Cal Phipps, driver of the U-27 Dalton Industries, was involved in a spectacular blowover crash during Sunday’s Indiana Governor’s Cup final heat — the boat lifted up on the backstretch and did a 360-degree somersault before landing hard but upright. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Cal Phipps, driver of the U-27 Dalton Industries, was involved in a spectacular blowover crash during Sunday’s Indiana Governor’s Cup final heat — the boat lifted up on the backstretch and did a 360-degree somersault before landing hard but upright. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Despite a spin out during testing on Friday, the weekend was shaping up as a very successful one for the U-27 Dalton Industries/Wiggins Racing Team.

But all of that changed in less than 30 seconds, when the Gadsden, Ala., boat took flight and crashed in a spectacular blowover on the last lap of the final heat.

The damage to the boat is considerable, but driver Cal Phipps walked away from the type of wreck that might have killed him 30 years ago.

“I’ve got a body-molded seat and am strapped in good. They check us for the harnesses and we’re very safe in there,” Phipps said shortly after the wreck. “I was going 180 mph and I don’t know how high I went, but for me, it looked like I came eye to-eye with somebody on the bridge. But I came down and I’m talking here without a single pain. That’s pretty safe to me.”

Phipps’ wreck came as he was trying to chase down Jimmy Shane and the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison. Shane had a sizeable lead, but Phipps has seen his share of crazy things on a race course and wanted to be ready in case something happened.

As it turned out, that something happened to him. And although he feels bad for busting up the team’s boat, he said it came while trying to do what he is paid to do. Win races.

“That was a final and it was the last lap. We hit a big hole and it hung quite a bit,” Phipps said. “But we were in second and I didn’t want to be a bridesmaid, I wanted to be a bride. I was trying to win the race. I got between those two bridge pillars and caught a gust of wind. Luckily I didn’t have to go swimming, it landed right-side up. The boat’s pretty damaged, but the only pain I have is in my head that it happened.”

The boat initially hit the water on its transom, but the force of the impact was felt on the right sponson, which was broken completely in half. The team left Monday morning for its shop in Alabama and will know more about the damage when they cut it open. However, the repair is expected to be a lengthy one.

Most wrecks on Madison’s “Wild Bill” Cantrell Memorial Race Course occur in the first turn, where the remains of an old cofferdam and a natural sand bar have made the water into a rough patch. Since 1999, there have been four wrecks in that turn, the most serious of which was the collision between the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison and the Spirit of Qatar in 2011.

There were no incidents in that turn this year after race officials lengthened the course to 2.89 miles, but there were two spinouts in the bridge turn, the first such incidents in that corner since 2002. One of the accidents involved Phipps, when he lost steering on his boat entering the turn during testing on Friday. The boat sustained no serious damage in that incident.

End-over-end blowovers are rare at Madison with only three taking place since 1987. Steve Reynolds was severely injured in 1987 when his Cellular One flipped in nearly the same spot that Phipps went over. Steve David, driving the T-Plus in 1995, and Mike Weber, driving the York Heating & Cooling in 2004, both flipped on the frontstretch.

In between the two wrecks, Phipps’ U-27 team had a strong weekend, winning two preliminary heats and running second in the final at the time of the crash. Now, they need to pick up the pieces.

A fundraising campaign through gogetfunding.com has been set up by the Madison Regatta to help the team with repairs, which could cost up to $300,000.

“We got a couple of heat wins and it looked like we were going to have a real good finish there,” Phipps said. “But things happen in a final. Unfortunately, I was in a position where I could have taken a solid second, but I didn’t see it. I wanted to win the race. Last lap and a lot of things happen ... I thought maybe if (Shane) had one little hiccup, but it was me who had a hiccup. These things happen.”