SNHL Homestreet Bank Cup Race Recap
We returned to the historic waters of Lake Washington as a staggering field of 22 hydros filled the Stan Sayres pits, tied for the largest boat count in SNHL history and the 2nd time this year the league has had a massive 22 boat field. 2 rookies would make their inaugural SNHL debut with Travis Johnson in the 2013 U-22 Webster Racing and Brian Johnson in the 1982 U-00 Atlas Van Lines. With nearly two dozen drivers striving for the Homestreet Bank Cup, the competition on the water would be fierce and unrelenting as no victory would come easy at this years Seafair. Last years winner Matt Johnson would seek to be the first driver in SNHL to successfully defend a championship race that he won the year prior. Entering Seattle, Nicholas Miller in the U-75 Digital Confectioners presents Depth held a slight lead over Johnson in the U-10 Matt Johnson Design as they would be a focal point for the majority of Seafair Weekend.
The pursuit of the Homestreet Bank Cup would begin with 3rd place in points Tim Johnson in the U-50 Miss Tri-Cities getting the win in 1A. 1B Saw the top 2 in points face off with Nicholas Miller edging out Matt Johnson in 1B, Kyle Lewis got a heat win in his first competitive heat in the U-96 Miss Elam Plus in 1C, and defending league champ Eddie Kanfoush got the win over Peyton Hopp in 1D. 2A would see the crowd favorite Kelsey Best in the U-12 Miss Seahawks grab the win, Tim Johnson would out-duel his brother Matt in 2B for 400 valuable points, Peyton Hopp in the U-5 Graham Trucking secured the heat victory in 2C, and DJ Miller would extend his points lead with a 2nd consecutive heat win in 2D.
The 3rd and final flight of heats would prove to be detrimental to some drivers and crucial to others as it would be the final chance for all 22 drivers to secure a spot on the front line in the Seafair Final. 3A would be one of the most destructive heats in SNHL to date as a delayed reaction by Peyton Hopp would lead to a chaotic mistake that would dramatically alter the heat before it even began. Coming to the entrance of turn 2, Hopp lost his lane after Cei Bowen in the U-43 Notre Dame moved into 1 as he had overlap on him. Hopp got off the throttle after getting up to speed trying to block off the overlap, but it would be too late as he slammed into the Notre Dame which sent Bowen into Miller and Tim Johnson that eventually created a massive pileup in turn 2. Miraculously, all drivers were able to continue and finish the race with Chris Porten in the U-65 Oberto Specialty Meats while Hopp would be penalized and receive 6th place points, costing him a bid into the final. "Thought I could make up enough ground to defend lane 1, but ultimately I should have moved to the outside" Hopp exclaimed. "Looking back, it was a bone-headed move and it cost me a chance to get into the final. All I can do is accept my mistake and continue to improve myself as a driver."
Kanfoush would grab the heat 3B victory over Mickey Washburn, Matt Johnson finally picked up a prelim heat win in 3C, and Kelsey Best would power the 12th boat to victory in 3D. Cei Bowen would walk away with the consolation heat win in the U-43 Notre Dame, securing his spot as the trailer boat in the Homestreet Bank Cup Final Heat.
All of the intense racing over the Seafair weekend would culminate to the Homestreet Bank Cup Final Heat. DJ Miller in the U-75 Depth entered the final with the most points on the weekend, followed by Eddie Kanfoush in the U-1 Llumar Window Film, Matt Johnson in the U-10 Matt Johnson Design, Kelsey Best in the U-12 Miss Seahawks, Tim Johnson in the U-50 Miss Tri-Cities, Mickey Washburn in the U-9 Kramerica presents Miss Vandelay, and Cei Bowen in the U-43 Notre Dame as the trailer. Kelsey Best would overtake everyone in the back stretch and grab lane 1, but he jumped the 1 minute pin as he would be penalized 1 lap. The final turn before the start would be dramatic as Miller was forced to go to the outside since Best was in 1 and M. Johnson was in 2. The first turn was full of intensity as Miller lead the way on the outside while Tim Johnson sneaked inside of Matt Johnson, making Matt go out into Washburn and almost flipping over. Matt would eventually get into Tim's roostertail out of turn 2 and roll over, ending his final.
