Thompson and the always snake-bit U-11 J&D’s team will also be on hand and could make the other three drivers’ lives interesting. Thompson was the third-fastest qualifier for the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit last month, but a broken propeller in the team’s first heat ruined its opportunity to play spoiler.

The fifth boat expected in San Diego is the U-440 Bucket List Racing, driven by Dustin Echols. Despite being underfunded and underpowered with a boat smaller than the rest of the fleet, the 440 team made every points race this season, something that only the other four boats that will join it at San Diego can say.

For many, the five-boat field is a sign of trouble within the H1 organization and Shane can’t disagree. But for the veteran driver, the biggest crime has been how the low boat count has masked what has been a really strong, competitive season, with three different teams winning races so far.

“It’s definetely been a down year for boat count all the way around, but at the same time, we’ve maintained our show on the water,” said Shane. “It’s been exciting racing, it’s been deck-to-deck and hopefully we can take those races and improve for next season.”

Shane has won the last two Bayfairs and three of the past four while his Miss Madison Team has claimed four wins on the big track — now the only saltwater course on the circuit — in the past 10 years. And while getting another Bayfair trophy is certainly a goal, the big prize is claiming the Martini & Rossi Trophy for the National High Points Championship for a fourth-straight year and eighth time in the past 10 years.

“(The National Championship) is something to strive for. It may not be something on the front of your mind while you’re in a race, but it’s something that you definetely think back on,” said Shane, who has won four-straight driver’s championships, something previously that only the sport’s career wins-leading driver Dave Villwock had accomplished. “We’re always striving, we’re always trying to get faster and if we do those things, those things will come to us.”

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H1 UNLIMITED HYDROPLANE SERIES

HOMESTREET BANK BAYFAIR

at Mission Bay, San Diego

H1 UNLIMITED SCHEDULE

(All Times EDT)

Friday, Sept. 15

Noon-1 p.m. — Testing

3:25-4:25 p.m. — Testing

6:30-8:30 p.m. — Qualifying

Saturday, Sept. 16

2:05-3:50 p.m. — Testing

6:50 p.m. — Heat 1A

8:10 p.m. — Heat 1B

Sunday, Sept. 17

12:25-1:30 p.m. — Testing

4 p.m. — Heat 2A

5:25 p.m. — Heat 2B

7 p.m. — Final Heat