SNHL San Diego Bayfair Race Recap
The conclusion of the inaugural SNHL Season would take place in paradise at sunny San Diego, CA where 17 drivers took to Mission Bay for the final race weekend of the season. Entering the weekend, the championship was all but sealed for Eddie Kanfoush in the Llumar Window Films who's dominance and consistency each and every weekend would pay off here at San Diego Bayfair. An intense battle for 2nd in national high points was set in stone between Nicholas Miller in the Les Schwab Tires and Cei Bowen in the Tide with 12 points separating the two entering the weekend. Nicholas Miller took the qualifying honors with his 5th pole position of the year in what has been a tremendous year for Les Schwab Tires in that regards. Electricity was in the air with every driver looking to close out the season with a victory on beautiful Mission Bay.
Tim Johnson would win the first heat of the day in the Pico American Dream, Nicholas Miller started off strong with a big heat 1B win over Eddie Kanfoush, and Kelsey Best flew the Spirit of Qatar to a heat 1C Victory. The Llumar Window Films would find its way back into the winner circle in 2A while his teammate, Cei Bowen, in the Tide would rebound from a penalty in 1B with a heat 2B win, and Matt Johnson would be victorious in 2C that saw only 2 boats finish. The Tide would get a crucial heat 3A win over the Beacon Plumbing driven by Adam Putich, the Albert Lee Appliance charged hard for a heat 3B win over the Les Schwab Tires, and Kanfoush would rack up another heat win on the season in 3C.
The final consolation heat of the inaugural SNHL season would consist of Cale Bruce in the U-10 Smokin' Joe's, Jeff Dewalt in the U-12 Graham Trucking, David Johnson in the U-20 Appian Jeronimo, KC Duncan in the U-60 Miss Thriftway, Kelsey Best in the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, and Tim Johnson in the U-100 Pico American Dream. Best would snag the inside lane and never looked back as his race was perfectly ran from the get-go. The Graham Trucking was the boat that came closest to challenging the Spirit of Qatar as Dewalt had a solid start from the outside, but would end up crashing out before he could finish. The Spirit of Qatar would be the final trailer boat of the year, with Tim Johnson ending up in 2nd place, Cale Bruce would place 3rd, David Johnson finished 4th, and both Jeff Dewalt and KC Duncan would not finish,
The San Diego Bayfair final heat would be one of the more peculiar final heats of the season with a lot of action happening in the final minutes before the start that dramatically changed the outcome of the final heat. The field of boats included the U-8 Llumar Window Films, U-8 The Tide, U-9 Les Schwab Tires, U-21 Albert Lee Appliance, U-37 Beacon Plumbing with Adam Putich making his first final appearance, U-1918 Oberto, and the U-96 Spirit of Qatar as the trailer. With under a minute to go before the start of the final heat and tensions running high, many drivers were eager to go for lane 1 in hopes to end the season on a positive note. One of those drivers who has had a roller coaster of a season was Mickey Washburn, who would pursue Eddie Kanfoush in cutting the course, but in doing so, would cut right in front of Cei Bowen in the Tide on the back stretch. Bowen would maintain control until Washburn over compensated on his correction, and ran into the back of the Llumar which rebounded his boat back into the way of the Tide as both boats would collide and crash out of the final heat.
Shortly after this incident, Putich thought he saw an opportunity to steal lane 1, but misjudged the amount of room he had as he struck a buoy and pitched out to Matt Johnson's lane, causing the Albert Lee to rollover. With all of the ensuing mayhem, 3 boats would make a legal start; DJ Miller in the Les Schwab, Eddie Kanfoush in the Llumar, and the trailer Kelsey Best in the Spirit of Qatar. Miller got a near perfect start on the outside with a bunch of boat speed over Kanfoush entering the 1st turn. 2 of the #1 qualifiers on the season would go into a 1 on 1 battle for the final race of the 2018 SNHL season. Miller would maintain a strong 1 roostertail lead from the outside as the Les Schwab Tires team have been awaiting this performance in a final all season long. Kanfoush would try every angle of attack on the course, but it was no match for Nicholas Miller in the Les Schwab Tires as he would claim the victory in the final race of the year at San Diego Bayfair. 2nd would go to Eddie Kanfoush in the Llumar Window Films, and 3rd place would be Kelsey Best in the Spirit of Qatar.
With a long awaited final heat win, Nicholas Miller would also secure 2nd place in national high points, just 74 points over Cei Bowen. Miller had proven time and again this season that he was the fastest driver on water with 5 top qualifier awards, but he finally achieved the greatest thrill of racing with a highly anticipated final heat win after coming through in the clutch. We caught up with Nicholas Miller and the Les Schwab Tires team after they had scored their first win in the SNHL at San Diego.
"Scoring the victory at San Diego was a dream come true! It felt liberating finally overcoming the mistakes I had made throughout the season and even the race itself. Going into the last race of the season, I was determined not to end the season winless, especially after coming co close at Detroit. In the final heat, I was committed to being patient and timing my own start and ignoring what other drivers were doing. This ended up putting me in the best position to capitalize on the incidents during the mill. Boat racing is a tricky balance between patience and aggressiveness, and patience definitely paid off this time. I'm glad I was able to end the season on the highest note I could. Hopefully I can carry this momentum into next season and compete for the championship title."
