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Miss Madison team tests in Washington state

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By Dave Taylor

By DAVE TAYLOR

The Trimble Banner

The Miss Madison Racing Team members are excited to see the 2019 H1 Unlimited season get underway later this month.

The jubilant outlook comes after a successful test session Friday, May 31, on the Columbia River at Kennewick, Wash. The spring test session has become an annual event in which Unlimited teams and Grand Prix World hydroplanes gather for a tune-up session in advance of the racing campaign. Six Unlimited teams were on hand to sort out the off-season improvements made on their equipment.

Miss Madison, Inc., campaigns the world’s only community-owned hydroplane, the U-6 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison, which is sponsored by a West Coast banking chain. The team completed construction of a brand-new hydro midway through the 2018 season and debuted the hull in the latter half of the summer. Last season proved a bitter disappointment for the team members who struggled to recover from the suicide of former crew chief Dan Hoover prior to the start of the racing campaign. Longtime team member Cindy Shirley was later named to fill the vacancy but resigned following the season due to obligation of her duties as director of the Office of Research at the University of Washington Bothell.

Charlie Grooms, president of Miss Madison, Inc., had cited plenty of positives after Friday’s test and shocked the West Coast media by announcing that the Madison, Indiana, team plans to campaign two hydroplanes during the 2019 season.

“It was a great day! The boat ran great,” Grooms told The Trimble Banner in an interview Saturday. “We ran six times with three engines, tried two different wings and four propellers. Everyone on the team is happy with the results!”

“It was an amazing day today,” driver Jimmy Shane said. “We accomplished all of our goals. We were able to test all of our equipment. Eight of the 10 laps were over 160 miles an hour and I think that’s a fantastic start for Miss HomeStreet for the 2019 season!”

Shane circuited the Columbia River course with a top lap of 164.775 miles per hour, which was faster than his qualifying average on the same course last season at the HAPO Columbia Cup race.

Grooms said the Miss HomeStreet team plans to be the biggest contender to wrestle the national championship away from the U-1 team of Mike and Lori Jones who campaigned their hull last season as Delta/RealTrac with Andrew Tate driving. The Miss Madison team had won the title eight of the previous 10 seasons with sponsors HomeStreet Bank and Oberto Sausage Company.

Speculation among race fans and competitors has been rampant that maybe former driver Mike Hanson or his brother Larry — both of whom have served as crew chief for the team in past years — might be named crew chief for 2019. The brothers have been working with the team since completing construction of the new hull last year. Grooms said that both he and Mark Hooton who does marketing for the Madison team have served in crew chief capacities before but the priority isn’t on team titles at this time.

“The real issue right now is getting the second team and the second boat up and running,” Grooms told Jeff Morrow, former sports editor for the Tri-City Herald.

That’s right. Miss Madison, Inc., is going to run two boats on the circuit this season, including the old hull that ran since 2007 up until last year’s Tri-Cities race — when the team unveiled its newest hull.

“I still believe there is value for a sponsor in this thing,” Grooms told reporters. “I’ve got one. I’m talking to them. My only criteria is the new driver has to be young. It’s all predicated on what the sponsor wants. We’re reasonably close with the new sponsor. We’re in the contract negotiation phase.”

The older hull is the one that won those eight national high-point titles over the 10 years with first Steve David and later Jimmy Shane driving.

Grooms pointed out that all of the parts between the two boats are interchangeable. “We did that on purpose,” he said. The older boat’s “biggest attribute is it’s fast. But it’s very user friendly. I could put anyone in the boat and it’s fast.”

It will all depend on what the new sponsor wants, said Grooms.

“HomeStreet Bank likes working with Jimmy,” said Grooms. “Oberto felt it had a great fit with Steve David. I need to know what the new sponsor wants in a driver.”

“My main focus is really try to win the title again,” said Grooms. “Without question that’s the No. 1 priority. Last season was very much an anomaly for us.”

Negotiations continue with the potential sponsor, and Grooms said it is not yet determined if the deal could be for all five races in 2019 or only the races out west.

The members of the board of directors of Miss Madison, Inc., have been favorable to the possibility of racing the older hull at both the season opener at Guntersville, Ala., on June 28-30; and the July 5-7 Gold Cup race in Madison as Miss Madison if no sponsor comes forward for those two events.

The remaining schedule includes the HAPO Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities on July 26-28; Seafair in Seattle on Aug. 2-4; and San Diego Bayfair on Sept. 13-15.