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Keeping Pace

Jeff Bernard Wins Thunder On The Ohio

Villwock and David struggle on Sunday opening the door for Jeff Bernard to claim the Evansville victory.


Courtesy: ABRA Media Relations

It has been a long season for Ted Porter’s Decatur, Ind. hydroplane race team but today on the Ohio River, Jeff Bernard (Kent, Wash.) drove the Formulaboats.com to its first win of the 2009 season and his second career championship, taking the 31st annual Thunder on the Ohio.

And while the win was sweet for the Formulaboats’ team, the afternoon of racing looked like it was going to be a perfect day for another tough luck team this year — the hometown boat from Evansville, the Master Tire driven by Jimmy King (Detroit, Mich.)

The Master Tire, the owned by Evansville Ed Cooper, Jr. and the only piston-powered boat on the American Boat Racing Association circuit, took the lead in the championship final winner-take-all heat from lane two from the start.  Then it looked like King was going to win the first race of his unlimited career and only the fifth win in the team’s 23 seasons on the circuit.

But on the third lap, King’s propeller broke, wrecking the bottom of the hull and allowing Bernard to take the lead that he never relinquished.  Bernard held off his teammate J Michael Kelly in the Graham Trucking boat and took the win by four boat lengths.

“When I saw the U3 go down, I had a big smile,” said Bernard.  “Then I looked to my right and I saw my teammate J Michael Kelly. Well I knew I had my work cut out for me.

“We have two boats for one team but when it comes to that last heat, it is every man for himself.”

This season also has been a tough luck season for King and the Master Tire team.  Mechanical problems have plagued the team all season long and today, it looked like all the hard work would pay off in front of the hometown fans. But the mechanical problems that plagued the team all season long came up again today.  King had an eight boat lead when the prop let go.

The day of racing started off in a wild fashion.  Dave Villwock (Seattle, Wash.), winner of three of the four races on the ABRA circuit this season, went end-over-end in his Ellstrom Elam Plus hydroplane in heat 1A, crashing the boat and placing his team out of the race.  And the leading national high point team of Steve David (Lighthouse Pt., Fla.) was disqualified in the same heat, opening the door for Bernard and the Formula team and King in the Master Tire.

While Villwock walked safely away from the crash, David made it to the championship heat final and placed third.

EVANSVILLE THUNDER ON THE OHIO FINAL RESULTS

Pl       Driver            (Hometown)                  Boat

1—Jeff Bernard,        (Kent, Wash.)            FormulaBoats.com

2—J Michael Kelly,   (Puyallup, Wash.)      Graham Trucking

3—Steve David,        (Lighthouse Pt., Fla.)  Oh Boy! Oberto

4—Greg Hopp           (Snohomish, Wash.)    Mirageboats.com

5—Ken Muscatel,     (Seattle, Wash.)         Mister Home Loan

6—Nate Brown,        (Preston, Wash.)        Ellstrom Elam Plus


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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.

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