Miss Madison Returns to Guntersville – 5 Decades Later

2017 Tri-Cities Testing Photo By Steve Conner

Jimmy Shane, the 21st drive of the community-owned H1 Unlimited hydroplane now sponsored by HomeStreet Bank put her through the paces during the team’s first test session of the 2017 season on the Columbia River in Kennewick, Wash. 2017 Tri-Cities Testing Photo By Steve Conner

Miss HomeStreet Bank hydroplane ready to show southern race fans what they have been missing
By Owen Blauman

GUNTERSVILLE, ALA. (June 16, 2017) – Fifty-plus years ago a story similar to the tortoise and the hare unfolded on Guntersville Lake, Alabama. Six in a field of seven unlimited hydroplane race boats jumped the gun at the start of the 1965 Dixie Cup

All but one, a community-owned race boat called the U-6 “MISS MADISON” and her Columbus, Ohio driver, George “Buddy” Byers perfectly timed the start.

The six teams that jumped were penalized and had to make an extra lap allowing Byers to win and take home the $4,500 prize money.

Much has changed in the 52-years after the City of Madison, Indiana owned team ran a hand-me-down piston-powered race boat with a race team and driver low on morale.

This Saturday motorsports fans will get the opportunity to see those changes when the national champion Miss Madison Racing team and their turbine powered H1 Unlimited hydroplane along with U-27 “WIGGINS RACING” take to the water of Guntersville Lake.

A free on-water exhibition will take place at Spring Creek on the lake with the best viewing on the Guntersville levee off Railroad Ave. behind the Guntersville Fire Station No. 1.

“We want to show southern race fans what they have been missing all these decades and show how the world’s fastest boats have changed,” said Charlie Grooms, Miss Madison’s president and team manager.

The two race boats and a vintage 1950s replica U-55 “GALE V” will be on-and-off the water from 9:00AM-4:00PM.

The current state-of-the-art hydroplanes race on a oval course several miles long and maintain speeds of 130 mph to upwards of 200 mph on the straightaways.

The custom boat’s hull is shaped like an aircraft wing, has a safety capsule for the driver and is powered by T-55 turbine engines. Propelled only by a 16-inch propeller that leave behind water that shoots skyward.

The Miss Madison Racing team is no longer the tortoise.  Now called the U-1 “MISS HOMESTREET BANK” it is no longer considered a hand-me-down. Rather it is the boat to beat on the H1 Unlimited hydroplane series. The team is stacked with seasoned veteran race engineers and a driver, Jimmy Shane that just keeps getting better and better every time he races.

Four race boats and 18 drivers after Byers’ historic win, the Miss Madison team has accumulated and additional 27 wins, two A.P.B.A. Gold Cups and seven national championships.

H1 Unlimited hydroplane series is also excited to return and to expand their current series of five races.

“Guntersville brings a great heritage of boat racing and we are honored to be invited to return to a region deep-rooted in motorsports,” said Ted Grange, director of new venue development & operations for H1 Unlimited.

“The Mayor and her staff have done a tremendous job in getting the pieces in place for Saturday’s exhibition and we can’t wait to make and meet new fans from Marshall County and beyond,” Grange said.

Several decades ago the annual race event was considered to be one of Marshall County’s biggest economic events. This Saturday’s Hydrofest exhibition is designed to help promote a sort-of hydroplane racing revival on the once popular racecourse.

“We are very excited about having the teams test on our water,” Katy Norton, president of the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau said. “I think it will draw a lot of interest. We want to create excitement in boat racing, which is something Marshall County hasn’t seen since, I believe, in about 30 years.”

Although the smaller inboard and outboard hydroplanes last raced on the lake in 1986, the larger H1 Unlimiteds have not run on the reservoir since ‘69.

In any event, Norton said “Guntersville is ready and excited to bring unlimited hydroplanes back to Guntersville,” adding that she believes the future Guntersville Lake Hydrofest scheduled for June 22-24, 2018 will be an economic impact event delivering upwards of 50,000 fans into Marshall County.

Saturday’s exhibition is not expected to draw that many spectators which will allow motorsports fans a great opportunity to see the world’s fastest race boats up close and personal.

The story of the 88-year old Byers, who became one of the original Wendy’s fast food chain investors, isn’t over.  He will be at his Ohio farm waiting to hear the progress of his former team on a lake that brought him and the team their first win.

The H1 Unlimited hydroplane series first race is July 2 in Madison, Ind. followed by July 30 in Kennewick, Wash., Aug. 6 Seattle, Aug. 26 & 27 Detroit, wrapping up their season Sept. 17 in San Diego, Calif.


Guntersville Lake hosted unlimited hydroplane racing from 1963-1965 and 1968-69.

Roy Duby drove George Simon’s “MISS U.S.” unlimited hydroplane to a world straightaway record for propeller-driven boats at a speed of 200.419 mph on Guntersville Lake on April 17, 1962.

On June 30, 1967, Lee Taylor, Jr. from California hoping to break 300 mph set a new over-all world water speed record in his jet-trusted boat at 286.875 mph called “HUSTLER”, a purpose-built boat.  He said he would have broken the 300 mph mark had it not been for wake from some spectator’s boats disturbed the water forcing Taylor to slow.

Driver George "Buddy" Byers, Jr. wheels the U-6 "MISS MADISON" unlimited hydroplane around the racecourse in 1965. The Miss Madison Racing team is a community owned race team whose mission is to promote the City of Madison, Ind.

Driver George “Buddy” Byers, Jr. drove the 1965 U-6 “MISS MADISON” to her and the team’s first victory on Guntersville Lake in the young team’s third year racing unlimited hydroplanes.  Byers, now 88-years old, was the team’s third driver and drove for the team from 1963-65.  He was forced to retire his boat racing duties when he sustained injuries in an inboard hydroplane crash.

June 16th, 2017|