Jamie Nilsen had one goal for his first Unlimited hydroplane race: make the final.
“I think the whole Go Fast Turn Left Racing team would have said that was a long shot,” said Nilsen, who drives the 48 Snoqualmie Casino hydro.
Yet Nilsen, a 2003 graduate of Jefferson High School in Federal Way, was sixth after the preliminary heats and claimed a spot in the finals.
Nilsen, who lives in Fife, got a little lucky. He finished second in Heat 1B after two racers ahead of him were assessed one-lap penalties. In Heat 2B, he finished third after another racer ahead of him got a penalty.
“I mean, that’s racing, though. You take what you can get,” said Nilsen, who is a financial analyst at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. “It’s unpredictable. That’s what makes it exciting.”
He also took fourth in Heat 3B. He placed seventh, last, in the final.
Nilsen isn’t sure what’s next, and he doesn’t know when his next race will be, but he earned some invaluable experience.
“From where I started to where I am now, it’s just leaps and bounds,” he said.
NEW ROLE FOR VILLWOCK
Dave Villwock’s 10 Seafair victories are more than any driver has ever collected. But he was busy working on boats this weekend rather than driving them.
Villwock, a South Kitsap grad, retired in May with more wins than any other Unlimited hydroplane driver. He latched on with the 37 Miss Beacon Plumbing this season.
“You’re kind of paying it forward a little bit,” Villwock said. “Rather than quitting or doing TV or something, I thought the knowledge I’d gained in a lot of different areas would be good to hand forward.”
The team fit his requirements. He said J. Michael Kelly, of Bonney Lake, is a good, young driver and the team, owned by the Schumacher family, is commited to the future.
Before becoming a driver in 1992, Villwock was a successful crew chief for the Miss Circus Circus, helping Chip Hanauer to a national title in 1990.
With no Blue Angels this year because of federal government spending cuts, Seafair officials expected an attendance dip of about 25 percent, spokesperson Melissa Jurcan said.
Seafair attendance was approximately 115,000 – down from 158,000 last year.
And the rain on Friday, which was better attended than Saturday because of free general admission, didn’t help attendance either.
The log boom sold about 80 percent of its capacity, the first time it hasn’t sold out in recent years, Jurcan said.
In Heat 2B, Kelly was given a one-lap penalty and he finished fourth. But H1 Unlimited officials reviewed the race and removed the penalty, giving him a second-place finish. In the same heat, Jon Zimmerman in the brevity-challenged 9 Fox Plumbing & Heating presents Team RedDot powered by Les Schwab Tires earned three penalties and had two extra laps to run. … The next stop for the H1 Unlimited circuit is Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for Labor Day weekend. It will be the first time the hydros have been on Lake Coeur d’Alene since 1968. The season wraps up in mid-September in San Diego.