Two intense deck to deck battles happened for the majority of the race as Tim Johnson was closing in on Mickey Washburn for 1st, while Nicholas Miller battled Eddie Kanfoush for 3rd. Johnson closed the gap quickly in the final lap, but Washburn was determined to earn his first win as his precise handling of the corners as well as holding Tim tight in lane 1 gave him an advantage. Out of the final turn coming down the final stretch, Washburn would edge out a flying Tim Johnson in the closest finish to a final in SNHL History. 3rd would go to Nicholas Miller, followed by Eddie Kanfoush, Cei Bowen, Kelsey Best, and an unfortunate DNF for Matt Johnson.
Mickey Washburn drove the race of his career in front of an ecstatic Seattle, Washington crowd in the U-9 Kramerica presents Miss Vandelay. Washburn had momentum from the very beginning of the weekend, placing 2nd in qualifying and ultimately walking away with his first career SNHL final victory. Pre-race strategy played a huge role in Washburn's path to victory. "My pre-race plan was to leap frog the trollers, but I had an issue and had to hang back. Because of that issue, I had to try and nail the start from the outside. As I exited the first turn, I had the lead, and all I could think of was I had 2 fast boats to the right and 2 fast boats to the left. While I was coming up the backstretch, I realized how tight turn 2 would be. I did not want to mess anything up for the other boats in turn 2, so I tried to be fast and leave room for everybody in that turn. Then, as I headed down the front stretch, I was waiting for my spotter to say “clear“ so I could move over. Jeff did an awesome job as my radio guy in the heat. After that, my plan was be fast in the straightaways and tight in the turns. My last time through turn 1, Tim hooked and I thought I had him beat. He flew down the backstretch and he was right on my hip again. We dragged raced to the finish line. I finally have a SNHL final heat victory, and it was one of the Washington races- which makes it even better.”
Tim Johnson gave it his all in the U-50 Miss Tri-Cities, but fell just a sponson length short of his first career SNHL final win. Johnson's effort proves that he has the capability to win and looks to make an impact down the stretch. "It was tough coming out of that one knowing we were so close to winning but I gotta give a lot of credit to Mickey, he drove a great race. Looking towards Detroit, it's gonna be a tough one. The water is always rough and doesn't give much margin for error so keeping the boat under control will be important. DJ has a sizable lead at the top so it will be tough to catch him but I'm gonna do my best to take advantage of the opportunities I get. I'd like to give a shoutout to Matt Johnson Designs for adding some flair to the traditional Miss Tri-Cities paint scheme for the remainder of the season."
While Nicholas Miller failed to grab his 3rd final heat win of the year, he secured a spot on the podium and further stretched out his points lead as he yet again got the most weekend points for the 3rd time this season. If Miller continues to be consistent like he has all season long, he can find himself locked in as the season 2 champion in the near future. “I am really happy with how Seattle went. Earning the most points was my goal and I am very happy with a podium finish. It was a much-needed confidence boost after Tri-Cities. Detroit is a race I am really looking forward to. I just need to focus on finishing well, winning heats when I can. This should keep the pressure more on the guys behind me in points and less on myself. If I can come away with the most points again after Detroit, I'll be in good shape for the San Diego finale.”
It was an unfortunately abrupt ending for Matt Johnson in the Homestreet Bank final heat as he lost control of the U-10 Matt Johnson Designs hydroplane and barrel-rolled into the infield. Needing to gain as much ground as possible on a surging Nicholas Miller, Johnson will have to be near perfect moving forward if he looks to gain the lost ground.
“Overall Seattle was a bit of a disappointment, I made a few mistakes that cost me some valuable points but I was able to get some good results in my preliminary heats so there was still some positive that came out of the weekend. Practice is going to be key leading up to Detroit as the course is a beast that I haven't tamed yet. It's a rough course with a weird layout and last year it didn't go so well. The biggest thing I need to do is avoid mistakes and be patient. The harder I push, the harder it pushes back and just surviving the race is half the battle. I'm excited to get back out there but I know I have a lot of work to do before then.”
With this years incredible Seafair event in the books, the season will get even more competitive down the stretch with a tough Detroit river scheduled up next for the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Hydrofest. Miller has extended his lead in national high points to 421 over Matt Johnson, with Tim Johnson close behind in 3rd place in points and the defending champion Eddie Kanfoush in 4th on the outside looking in. 2 races left to go in the season and with a treacherous 2.71 mile Detroit course ahead, you can bet that it will be one of the most critically acclaimed race weekends of the 2019/2020 SNHL Season. Who will come out on top in Mo-town? We'll find out on January 18th.