Nate Brown will celebrate his retirement in unique fashion.
The veteran hydroplane driver and owner is calling it quits after the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair on Sunday, and he has taken creative measures to fund his final race.
After his sponsor dropped out earlier this season, Brown, who is based out of Preston, decided to crowdsource to pay for it.
“I didn’t even know what crowdsourcing meant a few weeks ago,” Brown said Tuesday at Fisher Pavilion during a news conference to kick off Seafair week. “I said, ‘Hey, why not try it?’ ”
For a $25 donation at Brown’s website, ourgangracing.com, you can sign his unlimited hydroplane, which will be driven by Jeff Bernard, and receive a button. For $75, you also get a T-shirt.
For $3,500, you can buy a ring from the boat’s 2013 Gold Cup victory.
“If anybody wants a Gold Cup ring, there you go,” Brown said.
Brown has collected about 150 signatures so far. He would like to see upward of 5,000 signatures covering the boat. Any money raised above his expenses will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House.
Brown started Our Gang Racing in 2007 as an all-volunteer hydro team.
Brown’s U-17 raced last week in the Tri-Cities and didn’t make the final. This weekend will bring his career full circle.
“I started in Seattle (in 1991), and I’m going to end in Seattle,” said Brown, who has five career victories as a driver, including a Gold Cup win.
END OF PARK AND START
For many years, hydroplane racing fans saw a similar start to Seafair’s championship heat.
The boats would come to an almost dead stop before the race, parking in the inside lanes.
The inside lanes offer the shortest distance around the Lake Washington race course, and drivers fought for them. Often people would see two or three boats parked in lanes waiting for the race to start. Drivers dubbed it the “park and start.”
It hasn’t been popular among fans, who don’t enjoy watching boats slow to trolling speeds. Hydroplane racing always was known for its “flying starts.” Drivers timed it just right and hit the start line — or received a lap penalty — just as the race started.
“I like the park and start,” said J. Michael Kelly, who drives the U-1 Graham Trucking. “It created a race before the race.”
In an effort to end the trolling, a rule was put in this season that boats could not go below 80 mph on the course, eliminating the ability to park on the inside lanes before the race. Drivers get one warning before a penalty is assessed.
In the Tri-Cities, drivers saved their warning for the final, and the park and start showed up again.
U-6 Oberto driver Jimmy Shane said no boats have been off plane — driving fast enough to sit on top of the water — the past three races.
“It’s moving in the right direction,” he said.
RETURN OF ATLAS
The Atlas Van Lines Blue Blaster is one of hydroplane racing’s most famous boats. It’s the boat the legendary Bill Muncey was driving when he died in a 1981 race in Acapulco, Mexico.
The boat, which won 24 races, three Gold Cups and two national titles in five years, was restored and will return to the water this weekend for a few exhibition heats. Each year, the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent brings vintage boats to run a few laps.
The boat will be driven by Chip Hanauer, who replaced Muncey in the Atlas Van Lines and considered him a mentor.
“It’s a little hard to absorb,” Hanauer said. “He and that boat meant so much to me. … I’ve never driven a boat in tears before. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.”
QATAR BACK IN WATER
The 96 Spirit of Qatar raced for the first time since a severe boat fire in January 2013 in Doha, Qatar.
South Kitsap High School graduate Dave Villwock was driving the boat when the fire occurred.
The Ballard-based Ellstrom Racing team took last season to build a new boat, and it skipped the first two races of this season finishing it.
Kip Brown drove the new boat to a third-place finish in the Tri-Cities.
Brown said the boat gained 16 mph between qualifying Friday and racing Sunday, which put it in the middle of the pack.
“With the changes we plan to make the next couple days, we hope to be on the lower side of the really fast guys,” he said.
BLUE ANGELS RETURN
The Blue Angels missed last Seafair because of cutbacks due to sequestration. But the main event of the air show portion of Seafair will be back this year.
The Blue Angels will perform at 1:45 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Interstate 90 between I-5 in Seattle to Island Crest Way on Mercer Island will be closed from 12:15-2:40 p.m. for each performance.
The Oh Boy! Oberto has shortened the name of its boat/racing team name to Oberto. Shane has driven the Oberto to victories in the past two races, and he has a big lead in the national high points standings. The Oberto has 4,769 points; the second-place U-7 Graham Trucking II has 3,654. … Fife’s Jamie Nilsen likely is done for the season. His U-21 Lakeridge Paving Co. flipped in the Tri-Cities final. … The Diamond Cup in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was canceled because the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office refused to accept the application for an event permit, citing a lack of staff to supervise the event. It was scheduled for Aug. 29-31. … For the third consecutive year, the Formula One powerboats, smaller boats which make left and right turns, will be the undercard at Seafair. It’s the final weekend of racing for the F1s. The championship, which is between three drivers, will be decided Sunday. … Seafair, which consists of 75 events, is celebrating its 65th anniversary.