(Courier file photo by David Campbell)
(Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Kim Gregory, owner of the U-10 USA Racing Partners unlimited hydroplane team, died Tuesday evening of renal failure after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early August. He was 58 years old.

Gregory was admitted to the Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles Aug. 21.

"My God, I am stunned. Kim was one of the finest gentleman I have ever met," said Steve David, driver of the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison, on an Internet message board Wednesday. "Debbie and Kim were so unique, on so many levels. I swear Debbie cheered as hard for every team as she did her own, they are racers' racers. Our sport has a huge hole today, one that will likely never be filled. Our prayers for Debbie and her kids and their team. Kim was so much more than a boat owner. He was a giant in person, in business and in integrity. A loving father and husband, and a stabilizing force within ABRA."

Kim Gregory, a longtime boat owner in the limited inboard ranks, joined the Unlimiteds in 1998 when he purchased the Competition Specialties Racing Team following the death of owner Steve Woomer.

Gregory opted to retain the "U-10" number to honor Woomer. In just its third race, Gregory's team won when Mark Weber drove the boat to victory in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Over the next 10 years, Gregory was a major player in the sport. While he won only one other race - the 2004 APBA Gold Cup with Nate Brown driving - the U-10 was often near the front of the pack.

Gregory said he got into racing so that his family would have something they could do together and the U-10 team literally became a family affair. Sons Matt and Adam serve as co-crew chiefs for the team and daughter Kari is the public affairs officer and the operations manager. Wife Debbie is officially listed as co-owner with her husband, but it was not merely a title.

"She is the boss," said team engineer and former crew chief Kenny Strickler during an interview with The Tri-City Herald in 2007. "Don't let anyone tell you any different because she is running this show."

That devotion to family led Gregory to leave the sport for the 2005 season. Kari, a collegiate-level athlete, was in her senior season at the University of Hawaii and Gregory took the year off to watch Kari and the Rainbow Wahine play volleyball.

"My only daughter plays volleyball for the University of Hawaii and it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to watch her play," Gregory told The Madison Courier at the time. "That's the reason why we didn't race and, honestly, we think it was a good one. A lot of people thought it was about the politics of the sport or whatever, but it wasn't about boat-racing at all."

When Gregory returned to the sport, he did so in style, purchasing the former Miss Budweiser T-3 hull from Joe Little.

This season, with David Bryant at the wheel, the U-10 has been a threat in every race and currently ranks fourth in the points standings. The team's chances for a National Championship were dashed at Madison when Gregory opted to pull out of the race rather than risk further damage to his equipment on the debris-strewn Ohio River.

"We've already lost a rudder," Gregory said at the time. "We're going to Detroit."

Kim and Debbie Gregory celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary last month. He is survived by his wife, his sons Matt (age 29) and Adam (26) and Kari (23). Kim, a mechanical contractor who helped establish Las Vegas as the city it is today, was CEO and President of Hansen Mechanical.

A celebration of Kim Gregory's life will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11 at the Red Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.