It is a homecoming of sorts for Cindy Shirley, first year crew chief of the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison H1 Unlimited hydroplane. As a 10-year-old growing up in the Ohio Valley, Shirley loved to go to the hydroplane races in Evansville, Ind. and Madison, Ind. Her family would spend vacations going to hydroplane races. This weekend Shirley returns to the Ohio River for the 68th annual Midwest Tube Mills Indiana Governor’s Cup--except this time she returns as the crew chief of the hometown race boat, the Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison hydroplane, one of the world’s fastest.
Shirley was named crew chief of the Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison in the off-season, a start of a new chapter in the team’s storied history. She is the first female crew chief of a turbine hydroplane and the first full-time crew chief in the modern era. When Shirley first got involved with the City of Madison's Miss Madison H1 Unlimited hydroplane team, she was just hoping she’d get a chance to wash the boat after races. Nearly 20 years later, she’s in charge of the four-time defending National High Points Champion Miss Madison racing team. Her career in racing started in the 1990s when she did administration work for the Unlimited Lights series. She started volunteering for the Miss Madison team, which had Oberto as its sponsor until the end of the 2015 season. Over the years, she has been in charge of driver-safety systems, general cockpit maintenance and communicating with the team and drivers. Shirley has done a little of everything, from mixing glues to installing safety systems over her career in boat racing. But now, Shirley has the biggest job there is and has a chance to stamp her name on history in the process.
“It’s exciting. It’s scary, but also exciting,” Shirley said with a laugh. “I don’t fit the traditional mold of being the wrench person or the tech person that knows all the specifics.” But she’s catching up on some of those specifics.
“It was a no-brainer, really,” said Charlie Grooms, president of Miss Madison Inc., himself a former crew chief for the team. “The team got together and they made it clear that they wanted Cindy to lead them. She has the experience but, more importantly, she has the team’s trust including our driver Jimmy’s (Shane). And that’s important.
"In the past couple of years Cindy has helped build a strong team that really values camaraderie,” driver Jimmy Shane said. He said she is doing an outstanding job. Shirley credits her predecessor, Crew Chief Dan Hoover with much of the team’s previous success and said that’s something she hopes to emulate as the season progresses. Hoover unexpectedly passed away earlier this year.
This weekend at the 68th annual Madison Regatta, she will have the pressure of defending the team’s national championships and experiencing another pressure other teams don’t have to worry about. She will have many of her bosses--the citizens of Madison--on the shoreline, paying attention to every race lap, critiquing her every strategy. Her team is the only community-owned race team in motorsports. “It’s always harder to stay on top than it is to get there,” she said.
Originally from Louisville, Shirley currently resides in Everett, Washington, where she is the director of the Office of Research at the University of Washington.
Shirley and the other teams begin qualifying and preliminary heats 1A & 1B on Saturday. The remaining preliminary heats will take place on Sunday, as will the Indiana Governor’s Cup scheduled for 3 p.m. (EST). Tickets are $20 for the weekend.
2018 H1 UNLIMITED HYDROPLANE RACING SERIES SCHEDULE
June 1: Preseason Testing • Kennewick, Wash. • Columbia River
June 22-24: Southern Cup • Guntersville, Ala. • Guntersville Lake
July 6-8: Midwest Tube Mills Indiana Governors Cup • Madison, Ind. • Ohio River
July 27-29: HAPO Columbia Cup • Kennewick, Wash. • Columbia River
August 3-5: Albert Lee Cup • Seattle • Lake Washington
August 24-26: Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Gold Cup • Detroit • Detroit River
September 14-16: HomeStreet Bank Bill Muncey Cup • San Diego • Mission Bay
ABOUT H1 UNLIMITED HYDROPLANE RACING SERIES -- H1 Unlimited hydroplanes are the fastest racing boats in the world and their races are sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association. With deep history, the 115 year-old sport‘s majority of hydroplanes are powered by turbine engines that produce 3,000 horsepower, allowing the H1 Unlimited hydroplanes to reach speeds of nearly 200 mph, producing a massive 60-foot tall, 300-foot long wall of water called a roostertail behind them. With very few restrictions, these majestic hydroplanes race in front of shorelines packed with fans on bodies of water throughout the United States. For additional information on the 2018 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series, visit the series website at H1Unlimited.com, visit on social media on Facebook’s ‘H1Unlimited’ and Twitter ‘H1Hydroplanes’or download the ‘H1 Unlimited’ app from your app store. ABOUT THE MADISON REGATTA -- Madison Regatta Inc., is a group of volunteers whose mission is present Historic Madison, Indiana as a world-class festival of hydroplanes and music. Their 68 years of experience and traditional small town values shine in their presentation. The Regatta showcase their country, military, local groups, schools, businesses, sponsors, faith based groups, and the racing teams that travel from all over the world to entertain the fans and showcase their sponsors. The group host events throughout the week annually including, a golf scramble, beauty pageant, street dance, waterball fight and music on the river. The entire community of historic Madison, Clifty Falls State Park, and the Hanover College Campus are always a must see while you are here.