SNHL Season 2 Mid-Season Report
We are officially halfway through Season 2 of the Saturday Night Hydro League and there has been no shortage of deck to deck, edge of your seat racing this year. The level of competition this season has grew substantially from season 1 as many of the drivers in the top 10 in points still have a realistic shot of capturing the SNHL high points championship at the end of the season. With the major change to the milling period from season 1, the pre-race has become all more important without a required speed limit and the factor of the 1 minute score up buoy makes the final minutes before the start of the race more critical than ever. With Seattle, Detroit, and San Diego still remaining on the schedule, we'll take a brief look at what the first half of SNHL Season 2 has brought us.
The race for the Southern Cup began the 2019/2020 SNHL Season with 20 total participants seeing action on the waters of Lake Guntersville. Being the first race of the 2nd SNHL Season, Guntersville saw the leagues first crop of rookies see some action on the water with Tab Hebert (fill in for Cei Bowen in the U-43 Notre Dame), Luke Nelson (2012 U-37 Beacon Plumbing), Gavin McClure (GP-25 H8 Cancer Racing), Aidan Shan (U-15 Aussie Endeavor) and Tyler Kaddatz (U-7 Spirit of Detroit) all getting their feet wet in their first race. The racing was intense for most of the day on the rough Guntersville race course as one of the biggest storylines throughout the prelims would be the beginning of the season 2 rivalry of Nicholas Miller and Matt Johnson with both drivers being drawn into 3 consecutive heats together. Miller would best Johnson 2 out of the 3 heats and go on to win the Southern Cup final over Johnson, and an incredible podium finish for Saxon Hopp in the U-100 Znetix who stunned everybody with his Guntersville performance.
The Gold Cup would be moved to Madison, Indiana in 2019 as a staggering field of 22 boats would show up for the 2nd annual SNHL Gold Cup, the largest field of boats at 1 race in SNHL history. This would also mark the first time the flight of heats would go to an E section since a maximum # of 5 boats were allowed in a single heat. 2 newcomers to the SNHL would make their debuts on the Ohio River with Anthony Luce in the U-20 Appian Jeronimo and a former Hydromod UHL champion Craig Montgomery dusting off the cobwebs in his legendary U-44 Team Hormel presents Spam. The racing was action-packed throughout the weekend with no shortage of intense deck to deck racing. Matt Johnson and Eddie Kanfoush would have stellar days in the preliminary heats, but they would succumb to the perfection of Nicholas Miller in the Digital Confectioners presents Depth as Miller would out duel Johnson in the Matt Johnson Design in a thrilling Gold Cup Final. Nicholas "DJ" Miller would go on to write history in Madison as not only the first SNHL Gold Cup winner in Madison, Indiana, but establish himself as the first driver in SNHL History to have a perfect weekend with 2100 points earned from a historic Gold Cup weekend.
The Columbia Cup saw 18 drivers take action on the mighty Columbia river as 2 more rookies made their first appearances on the season with John Ashby in the U-88 Nationwide Insurance, and Adam Frankham in the U-11 Peters & May. Miller held a substantial lead in the points at the beginning of Columbia Cup weekend as he would capture his 3rd top qualifier award of the season while breaking the SNHL 2.5 Mile World Record at a blazing speed of 164.324. Matt Johnson would gain ground on the points lead through the prelims as he piloted the U-10 Matt Johnson Design to 4 consecutive heat victories to Miller's 1 heat victory. The Columbia Cup final would shake up the course of the season after a series of events occurred during the final minute before the heat started. Tim Johnson in the U-50 Miss Tri-Cities would jump the score up pin and later make contact with Saxon Hopp in the Znetix after Johnson was forced to lane 3 after Nicholas Miller tried to shoot the gap between Quinton Miller in the Sonics, and Tim Johnson. Nicholas Miller's move unfortunately cost him the Columbia Cup win as his brother Quinton Miller would snag his first SNHL final victory.
