Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison driver Jimmy Shane. (H1 Unlimited photo)
Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison driver Jimmy Shane. (H1 Unlimited photo)
Whether sitting in the cockpit or behind a computer screen, Jimmy Shane just finds a way to win.

Shane’s first foray into the world of virtual hydroplane racing looked a lot like his real job when he steered the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison to the first-ever H1 Unlimited Driver’s Invitational race on the virtual waters of Lake Guntersville, Alabama on Saturday.

Driving from his living room in Maple Valley, Washington, Shane won his first preliminary in Heat 1B then overcame a jumping the gun penalty in Heat 2A and a third-place finish in 3B to make the final heat.

A little bit of luck, coupled with being in the right place at the right time, handed Shane the win. Sitting behind in third place, Shane was just a spectator when Jamie Nilsen’s U-11 J&D’s collided with Taylor Evans’ U-99.9 Bucket List Racing Miss Rock, sending Evans into the air. Nilsen, who finished the race first on the water, was penalized one minute for lane encroachment and Shane was awarded the win.

“I’m not sure what happened in front of me. I had a great start and was just trying to run a clean race because I figured with six boats on the water there was probably going to be a penalty,” said Shane, who said that he didn’t realize that he had won until after the race was over. “Taylor was running some quick laps and then I saw him go across my windshield and I was like, ‘OK, let’s just keep going.’”

The race was H1’s third virtual race of the month using the HydroSim software package but the first with actual H1 drivers. Miss Madison drivers Shane and Jeff Bernard have both served as spotters in previous races and it was Bernard who was on the radio when Kelsey Best drove the HomeStreet to victory “at” Madison two weeks ago.

Shane was one of five H1 drivers to compete in the event and like the others, spent the week practicing to get used to the controls.

“I’ve had a lot of help these past few days from my good buddy Kelsey Best getting ready for this event,” Shane said. “I’ve been slowly getting the hang of this. This is much harder than driving the real boat. These boats are really hard and the controls are really finicky. I’ve been driving the real boats for 25 years and 13 years in the actual Unlimited boats and I have a pretty good feel for driving one of the real boats but this is all new to me It’s a pretty good challenge.”

The H1 drivers fared pretty well against their more seasoned foes. Aaron Salmon finished third in the U-440 Bucket List Racing while Bert Henderson was fourth in the U-7 Spirit of Detroit and Nilsen placed fifth. Evans, who recovered from his flip to place second, was the only non-H1 driver to finish in the top five.

Like Shane, Henderson was new to the sport but was able to claim a preliminary heat win. He echoed Shane’s comments on the difficulty of the sport.

“We’re used to one thing and then you get into one of these things and it’s completely different,” Henderson said. “These guys that race these things all the time are pretty talented. I was pretty proud of myself for a 152, 153 (mph in qualifying) and then you see these guys do 160. My hat’s off to them.

“My hands were sweating. It was almost like actually being in the heat; you’re just putting yourself right there. It’s such a cool thing,” Henderson added. “Hat’s off to Scott (Pryzbylski) for putting out such a great game. With the realism with the waves and everything, it’s pretty cool and awesome.”

Although the race was virtual, the Lake Guntersville HydroFest plans on awarding Shane the actual Southern Cup trophy for the win at a later date. Shane won the real race in Guntersville last year.

Along with Shane, Henderson, Salmon and Nilsen, Corey Peabody was the other H1 driver in the race, steering his U-98 Graham Trucking American Dream. Madison native and Miss Madison crewmember Trey Holt drove the U-91 Goodman Real Estate/Miss Madison in place of Bernard, who was unable to attend, while Travis Johnson, another Madison native, drove the U-12 Graham Trucking for J. Michael Kelly, who was also unavailable. Race designer Pryzbylski steered the U-9 Delta/RealTrac to round out the nine-boat field.

Like the two previous broadcasts, veteran announcer Brad Luce was on the call and was joined by two-time national HydroSim champion Eddie Kanfoush as analyst.

H1 has not yet announced the date of its next E-League race, but the organization plans on running races at all five normal sites. The actual H1 season has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.