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Graham ends speculation by introducing new H1 Unlimited team

Rob Graham buys T-6 from Ted Porter, keeps driver J. Michael Kelly

SEATTLE, Wash. – Rob Graham today ended months of rumor-mill speculation by confirming that he has purchased one of Ted Porter’s unlimited hydroplanes and will begin his involvement in unlimited hydroplane racing as a team owner after more than two decades as a sponsor in the sport.

Team Graham Trucking, which will run the final Miss Budweiser (known as “T-6”) with the familiar red paint scheme, will make its debut June 2 at the Spring Training Test Session in Kennewick, Wash.

Graham purchased the T-6 (U-5) unlimited hydroplane, a trailer, hauler and all equipment needed to run the T-6 from Ted Porter. This winter, the team tore the boat down to the frame and rebuilt most of the hull, including new materials and hardware.

The team is based in Milton, Wash.

Graham also announced that the 2016 Gold Cup winning team will stay mostly intact, particularly the team members from Washington state. Tom Anderson will continue as crew chief, while former U-7 crew chief John Walcker will also serve on the crew. Other familiar names staying with the team include Jim Bakke, Brooke Tyler IV, Bryan Pyziak, Jerry Bowers, Kevin Stoltz, Sandy Pearl, Brian Hajny and Corey Peabody.

Of course, Graham added, J. Michael Kelly will return to the cockpit for the fourth consecutive season.

“I believe Mike to be the best-unlimited hydroplane driver in the sport, he was our driver in 2004 as a rookie in the U-2 boat and got more out of the boat than anyone else had. He’s been winning races consistently since getting the faster boat so he’s my guy,” Graham said. “As for the rest of the team, it became clear that the only way to keep this outstanding team together was for me to take it over. That’s why I purchased the T-6 and all the equipment that goes with it.”

Graham, owner, and president of Seattle’s Graham Trucking, Inc., sponsored Porter’s team from 2009 when J. Michael Kelly won the Inaugural Oryx Cup/UIM World Championship in Doha, Qatar through the 2016 H1 Unlimited season.

The (T-6 former U-5) Hull is the last hull built by Bernie Little and the Miss Budweiser team at Hydroplanes, Inc.

“Twelve is the sum of five and seven, so it pays homage to the entire history of the hull,” Graham said. His racing operation is formally known as U12 Racing LLC.

Graham Trucking sponsorships date back to 1987 when he sponsored Jerry Hopp’s limited Hydroplanes. Graham followed Hopp through many of the limited boat classes including the unlimited light class in 1995 and introduced Graham to many of the Unlimited owners he would eventually sponsor.

Graham’s history in the sport is deep and famous – particularly in Seattle, where Graham Trucking has, for the past twenty years, hosted VIPs and employees in their hospitality area just inside the pits at Seafair. He’s been a long-time sponsor of various unlimited hydroplanes and has been the title sponsor of the Graham Trucking Cup at Seafair, which has featured everything from Unlimited Lights hydroplanes to Grand Prix West hydroplanes, as well as the Formula 1 boats that have raced as a part of the Seafair race card for the last several years.

More information about the team can be found online at

Paying Tribute to Ted Porter and the Porter Family

Over more than a decade as an owner in the sport, Porter’s team accumulated more wins than any other start-up team in its first 10 years.

Porter’s success, and influence, in H1 Unlimited over the last 11 years hasn’t been lost on Graham, who was a continuous title sponsor for the Porter team since 2009.

“I am convinced Ted Porter’s contributions to the sport are expansive,” Graham said. “For all of his time in the sport, his team was very competitive. He always had the best drivers, the best crew members and the best presence at race sites.

“The sport will find itself missing Ted Porter,” Graham added.

Here’s part of the reason why: In his 11 years as an owner, Porter accomplished the following:

  • 18 race wins
  • 5 UIM World Championships in six years
  • 2 H1 Unlimited National Championships
  • 1 Gold Cup
  • Numerous podium finishes


As the owner of three unlimited hydroplanes in running condition, Porter also was frequently helpful to race sites and H1 Unlimited, as he would often run three boats to help fill fields at various race sites when boat counts were low.

The 2013 season may have been Porter’s signature season when the team won four of seven races including the World Championship in Doha and closing out the season with three straight wins in Seattle, Coeur d’Alene, and San Diego to clinch the national title.

“Ted Porter set a very high standard for his team, and that started when he dove in as an owner and purchased the last two Miss Budweiser’s ever built,” Graham said. “His contributions to the sport are second-to-none and he should be recognized for that.

“It will be one of our goals to uphold those standards and drive even higher.”

“My philosophy has always been that success only comes after planning and preparation,” Graham said. “Success is never guaranteed but without planning and preparation, failure is.”


Rob Graham founded Graham Trucking in 1983 and was a driver, mechanic, billing clerk and dispatcher until he had purchased enough trucks and hired enough drivers to support a staff. Based at the time at terminal 115 in south Seattle, Graham was primarily focused on the Alaska barge trade. Graham Trucking was one of the early pioneers of heavy containerized cargo and built many of their own super chassis to accommodate these heavy ocean containers. Graham now has one of the largest super chassis fleets for its port and barge division. They also have refrigerated and flatbed divisions dedicated to “local” short haul for perishables, seafood, and construction.

