If everything goes according to plan - knock on wood - the Miss Madison Racing Team should be celebrating its first national championship about 3:40 p.m. EDT Sunday afternoon.

That's when the second heat of this weekend's San Diego Bayfair Powered by the Union-Tribune will be completed on Mission Bay.

The U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison needs just 677 points to finish on top of the season points standings for the first time in its 48-year history. That total can be reached as easily as placing second in qualifying and second in each of the first two heats.

"We'll stick with the same strategy we have had all season and hopefully wrap it up in the first couple of heats, and then after that, we'll try to win the race," said Oberto driver Steve David. "But winning that title is our goal."

The Oberto's quest for the national championship will be the top storyline when the 2008 American Boat Racing Association season ends at San Diego.

The Miss Madison Racing Team has fielded a boat every season since 1961, winning the APBA Gold Cup and 10 races along the way. David won driver's championships in 2005 and 2006 with the team and the U-6 has finished second in the boat standings eight times, but never has the team tasted the ultimate success.

Of course, the team has never had a run like it has had over the past four seasons. Over that span of 24 races, the team has claimed four wins and 19 podium finishes. Dating back to last season, David and the Oberto have finished first or second nine-consecutive times.

That level of consistency has allowed the team to vault to the top of the heap in Unlimited hydroplane racing. The U-6 won at Tri-Cities, Wash., in late July and finished second at the three other contested races.

Along with having the national title in its grasp, the Oh Boy! Oberto also enters the season finale as the defending champion at San Diego. Last year, David out-dueled Jeff Bernard and the U-5 Formulaboats.com in the fastest championship heat in the sport's history.

Repeating that win will be difficult, even with a field reduced to nine boats. Bernard, who won at Madison earlier this year, and Jean Theoret and the U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing are both viable contenders to not only win the race, but spoil the Oberto's season.

Theoret is 1,023 points behind in the points chase with Bernard 1,089 points back. The two drivers are the only ones mathematically still alive for the crown.

But claiming victory on the salt-water of Mission Bay is no easy task. Teams douse their boats in fresh water each time they return to shore, but the gremlins can strike at any time.

"(Crew chief) Mike's (Hanson) on heavy medication. He's a nervous Nellie," David said with a laugh earlier this week. "We know the boat still has to start and we still have to finish strong. We've got a job to do and everybody is nervous. Each time we get in and the boat starts, we'll be thankful."

The salt water is particularly terrible on turbine boats, leaving the door open for the piston-powered U-3 Cooper Racing. The Evansville-based U-3 and driver Jimmy King have had a rough season, but a win at San Diego would help ease the pain.

Other teams expected to compete this weekend are 2006 National Champion Mike Allen and the U-7 Formulaboats.com II, J. Michael Kelly and the U-13 Graham Trucking, Ken Muscatel and the U-25 Superior Racing, Brian Perkins and the U-50 Spirit of the Navy, and Greg Hopp and the U-100 Mirageboats.com.

Two boats that are not expected to attend are the U-1 Miss Elam Plus and the U-10 USA Racing Partners. The Elam, the defending national champion, is apparently going to skip the event in order to concentrate on its exhibition race in the Middle East this winter.

The U-10 team will stay at home after co-owner Kim Gregory died from complications associated with pancreatic cancer earlier this month following a brief illness.

While the U-10 team will skip the race, ABRA Race Chairman Sam Cole said the team expects to continue racing in the future.

"They were prepared to bring the boat to San Diego before Kim's death, but the funeral was just Thursday and I don't know how possible it is for them to go racing a week after they buried their father," Cole said. "But long-term, I just talked to (crew chief) Matt Gregory and he said they definitely want to remain in the sport and carry on their dad's tradition. We'll do whatever we can do to help them."

Qualifying begins at noon EDT today with Heat 1A scheduled for 7:10 p.m. EDT Saturday. The final heat is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. EDT Sunday.