Ed Preston celebrates on the dock (above) after winning Sunday’s Grand Prix World Supercharged final heat at Madison. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Ed Preston celebrates on the dock (above) after winning Sunday’s Grand Prix World Supercharged final heat at Madison. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)

Defending national champion Ed Preston spent the majority of the weekend watching from the Madison Regatta pits after his GP-20 Truss Co. went dead in the water during Grand Prix World Supercharged Heat 1A on Saturday afternoon.

But in the end the team’s long, hard work was able to resurrect the boat just in the nick of time.

After more than 24 hours of repairs to the GP-20, Preston pulled off a stunning finish, grabbing the lead from race front-runner Greg Hopp midway through Sunday’s final heat and pulling away to win his second-straight Grand Prix World North American Championship at Madison.

After two weeks worth of struggles, everything finally came together for the Blown Income Racing team, allowing one of the sport’s best drivers to get back to running out front.

“This is fantastic,” an elated Preston said. “With the crew that I have — we are a bunch of old guys — so for all of us to work on the boat the way we did was just amazing and we were confident in the repairs. We finally got into the lane I wanted in and that’s when we started to see the results.”

The race appeared to be a runaway early on with Hopp, the national points leader in the GP-15 Miss SuperShine Happy Go Lucky, distancing himself from the field after an early challenger, the Meadows Cul-de-Sac Presents GP-55 driven by Jamie Nilsen, went dead in the water on the first lap. Then, with no apparent reason at the time, Hopp’s boat slowed and Preston, sitting in third place, started gaining ground.

After sailing past Kevin Eacret, whose GP-18 Dan Cole Sells Cars was in second place, Preston’s quest for the lead reached its climax on lap three. The GP-20 sailed past Hopp in turn two and Preston was never challenged the rest of the race while picking up his first win of the season.

“Last week I made the mistake of taking a lane I didn’t want and I didn’t make that mistake today,” Preston said. “I wanted lane three to start but ended up in four but we really thought if we could overlap Kevin (Eacret) and get into lane three then we would be good to go. When you’re on the outside it takes two or three laps to get to whoever is leading the race. If you can get through the corners clean and then put your foot down on the pedal then you’ve got a shot.”

In order to put his foot down, Preston’s GP-20 needed an engine that would run hard enough to generate such speed, not to mention allow the boat to even be on the water. After going down in Heat 1A, Preston’s crew spent the rest of Saturday and up until the final heat on Sunday putting a new engine in the GP-20 among other minor repairs. Although the team missed three heats in-between, the work certainly paid off.

“It felt like we worked all day and night,” Preston said of the repairs. “We knew we had a good engine to put in the boat but it was going to take a lot of work and a lot of prep on the engine to get the boat ready. We even had some hull damage that we had to work on as well so I mean we just worked our tails off. We got the engine in and it all worked out in the end.”

Hopp managed to hang on for a second place finish over Eacret despite a radical change in boat speed. After the race, the GP-15 driver revealed his own boat was dealing with mechanical issues and that his hopes for finishing the race at top speed were too good to be true.

“It was unfortunate,” Hopp said. “Right before the final we found some metal flakes up in our gear and we were having bearing issues as well. We changed the oil out and we gave it a shot. We thought we could race five miles and ended up only being three. The boat started shaking and vibrating and the oil pressure was going down. At that point I just wanted to finish the race so I was glad to see us go across the finish line. All the parts are still inside motor. They’re probably not good but the good thing is they are still in the motor.”

A winner of two heats in Madison along with claiming a GPW championship in Guntersville last weekend, Hopp maintains his spot atop in the national high points standings and is looking to keep it that way in order to upend Preston at season’s end.

“It just killed me today, especially when my dad (Jerry Hopp) was on the radio saying that Ed was coming up on me and I knew there was nothing I could do about it,” Hopp said. “The good thing is we have the high points lead on those guys. If I hadn’t have finished that final heat I wouldn’t have got any points. I got second and picked up 95 points. We are still up about two full heats in the standings and the ultimate goal is a national championship.”

Eacret finished third in the final, allowing Hopp Racing’s two drivers to place on the podium for a second-straight weekend. Nilsen along with Bobby Stevenson in the GP-59 Baby Doll III did not finish and was towed back to the pits after the race.

The GPW series continues later this month when it travels alongside the H1 Unlimited circuit to the Tri-Cities, Washington, to race on the Columbia River July 26-28.


Grand Prix World Supercharged

NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP

Ohio River

Madison, Indiana

Length: 1.5 miles

RESULTS

(no speeds available)

Sunday, July 7

FINAL HEAT


1. Ed Preston, GP-1 Mane Attractions; 2. Greg Hopp, GP-15 SuperShine; 3. Kevin Eacret, GP-18 Dan Cole Sells Cars; Jamie Nilsen, GP-55 Meadows Cul-De-Sac, DNF.

PRELIMINARY HEATS

Saturday, July 6

HEAT A


1. Jamie Nilsen, GP-55 Meadows Cul-De-Sac; 2. Kevin Eacret, GP-18 Dan Cole Sells Cars; 3. Bobby Stevenson, GP-59 Baby Doll III; Ed Preston, GP-1 Mane Attractions, DNF.

HEAT B

1. Greg Hopp, GP-15 SuperShine; 2. John Grigg Jr., GP-52 Kyle Bipes Laymon Insurance; 3. Bobby Stevenson, GP-59 Baby Doll III.

Sunday, July 7

HEAT C

1. Greg Hopp, GP-15 SuperShine; 2. Jaime Nilsen, GP-55 Meadows Cul-De-Sac; 3. Kevin Eacret.