Nate Brown out of retirement to drive own boat
Brown replaces his injured nephew in Miss Red Dot
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seafair hydrosQualifying: Friday, 2:50 p.m.
Saturday schedule: Unlimited Heats 1A (3:10 p.m.), 1B (3:30 p.m.), and 1C (4:05 p.m.).
Sunday schedule: Unlimited Heats 2A (10:25 a.m.), 2B (10:40 a.m.) and 2C (10:55 a.m.); Heats 3A (12:10 p.m.) and 3B (12:30 p.m.); Provisional Heat (2:55 p.m.); Albert Lee Cup H1 Unlimited Final (4:45 p.m.).
Tickets: Friday: General admission free; reserved grandstand $20; Saturday and Sunday: Reserved grandstand $40; general admission $25 advance and $30 at the gate for adults, $10 for age 65-over and youth age 6-12. Pass for both Saturday-Sunday, $30.
Brett Favre has nothing on unlimited hydroplane drivers, most of whom announce numerous retirements before one finally sticks.
Nate Brown, in fact, considers himself still retired even though he will be piloting the U-17 Miss Red Dot at the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair unlimited hydroplane race this weekend on Lake Washington.
Brown will drive the boat mostly out of necessity after his nephew, Kip, broke a tibia during the race last week in the Tri-Cities.
He'll also drive it because he can. As the owner of the boat, he has the ultimate call.
"I'm just here to have fun," he said. "Why not? How many people out there would love to be in my position and be able to jump in something and go run Seafair?"
Brown admits, though, he was feeling a few different emotions last weekend.
"I got tossed to the wolves," he said. "I expected to do (an exhibition heat) to keep my (driver's) qualification, but I didn't expect to race the whole weekend, so my head was more into fixing the boat, and I screwed up. ... I was late (on every start)."
Nate Brown won Seafair in 2001 and the Gold Cup in 2004 — highlights of an unlimited driving career that began in 1992. But since 2008, Nate Brown, a resident of Preston, has largely left the driving of a boat he and his Our Gang team began building in 2006 to his nephew. Before last weekend, he hadn't driven in two years, and he said the rust showed.
After his final heat in the Tri-Cities, Brown told a reporter he didn't know if he'd drive the boat in Seattle, joking that he felt "104 years old." He's actually 53. He also noted that the system for starting has changed since he last raced regularly. Drivers now jockey for their lanes before heats, often resulting in a lot of stopping and starting, rather than having pre-assigned lanes.
"It's a good way to start as long as the fans get used to it," he said. "But it's hard for the drivers. It's not as easy as it looks."
By Tuesday, though, Brown had decided he was ready to get behind the wheel, and this time he promises to be ready.
"I wasn't sure (after the Tri-Cities race)," he said. "But I decided to because after the last heat (in which he was late to the start and finished fifth) I thought, 'I'd give anything to have that back.' So this is my shot to kind of redeem myself. I can do better than that. Our boat is faster than that. I've got another shot in me. ... Kip will be back for San Diego (in September) so it's just a one-race gig and it's good to be back in the cockpit and feel it out a little bit."
It also might be the last time Brown has this opportunity as he said the Red Dot is for sale.
"It's time. We are in year six of a five-year plan and our crew is doing a great job and they love it. But I think it's time for us to look at other things, as well, and find that new blood out there."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.