Aug. 06–It was a rough start, but going from boat sponsor to boat owner is working out for Rob Graham.
Graham, who owns Seattle-based Graham Trucking, has been a sponsor for unlimited hydroplanes since 1994. He has also been the sponsor for the Graham Trucking Cup, the race for the smaller classes of boats each year at Seafair, for 20 years.
Over the offseason, he bought one of the boats from Team Porter Racing, the team he has sponsored since 2009.
After rebuilding the boat in Fife for the past eight months, it debuted last week at the Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities. The first two days were spent testing the boat and getting the bugs worked out.
“There were some pretty big bugs,” Graham said.
Things finally clicked in a big way in the final, as the boat won from lane four, an impressive feat that takes plenty of boat speed. Graham said he found the victory “refreshing,” as typically the Graham Trucking hasn’t had the boat speed to win from outside and relies on getting an inside lane, which offers the shortest distance around the race course.
He could have called it redemptive.
Last year, the Graham Trucking was declared the Columbia Cup winner after Jimmy Shane was called for a penalty. The HomeStreet Bank team appealed the decision and it was reversed — in December. Graham called the decision “disruptive” to the Graham team and said it caused Ted Porter to leave the sport.
“A lot of people don’t understand you’re scratching and biting just to stay in the game,” Graham said.
And when you get a win taken away …
Graham saw even more success Saturday at the Albert Lee Appliance Cup at Seafair, winning Heat 1A and 2A. The Graham Trucking had an easier run to start the weekend, as it avoided powerhouses HomeStreet Bank and Les Schwab Tires.
The boat, which runs under U-12 this year, is a former Miss Budweiser boat. But it saw heavy refurbishing over the winter.
“It’s not brand new, but it could be brand new with the work that they’ve done to it,” said driver J. Michael Kelly, who won Seafair in the boat in 2014 and 2015.
The team picked U-12 because last season there were two Graham Trucking boats, the U-5 and U-7. It also wanted to honor the old Miss Bud, which was the U-12.
–There are two unlimited-hydro heats Sunday. Heat 3A is at noon and Heat 3B is at 12:15 p.m. The winner-take-all final is at 4:45 p.m.
–Three more boats qualified in the Saturday-morning testing session, the U-99.9 Miss Rock, the U-11 Miss DiJulio and the U-440 Snuskitush Enterprises (Bucket List Racing). It brings the Seafair fleet to eight boats.
Nathan Joyce: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2176 On Twitter @NathanAJoyce
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