HomeStreet Bank-Miss Madison Preview
Hoover takes over as
Miss Madison crew chief
After two stellar seasons during which it won the H1 Unlimited’s National High Points title and two Gold Cups, the community owned Miss Madison Unlimited hydroplane racing team underwent a series of changes in the offseason. But by late spring, the team had managed to reorganize and be ready for another year on the water, with championship driver Jimmy Shane back in the cockpit.
Photo by Don Ward
Crew Chief Dan Hoover (far right) heads the HomeStreet Bank-Miss Madison team, which includes (from left) Brandon McAlister and Tyler Hanson.
It all started when crew chief of two years, Larry Hanson, surprised everyone when on April 12 he announced he was quitting his job and returning to his native Seattle. Hanson had taken over as crew chief for his brother, Mike, who left to become crew chief for Ellstrom Racing. The very next day, Shane also announced on his Facebook page that he was quitting as driver. He would not say the reasons at the time other than to indicate he was not happy with the direction the team was going.
Team Manager Charlie Grooms found himself in a dilemma to get his team organized before the upcoming race season. The news of the resignations were alarming to the team and its fans, considering it came on the heels of the good news that was announced in February when HomeStreet Bank of Seattle signed a three-year commitment as sponsor of the boat. The move followed Oh Boy! Oberto’s end as the team sponsor the previous 15 years.
After several days of uncertainty and negotiations, Grooms managed to get the team back on track. Shane, 30, of Covington, Wash., agreed to come back to drive the boat after his concerns were addressed and the team was reorganized, with technician Dan Hoover promoted to crew chief. Hoover, 43, a Seattle native, was brought to the Madison team by Shane when he first joined it in 2014. Hoover had spent the previous two seasons doing many tasks – radio man, engine and propeller specialist for the Miss Madison squad. He had previously been a crew chief for the U-10 USA Racing Partners. He also worked with Shane when the two worked for Ted Porter’s U-5 Graham Trucking squad.
With Shane and Hoover in place, the stage is now set for the HomeStreet Bank-Miss Madison team to try and defend its National High Points title in 2016. While excited for the opportunity, Hoover admitted the job does not come without pressure.
“Of course there’s a lot of pressure. But it’s a great opportunity for me, so I jumped on it,” Hoover said. Coming in after the two previous winning seasons, he joked that “the only way we can go is down. But we hope to continue what we have done last year and the previous year.”
Hoover grew up in the Tri-Cities, Wash., area and worked in the wind turbine industry in Pasco, Wash., before getting involved in hydroplane racing. He lived for 10 years in Florida working in the marine industry before being lured back to Seattle to lead the USA Racing Partners team. Following that job, he was hired by Porter in late 2012 to work on the Graham Trucking team. That’s where he met Shane. The two developed a close working relationship during the 2013 race season when Shane was Porter’s primary driver.
Now that Hoover has been promoted to crew chief, he said, “Before, it was just seasonal for me. But now this is my full-time job.” He has been in Madison full-time since late April working at the boat shop, where the boat had to get a new paint job – from bright green to sky blue – to promote the new sponsor. The team also prepared the boat for the H1 Unlimited Hydro Week Testing, which took place June 12 on the Columbia River in Tri-Cities, Wash.
Helping Hoover on a regular basis is Tyler Hanson, Larry’s son. The 21-year-old stayed on after his father left and has been given more responsibility, Hoover said.
“Tyler is in charge of the deck and everything on top at the race sites,” Hoover said. “He also oversees getting the boat in and out of the water between races and making sure the boat is ready to go.”
Hoover said he, too, has much more responsibility as crew chief. While team manager Grooms handles the books, sponsorships and promotion, Hoover oversees the boat shop and all the mechanics. “It’s a similar arrangement that Charlie had when Mike (Hanson) was here. For Tyler and me, this is now our regular jobs.”
Shane, too, has more responsibilities this season, Hoover said. Shane will do more to promote the sponsor by attending HomeStreet Bank events to sign autographs and other appearances. “He didn’t do much of that with Oberto outside of race weeks,” Hoover said.
The team traveled to Tri-Cities in early June to participate in the Hydro Week Testing and give Shane a chance to try out the boat. Backup driver Jeff Bernard also took some laps for the Madison team. But only days after the test day, Porter announced he had hired Bernard to pilot his U-7 Unlimited race boat for the 2016 season. Bernard is expected to compete at the Madison Regatta in the Team Porter boat, which has yet to have a sponsor.
“I was a little upset when I first heard about it,” Hoover said. “But I understand it. Jeff wanted more than to just be a radio guy for Jimmy. He wanted to drive. But if I had known this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have let him drive our boat (in Tri-Cities).”
Hoover said the team is now considering hiring Shane’s brother-in-law, inboard race boat driver Nick Bononcini of Kirkland, Wash., as its backup driver. Bononcini is not yet qualified as an Unlimited driver, but Hoover said he hopes to get him some heat laps this season so he can qualify.
“I’m pretty sure he has more than enough races under his belt in inboard race boats,” Hoover said.
As for the testing, Hoover said, “We did what we wanted to do and got the results we wanted to see. It was basically a shakedown for us. We didn’t use our best engine or our main propeller, and we still ran 159 mph. I told both drivers not to go too hard. So we are very pleased.”
According to Shane’s Facebook post, the boat hit a high of 195 mph during testing. He commented, “Nice ride for the first time out on the water since her overhaul in the offseason. Made a skidfin and front canard adjustment to loosen it up a bit. This run was our fastest of the day hitting 195 mph. Winds picked up throughout the day and water conditions got worse. Very excited for the 2016 season.”
With the testing behind them, the Madison team now has its focus on winning the Indiana Governor’s Cup at the July 1-3 Madison Regatta. Hometown fans are anxious to see the boat sporting its new colors and sailing around the Ohio River. And Shane obviously is anxious to get back on the water to begin his quest for a third National High Points team title and a Champion Driver title.
In 10 starts for the Miss Madison boat, Shane has won five races and 30 heats overall, including two Gold Cups. He has placed in the top three in the final heat race seven times.
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