It's been regarded as the most prestigious trophy in the sport of hydroplane racing, the hardware that every hydro racer dreams of achieving, the oldest active trophy in motorsports history; The Gold Cup. Since 1904, the Gold Cup has been the pinnacle of hydroplane racing bringing similarities to what the Indy 500 means to automobile racing. Only the best of the best have etched their name onto the historic Gold Cup trophy with names like Gar Wood, Bill Muncey, Chip Hanuer, and Dave Villwock seeing many victories at the prestigious event. This upcoming weekend, we'll see one driver immortalized as the inaugural SNHL Gold Cup champion over a stacked level of competition with a staggering 20+ boat field expected. With 4 flights of heats and what's at stake in each heat, the Detroit river is bound to provide the most thrilling racing on the planet while creating some havoc as it will be a dogfight between these drivers until the 2018 Gold Cup champion is crowned.
Entering the weekend, Eddie Kanfoush has a substantial lead in national high points piloting the U-8 Llumar Window Films with 1347 points over his teammate Cei Bowen. The only driver with multiple final victories this season, Kanfoush is one of the favorites entering the Gold Cup as he hopes to get back into the winners circle at his hometown race in Detroit. He has the chance to clinch the championship in Detroit if he can tame the treacherous Detroit river. With Team Wurster dominating the year in national high points, there's a good chance that both drivers can secure 1-2 in points for the season. For Eddie Kanfoush, winning the Gold Cup would be icing on the cake to an incredible season for Team Wurster.
"It would mean a lot to me. Detroit is the closest race to my home, so finally everyone’s on my home turf, and also the Gold Cup is the oldest active motor sports trophy, and to put my name on it would mean the world."
The Tide and Cei Bowen enter the weekend behind his teammate in the points, standings but has a great opportunity to dig into that lead with 4 critical flights of heats. There's no doubt that a lot is on the line for this team, but we have seen enough consistency from Bowen to know that he'll be a contender for every second in the Gold Cup. Strategy in the mill and lane selection will play a huge factor in his chances to get his 1st win in the SNHL. With the Detroit course as unique as it is, any victory here will have to be hard-fought, but Bowen feels very confident in his abilities here on the Detroit river.
"I honestly feel very good about Detroit. I know that I'm not the best at getting lane one so I've been practicing a bunch of different strategies and scenarios to win races. I can't tell exactly what I've been working on but I got a game plan in my head of how I will win. I feel that I have a pretty good chance of winning. Looking to see Eddie make mistakes that cost him but at the same time rooting for him since he is my teammate. Just hoping to have better luck and to see my boat up front."
With an outside shot of the championship in sight, DJ Miller in the Les Schwab Tires will look to take every opportunity he can get to close in at Detroit. Miller has had a fair chance in the finals that he has been in this season to win, but has been limited to the outside in every final heat. For the Gold Cup, however, the outside may provide an advantage for Miller as the Roostertail turn brings speeds in excess of 200 MPH down to below triple digits. With a hairpin turn like the infamous Roostertail turn, boats on the outside have that edge of carrying out more speed off the corner than the inside lane. With arguably the quickest hull in the field, its a must win scenario for the Les Schwab Tires team. A crucial Gold Cup victory could be more of a game of survival than anything for Miller.
"Winning at Detroit would sure mean a lot. I'm confident in my ability to run well there. I know I have a boat capable of winning, but a combination of my own mistakes and some bad luck has kept me out of the winner's circle so far this season. Detroit will be as much about survival as it will be about racing, I think."
Beau Rarig and the Miss Budweiser enters Gold Cup weekend riding off of a wave of momentum from Seafair after a 2nd place finish in the final. In the 3 finals Rarig has started in, 2 have been on the podium including the Guntersville victory so there's no doubt that the Bud is capable of winning at Detroit. Given the rich history of Bernie Little's Budweiser team, it wouldn't be a surprise to see another Gold Cup victory take place under Little's flawless leadership. With the level of competition through the roof, many drivers are expected to lay it all out on the line for the Gold Cup. For Beau Rarig however, he takes after his owners words of wisdom for winning the notorious race.
"Simple: Keep it on the water. As Bill Muncey said, you don't win at Detroit, you survive it. This course is notorious for causing accidents, so it's not a stretch to say some drivers will make mistakes. If we can capitalize on those mistakes, without making any ourselves, we'll be in good shape. We intend to win the Gold Cup, and keeping the boat on the water is the first step to achieving that goal."
The Albert Lee Appliance and Matt Johnson are coming off of a huge moral victory in the final at Seafair as they look to continue their success on a much different course. After a mind blowing win from the trailer position in Seattle, the challenging Detroit course will make a back to back victory very strenuous for Johnson. One of the most persistent and fastest improving driver on the season, there's a solid chance we will see the GFTL team on the front row in the final for the Gold Cup. Looking to keep up the momentum from Seattle, Johnson knows that as long as keeps his strategy in place that he has as solid of a shot as anyone to win the Gold Cup.
"Detroit is going to be tough. It's rough, it's fast, and it can create some really close racing. In Seattle I proved that you can never count anyone out and I think that's even more true in Detroit. My strategy hasn't changed and I'm confident that I will come out with a good result as I have all year. I'm excited to ride my momentum from Seattle and fight for the Gold Cup."
Tim Johnson has had his early struggles in the inaugural SNHL season, but saw major improvement at Seafair where he scored over 1000 points on the weekend and made his first final appearance. While he was unable to finish in the Seafair final due to an incident in the backstretch, the Pico American Dream made significant progress as Tim looks to continue to build off his successful weekend at Detroit. Tim has been known to be a risk-taker so Detroit could be quite the weekend for the Leland entry. After the strides he made at Seafair, Tim will look to keep the Pico on the water with a somewhat conservative approach in hopes of a successful Gold Cup.
"I think keeping the boat on the water and legal will be the key to getting into the final. But the final itself is a whole different animal. Trying to stay out of the way of the more aggressive drivers is probably the best."
For a driver like Mickey Washburn, the season hasn't panned out the way he wanted it to as the U-1918 Oberto has yet to make a final. The Gold Cup won't make his chances any better, but Washburn has shown the potential to succeed if the boat is running at its best. With the high points championship indefinitely out of reach, Washburn is still in good position to place in the top 10 with room to move up in points. With the type of season the Oberto team has had, a Gold Cup victory may require a dose of luck. Luck could be the difference for Washburn who hopes to leave Motor City as Gold Cup Champion.
"It would be huge to win the Gold Cup. Guntersville was my owner's hometown race, Tri-Cities was mine, and Seattle was my owner's home town race and all three we walked out with our tail between our legs. So if we could pull out a Gold Cup win all that will be forgotten. It's going to be a wild day of racing and maybe some luck will fall our way this weekend."
The atmosphere surrounding Detroit intensifies as we inch closer to the drop of the green flag of the inaugural SNHL Gold Cup. The action on the water will be second to none as the Detroit river provides some hectic deck to deck racing throughout the course whether that's the Belle Isle turn, the stretched out straightaways, or the infamous Roostertail turn. We are bound to see drivers push their skill-set to the ragged edge on an unforgiving Detroit river that is sure to claim some victims. The Gold Cup will be a cat and mouse game of who can push the limits further than any other driver. Everything that has happened so far on the season will be thrown out the window when Gold Cup Weekend begins. The very best hydroplane drivers in the world will be racing for pride, for glory, for immortality. Who will earn the right to greatness as the 2018 Gold Cup champion?