Post-race penalty takes Seafair title from Tate and gives it to Shane

In Heat 3A, driver Jimmy Shane led all challengers to win in U-1 HomeStreet Bank.
In Heat 3A, driver Jimmy Shane led all challengers to win in U-1 HomeStreet Bank. The Seattle Times

It was one of the best final heats of unlimited hydroplane racing ever seen on Lake Washington.

Fans walked away from the Ted Jones Race Course on Sunday thinking Andrew Tate had won again.

He ended up finishing last.

Tate and the U-9 Les Schwab Tires battled Jimmy Shane and the U-1 HomeStreet Bank deck to deck in the final of the Albert Lee Appliance Cup at Seafair. Tate found enough boat speed to rally past Shane in the fifth and final lap.

More than 15 minutes after the boats returned to the Stan Sayres Pits, Tate was assessed a penalty for hitting a buoy in the pre-race warmup period. That one-minute penalty (which essentially adds up to a lap) moved him from first to seventh.

And it gave Shane his first Seafair win since he drove the Graham Trucking in 2013.

“We ran the video and it was clear he hit the buoy,” H1 Unlimited chief referee Rick Sandstrom said. “The contention was a boat on the outside forced him into it. That wasn’t the case and that was again proven by the video.”

Tate, who became the first rookie in 50 years to win Seafair last year, couldn’t argue with the call, calling it “driver error.”

“It’s unfortunate,” Sandstrom said. “The kid did a hell of a job.”

Yes, he did.

Shane had a three rooster-tail lead and the advantageous inside lane after three laps.

“On the fourth lap I hit some of the roughest water I’ve ever raced on,” Shane said. “The whole boat went up about five feet in the air, completely level. And Andrew gained about three or four boat lengths just in that one hop.”

But he still trailed heading into the final lap.

“As the race progressed, I think the boat set up and the speed really started to show,” said Tate, who knew there was the potential for a penalty during the race. “The water got really lumpy and (Shane) started get a little out of shape and lose some boat speed here and there. We were able to keep the throttle into it and chase him down a little bit.”

The penalty moved J. Michael Kelly and the U-12 Graham Trucking up to second and Brian Perkins in the U-21 Albert Lee Appliance to third.

For Shane, it’s the first Seafair win with Miss Madison Racing (he joined in 2014), which has had Seattle-based HomeStreet Bank as its sponsor for two years.

“Any time the sponsor can win in Seattle, that’s a huge day,” Shane said. “We’re going to go out and celebrate tonight and have a great time with some bankers and be ready for the next race.”

The win capped an almost perfect weekend for Shane. He was the top qualifier and won Heats 2B and 3A. He would have won Heat 1B Saturday, but he got his own penalty for dropping below 80 mph in the prerace warm-up.

The big weekend keeps Shane atop the National High Points Standings. Kelly also had a big weekend with three heat wins and a second-place finish and is close behind.

“It’s going to be one heck of a points race this year,” said Shane, who is the four-time defending National High Points champion.

The H1 Unlimited circuit moves to Detroit from Aug. 25-27 and San Diego from Sept. 15-17.