Eddie Kanfoush finished off the season like every other weekend that has led him to a national championship; consistently. While Kanfoush would come in 2nd in a destructive final heat, he had nothing to hang his hat on after securing a national title as well as being the overall weekend points winner for the 5th time this season. Kanfoush's season was beyond anyone's expectations as his clean, yet aggressive driving style paid off as the Llumar Window Films was the only boat to make every final this season. Even Eddie found himself surprised at the amount of success the Llumar team has had in the inaugural year as they walk away with the 1st ever SNHL National Championship.
"It’s absolutely incredible. Words can’t entirely describe it. The team worked so hard this season to make sure the boat was set up perfectly and I had to drive really hard and apply pressure in just about every race this year. Our goal at the start of the year was to do the best we can and I think we succeeded. Props to everyone else who raced this season as well. They definitely didn’t make it easy!"
Best would manage to survive the melee during the milling period as the trailer position provided a great benefit to the Spirit of Qatar. Knowing that a victory was virtually impossible, Best ran a clean, conservative final heat that secured him a spot on the podium for the final race of the year. While the Spirit of Qatar team was satisfied to end off the season on a solid 3rd place finish, Ellstrom Racing always has a championship state of mind as they didn't quite meet their goal for San Diego.
"We are always happy to get on the podium, especially from the trailer boat position. This being said, our goal this weekend was getting a race win and things didn't quite go our way. We were in position to win all three preliminary heats but getting taken out by a driver who'd already been DQ'd and tapping a buoy meant we had to fight once more to make it to the final. We have lots to work on this off-season and are really looking forward to next season...there were quite a few competitors out there just getting their feet wet this season and we expect the competition to increase as people get comfortable fighting for lanes and driving on the inside. Looking forward to the future of the series."
It was a bittersweet season-ender for Cei Bowen in the Tide as he never got the chance to really compete in the final heat after being taken out during the mill. Still, Bowen would end the season in the top 3 in points along with being the first ever SNHL Gold Cup winner in what was a hydroplane race for the ages. One of the fastest drivers in the fleet, Bowen has proven that he can be a threat at any given race site and that he can only improve from here on out after the inaugural SNHL Season.
"I wasn't too mad about the San Diego final. Mickey knew his situation and knew he had to get lanes 1 or 2 to win the race, just came in a little too hot. But I wanted to come into San Diego not worrying about points and just having fun during this race. Although the rough ending I will look to rebound in Season 2 by just practicing more. I think I showed my worth at the tracks even though making some mistakes. I think I showed I can run with this fast guys and be competitive. I'm just gonna do some more practice on starts and not worry too much on flying the boat since I think we will get new physics by the time season 2 rolls around. Biggest thing ending season 1 and going into season 2 is work on practicing more and not worry too much in the exhibitions since it's basically a big testing session."
Matt Johnson would fall victim to another drivers mistake in the final as a solid season would be shadowed by a DNS in the final heat of the season. The Go Fast Turn Left team had quite a spectacular year that saw them start the year outside the top 10 and finish in 4th place in points. Johnson quickly improved each and every race learning how to push the Albert Lee hull to its limits. With a massive win at Seafair from the trailer position, Matt Johnson has showcased that he can come through in the clutch to win races, even from the back. While the San Diego final will leave a sour taste in the mouth entering the off season, Matt Johnson will be a contender entering the 2nd SNHL season after his consistency on the year gave him a top 5 finish in the points standings.
"I was definitely disappointed with what happened in the final. I felt like I was in a really good spot to finish on the podium and end the season on a really high note. Even though the final was disappointing, the race as a whole went really well. I made a dumb mistake in my first heat that cost me a possible 1st or 2nd place finish but it was the first time all season that I won 2 preliminary heats so I was really happy about that. I think the biggest take away from San Diego, and the season as a whole, is that if I stick to my strategy and run my race I can be a threat to just about everyone on the course. It was a great season, I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I can't wait for next year."
The Oberto team had its fair share of struggles this year which came as a shock to many considering Mickey Washburn was the last Hydromod champion. But with an entirely different game engine and much more complex physics, the inaugural SNHL season was a learning curve for many like Washburn. The Oberto performed exceptionally well at Bayfair, consistently finishing with 2 2nd's and a 3rd in the prelims to lock himself into the final heat. With the last final heat win of the year up for grabs, Washburn took the aggressive approach to secure the inside lane but it backfired. While the final race of the year ended in disappointment, Washburn still ended up 6th in points and has a lot to look forward to in season 2.
"Yeah It was great to be in the last 2 final heats of the year. But it’s going to be a long summer having to live with wrecking before the start and taking out another driver. I don’t know if I’ll be asked to drive the 1918 again or not. But whatever I’m driving I can’t wait for season 2."
With the final race of the inaugural SNHL season in the books, overall I have to say the 1st season of the Saturday Night Hydro League was a success considering the ongoing changes to the game. I've seen improvements made from every driver this season as well as major strides being made with the game overall. Regardless of what happens in future seasons/leagues, I am thankful for having the opportunity to play a hydroplane video game that I only imagined in my dreams when I was young. Huge shoutout to Scott Przybylski for making the most enjoyable video game I have ever played, and a shoutout to all of the drivers who participated in the inaugural SNHL season. I'm glad I have gotten to know all of you guys well and that our community is strong because of our passion for hydroplane racing. Great things are to come for the future of this game and the Hydrosim community!
Congratulations Eddie Kanfoush on winning the 2018 SNHL National Championship!