Originally created 07/23/01

Decade of diligence pays off for Hipwell



John Hipwell had raced in the Augusta Southern Nationals for 10 straight years without ever getting to the Top Fuel Hydro finals.

On Sunday, he not only got the finals, but he also ran the second-fastest pass of the weekend, 229 mph, to beat John Haas.

Series points leader Greg Tedesco ran a qualifying pass of 230 mph Saturday, before falling to Haas, the defending champion Sunday.

"This boat runs like it is on a train track, straight and narrow," Hipwell said of his boat "Madness."

Although the boat was running smoothly, Hipwell said he and his team decided to make some changes when they arrived in Augusta. Some of the changes caused problems early in the weekend, Hipwell said.

Haas advanced to the finals for the fifth-straight year. On his final run of the weekend, however, the three-time winner encountered engine problems and allowed Hipwell to catch up.

"We blew a couple spark plugs and caught on fire," Haas said. "We just had to settle for second. Augusta has been a good place for us."

Hipwell entered the weekend having been in three out of the past four top fuel hydro finals.

"This year has been incredible," Hipwell said. "It has been a dream season."

The season continues for Hipwell in North Carolina, where he will try to close the 400-point lead that Tedesco enjoys.

"We missed two races this year, which hurt us," Hipwell said. "But it's not over yet."

ROUGH DAY: Jon Wright, driver of "Tinker Toy," wrecked while racing in the first round of Sunday's unlimited outboards eliminations.

As he reached the mid-point of the race, going 119 mph, his boat began to wobble, then went nose first into the water and disintegrated on impact.

He floated on a piece of his boat until a safety crew could pull him out. Within minutes, Medical College of Georgia staff members preformed a head-to-toe check.

Hartmut Gross, emergency room physician at MCG, determined Wright did not need to be transported to the hospital.

Wright suffered minor cuts on both hands and was walking around the makeshift hospital at Augusta Riverfront Marina, talking to family and friends.

Sunday's finals

Unlimited Outboards: 124.00-Paul Wheeler, Starke, Fla.; 49.24-Chris Burke, Vidalia, Ga.

Pro Eliminator: 109.18-Leland Bailey, Princeton, W. Va.; Richard Tippett, Hollywood, Md.

Top Eliminator: 112.66-Greg Kordsmeier, Conway, N.C.; 114.22-Mark Irwin, Ten Mile, Tenn.

Comp Eliminator: 83.62-Wendell Vinson, Southside, Ala.; 105.78-Carol Morris, Newark, Del.

Modified Eliminator: 103.76-John L. Shockey, Malvern, Ark.; 98.90-Matthew Ladd, Deerfield Beach, Texas.

Stock Eliminator: 88.14-Dallas Moore, Ft. Worth, Texas; 96.24-Steve Higson, Gadsden, Ala.

River Racer I: 76.64-Bobby McMasters, Ramseur, N.C.; 76.42-Robert Harris, Chapin, S.C.

Top Fuel Hydro: 229-John Hipwell; John Haas.

Top Alcohol Hydro: 212.3-Ted Faggart; John White.

Top Alcohol Flat: 103-Eric Morris; Todd Haas.

Pro Mod: 166-C. Zalaudek; 156-J. Parson.

Reach Louie Villalobos at (706) 823-3425 orgambino22@hotmail.com.