Driver J.W. Myers makes adjustments in the cockpit of the U-27 Wiggins Racing on Friday at Madison. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Driver J.W. Myers makes adjustments in the cockpit of the U-27 Wiggins Racing on Friday at Madison. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
J.W. Myers is no stranger to driving in the H1 Unlimited ranks or navigating the challenging waters of the Ohio River. But it has been awhile since Myers has steered a hydroplane on the “Wild” Bill Cantrell Memorial Race Course.

That changes today when Myers slides into the cockpit of the U-27 Wiggins Racing H1 Unlimited.

With U-27 driver Cal Phipps out of the cockpit this weekend due to a work obligation, Myers makes his return to Madison in the cockpit of the Gadsden, Alabama-based boat and will race in the Unlimited series for the first time since 2012. That year also marks the last time Myers raced in Madison so his excitement level is pretty high over getting an opportunity to tune up in the U-27 before shifting to another team later this season.

“It’s going to be cool,” Myers said of his return. “I still race my little outboard regularly but Charley (Wiggins) called me and said Cal had a work function he couldn’t get out of. And I respect that. I’ve been in the same situation. I have a ride for later this season with the Oh Boy! Oberto Ellstrom Racing team so this is going to work out really well. I’ll get my laps in in advance before Tri-Cities and Seattle so I can kind of hit the ground running there.”

And for Wiggins it means putting a driver into that boat this weekend who has had great success in Madison. Myers picked up his first heat win as an Unlimited driver in 2004 on the Ohio River at Madison as pilot of the U-3 LLumar Window Film and a year later dominated inside in Ellstrom U-1 Miss E-Lam Plus en route to winning the 2005 Indiana Governor’s Cup.

Myers’ last run in Madison in 2012 resulted in three second place heat finishes and a fifth place finish in the final. Given his past success on the course, he says he looks forward to trying his hand on the treacherous Ohio once again.

“It’s the Ohio River ... that’s a statement in itself,” Myers said of the Madison race. “But I have a sweet spot for this place. It’s been awesome here in past years and being able to have success. I’m not going to sugarcoat it though, Madison is my only race win. But to have it here in Madison is kind of cool.”

“Minor difficulties” prevented Myers from testing in the U-27 during Friday’s session but both he and the team are sure the boat will be ready when heat racing begins this afternoon.

Myers said this weekend is just about getting on the water and doing so as stress-free as possible — both for him and the team. The U-27 is coming off a disastrous 2016 that began with Phipps’ blowever crash in the series opener at Madison that sidelined the boat for repairs until the season finale at San Diego. In between the team worked long hours on a rebuild that really didn’t get finished until this past offseason.

So Myers’ goal this weekend is to just keep everything in good condition as both he and the Wiggins Racing team look to the points races further down the road this year.

“We should be ready to go,” Myers noted. “I don’t know much about the boat other than I’ve raced against it but it’s just a race boat. You have to figure out the personality of the boat. It’s not a high-pressure thing this weekend. With me and the team (Wiggins Racing) being unfamiliar with the boat, we’re just going to go at this thing cautiously.”