For J. Michael Kelly, Sunday’s UAW-GM Spirit of Detroit Hydrofest APBA Gold Cup was his third successive day of battling from behind.
The Bonney Lake driver had been racing hard while watching the two-time Gold Cup champion, Covington’s Jimmy Shane, lead the fleet in qualifying on Friday, watching the young local rookie favorite Andrew Tate win three heats on Saturday (one unlimited and two Grand Prix).
Early on Sunday, he bounced through Tate’s rooster tail plume after hitting a boat’s wake, breaking off parts of his stabilizing wing in the third set of preliminary heats.
Then with an unruffled calm, Kelly and his U-5 Graham Trucking team put together a game plan that no one could beat. Kelly worked to take the inside lane during the milling on the flying start then never let Shane in the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank get close as he went on to win the winner-take-all championship final for his first Gold Cup in the 100th anniversary of boat racing on the Detroit River.
“I couldn’t be happier for my team by winning this race,” said an emotional Kelly. “My team told me don’t worry don’t worry about anything that happened this weekend and Tom Anderson (the Graham Trucking crew chief) told me he was going to give me a boat that could win the Gold Cup.”
What looked like it was going to be a three-boat battle on the 2.7-mile course turned out to be Kelly-Shane rematch when Tate received a one-lap penalty for dislodging a course buoy prior to the start in his U-9 Delta Realtrac.
With Kelly in lane one and Shane in lane two, Shane had a slight edge when he first crossed the starting line. Kelly’s Graham Trucking hydroplane quickly grabbed the lead going into the Belle Ilse first turn.
The only hiccup came on lap two when Kelly’s boat bounced through the roostertail turn with Shane on his heels. Shane also had to go wide, and Kelly seemed to gain momentum. The result was an even bigger lead; one Shane could not reel in.
Jeff Bernard in the U-7 Graham Trucking II made it an even bigger day for owner Ted Porter. He took third place giving Porter Racing two podium finishes. Brian Perkins in the U-21 Miss Al Deeby was close behind in fourth with Tom Thompson in the U-11 Peters & May taking fifth.
The H1 Unlimited Hydroplanes head to San Diego on Sept. 16-18 for the final race of the season.
List of Winners
1, U-5 J. Michael Kelly, Graham Trucking, 150.157 mph
2, U-1 Jimmy Shane, Miss HomeStreet Bank, 146.103
3, U-7 Jeff Bernard, Graham Trucking II, 141.320
4, U-21 Brian Perkins, Miss Al Deeby, 137.379
5, U-11 Tom Thompson, Peters & May, 131.041
6, U-9 Andrew Tate, Delta Realtrac, no speed given