Nicholas Miller would be disqualified while Matt Johnson finished 2nd, closing the gap in the points lead to just 56 points behind Miller's 4,950. Tim Johnson in the U-50 Miss Tri Cities is 3rd in points with 4,456 points accumulated, only 494 behind. 4th in points is the underdog so far in the season, Saxon Hopp in the U-100 Znetix as he's 931 points behind with 4,019 points totaled. Rounding out the top 5 in high points is the defending series champion Eddie Kanfoush, with 3,926 points and 1,024 behind the leader.
For Eddie Kanfoush, the season hasn't been too kind to him after a rough start coming from a stout championship winning season. Kanfoush has proven in the past that he can be untouchable when he's at his best as he looks to have a disciplined 2nd half of the season. " The season definitely hasn't been ideal but, nothing's impossible. I'm gonna need to limit my mistakes and hope for some lucky breaks, but if everything goes to plan I can hopefully challenge for the title by the end of the year!"
Sitting 4th in points, Saxon Hopp has come out of the gates swinging this year as his incredible consistency in the prelims have paid off with a miraculous top 5 in points. In a position to contend for a title, Hopp is ready to take advantage of the field on the 2 Mile Ted Jones race course beginning with the starts. "I think the biggest thing is starts, if I can nail those right on the money then I have the advantage. Seattle is up next I believe that is my race course. My dad has had tons of success out there it's all about timing out there. We are constantly finding more speed in the boat. So happy with the team and boat so far in heat races its all about getting points so far I am consistent in finishing 2nd and 3rd in heats which is good. Just gonna keep on truckin' and stay to my strategy and hopefully try to get the championship."
Tim Johnson hasn't gone unnoticed this season as he has one of the quickest hulls in the fleet this year. Johnson has captured 2 heat victories in each of the first 3 races of the year, becoming one of the more elite drivers this season. For Johnson, he hopes to capitalize on others mistakes down the stretch. "I'm hoping to continue taking advantages of mistakes made by others and get as many points as possible. I've gotten pretty lucky so far this season and I'm hoping it continues through the remainder. Keeping the boat on the water and out of difficult situations is important. The boat is performing really well and we're excited for the next 3 races."
Matt Johnson had reeled in Nicholas Miller for the points lead after 3 races. Johnson and Miller seem to have a knack to be always battling each other when they are drawn into the same heat. In what has become the rivalry of SNHL Season 2, Johnson looks to maintain what he's been doing all season long in a fast U-10 Matt Johnson Designs. "I just need to stay consistent. As long as I keep putting myself in a position to win and avoid making mistakes I'll, at the very least, be putting a lot of pressure on DJ for that top spot. He's definitely not going to make it easy and I know there are a few really good drivers that are not that far behind me that will put up a fight too. These last 3 races are going to be a lot of fun."
Nicholas Miller has been the one to beat all season long so far as he made an early impact in the season. With 7 heat wins, 3 top qualifiers, and 2 final heat victories this season, Miller undoubtedly has been the MVP of season 2 so far. After seeing his lead in points decrease from Tri-Cities, Miller looks to rebound from a sub-par weekend by continuing his winning formula. "I intend to just keep doing what I've been doing, and keep trying to finish well. What happened in Tri-Cities was unfortunately beyond my control. Not to mention I've been dealing with medical issues this past month. I'm looking to rebound from all this. I really look forward to the 2nd half of this season as I know I can do really well, just gotta hope a little luck goes my way." Asked who would be the biggest threat in the 2nd half, Miller did not count out the rest of the field that trails behind the driver that's been battling with him all season long. "I'd say Matt Johnson, he's been really consistent all season and consistency is key to winning. But I feel everyone is really competitive - just about anyone can win when we're out there racing."
With plenty of racing still left to go in the season, we're bound to see some of the most exhilarating moments happen as the racing will tighten up down the stretch. The Homestreet Bank Cup in Seattle is considered a hometown race to many in the SNHL and is sure to provide some edge of your seat racing. Detroit will test every drivers patience and skill set on a rough Detroit river for the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Hydrofest. The pinnacle of the SNHL Season will conclude at the UIM World Championship in sunny San Diego, California where we will determine who the national high points will be here in season 2 of the Saturday Night Hydro League. Many thrills and spills to come in the 2nd half of the season as we head to the shores of Lake Washington in Seattle for the Homestreet Bank Cup.