The Gregory family doesn’t have the best of memories from the last time they raced at Seafair.
That was 2008. Driver David Bryant had a blowover wreck in the U-10 Hoss Mortgage Investors boat in the second heat and the team was done for the weekend.
Things got worse from there.
Four days later, patriarch Kim Gregory was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Three weeks later, he was dead.
The team, USA Racing Partners, stopped racing. For three years, the boat – the former Miss Budweiser T-3 hull – remained for sale.
Bryant died in a crash in a flat-bottom boat race in Australia in 2010.
“We started racing because (Kim) wanted to keep the family together,” said Debbie Gregory, Kim’s wife. “He thought it would be a good, fun thing for the family to do. And you know, it really worked out.”
Kim, Debbie said, always had machines that went fast. Racing was natural to him.
In 1989, the Gregory family started racing with flat-bottom boats and worked their way up the boat classes, making stops in the unlimited lights and grand prix hydroplanes.
In the spring, Debbie’s sons, Matt, the crew chief, and Adam approached her about re-starting the team.
They picked up a national sponsor in 88 Degree Men.
“It was definitely a coup for us to be on the sidelines three years and to be approached by Degree,” said Adam, who handles the business concerns of the team. “We were very honored.”
The boat was third in the season-opening race in Madison, Ind. They had a blowover at the Gold Cup in Detroit, but got the boat put back together to take fourth last weekend in the Tri-Cities.
The boat qualified seventh Friday, the first day of the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair.
The family made it clear they are not returning to racing to finish second or third.
“We have the philosophy now that second place sucks,” Adam said. “… It’s taking us some time to get back in our groove.”
“We have a very competitive family,” said Debbie, whose team won the Gold Cup in 2004.
Matt played basketball at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Adam was recruited to play football, but focused on his studies instead. Daughter Kari, who helps out with the marketing, played volleyball at Hawaii and went pro for a year in Switzerland.
Last season, the 88 Degree Men was a new boat with an experimental design. That team, owned by Billy and Jane Schumacher, had a falling out with the sponsor and became the U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing.
“They had a lot of bugs to work out on that other boat,” said driver Scotty Liddycoat. “… This one drives easier.”
The family, based in Las Vegas, leased the Miss Budweiser shop in Tukwila and keeps the boat there.
“It’s been quite the journey,” Debbie said.
VILLWOCK IN FRONT
Dave Villwock in the U-1 Spirit of Qatar 96 was the top qualifier on Lake Washington.
It’s the 17th consecutive race Villwock has notched top qualifying honors.
Villwock ran the course at 151.626 mph. Steve David in the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto was second at 149.756.
Edmonds’ Kelly Stocklin in the U-18 Bucket List Racing, a smaller, experimental hydroplane, was the only team of the 13-boat field not get in the water. A broken gear box, a problem last week in Tri-Cities, kept the boat on the trailer.
The first heat is today beginning at 3:10 p.m.