– U12 Racing –

Welcome to U-12 Racing LLC/Graham Trucking Racing formerly U-5/Team Porter Racing. We are excited that you’ve chosen to visit us to find out more about our team and our boat. We are proud to be the five-time UIM World Champion — including four in a row — and the 2006 and 2013 National High Points Champion and the Winner of the 2016 100th Anniversary Gold Cup! Over the last five seasons, our team has won 14 races, which is more than any other team in the sport over that same span. We have also won five of the last six – and four in a row – at the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship in Doha, Qatar. In each of the last three years, our team has won six races on the H1 Unlimited Series. Better yet, more than half of our 16 total race wins have come since late July 2012 when we won our first Lamb Weston Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities of southeastern Washington State.

In February 2013, we started the season in Doha, Qatar where we celebrated Qatar’s National Sports Day by winning the 2013 UIM World Championship. We finished the season by winning three consecutive races — in Seattle, Coeur d’Alene and San Diego. We also had podium finishes in Sacramento and Tri-Cities during the 2013 season, marking top three finishes in all but one race during the season. In 2014, we won four of the six races, including the last three in a row, and our fourth consecutive Oryx Cup UIM World Championship in Doha.


J. MICHAEL KELLY IS THE two-time defending champion of Seafair’s Albert Lee Cup, but both wins were clouded by controversy. In 2014, his Graham Trucking boat was out of Lake Washington long before judges decided not to penalize him for pushing another boat out of his way. One year later he benefitted from a one-minute penalty slapped on Jimmy Shane, who’d bumped Kelly on the way to crossing the finish line first. This year the 37-year-old Bonney Lake native would like to take the cup on August 7 without having to wait for a decision. Because when you’re used to driving 200 miles an hour, sitting around can be a real drag. —Matthew Halverson

The J is short for Jeffrey. I’m a junior, so growing up it was easier to call me Mike. When I started racing, my dad just wrote down “J. Michael” on an entry form one day, and it kind of stuck ever since.

I’m a third-generation racer. My grandfather and my great uncles all started racing a long time ago. I remember going to Green Lake when I was probably three or four, sitting in a lawn chair on the beach and watching my dad race. I was always excited to get up early in the morning, get in the van, hook up the trailer, and head to the boat races.

I got to race a boat for the first time when I turned nine. I was running what they call a J-Stock hydroplane. I think my top speed was around 25 miles an hour. I’d watched races from the shoreline, so I knew exactly what you had to do. But once I got in the boat, it all kind of left me. It was scary at first.

What I run now is an unlimited hydroplane. You’ve got a five-point harness, you’ve got an air mask and are on full-time air, and you hit speeds up to 200 miles per hour on the water. Mine runs two 57-turbine helicopter engines for power, and they put out about 3,000 horsepower.

You’re out there getting bounced around, and the g-forces that you take going through the corners are extreme. I mean, you go into turns and you’re basically getting slammed to the right and trying to hold your head up. It takes a lot of work to get those things around the racecourse. By the time you get out of there, you’re physically drained.

You have to stay focused because there’s no room for error. You’ve got a split second to make a decision and go where you need to go. Because if you don’t, bad things can happen. When you’re going that fast, things happen really quick.

My worst accident was 1999 in Bakersfield, California. I was racing in a class that’s called C-Stock hydro. They run speeds up to about 65, 70 miles an hour. I ended up kind of blowing over, but I landed right side up, facing the oncoming boats. And I got run over by another boat, head on. I ended up getting my hand cut up, and I got hit hard enough that it tore my liver. They had to medi-fly me out of there.

I thought my name was Steve when I got to the hospital. A couple of the other competitors had gone by to see if I was okay, and I remember looking at the boats thinking, “Why am I in the water, and what are those things?” So these things I’d grown up my whole life watching, I didn’t even know what they were.

I’ll spend hours throughout the race day sitting in the truck and going over timing marks. Before the race starts, I’ll come up with three or four different options for where I need to be on the course at a certain time to get myself in the best position I can. Sometimes I’ll have to go with Plan C because where I wanted to be, there’s already a boat.

When Jimmy bumped me last year, it was a pretty good jolt. It hooked the boat to the left, and then I had to fight it from hitting the buoys. It was pretty violent. It doesn’t really look like it, because the boats are 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and weigh 6,500 pounds. They take quite a bit. But I definitely felt it and lost a ton of momentum when that happened.

Sometimes drivers butt heads, but we still get along. Last weekend I raced against Jimmy Shane in the smaller inboard classes over in Richland, and we ran deck to deck. Afterward we were staying at the same hotel and took the kids down to the pool and let them swim together. You have to be able to do that or you’re not going to enjoy the racing as much.

I have a day job. I’m a finish carpenter. Back in the early ’90s, Chip -Hanauer, Dave Villwock, and those guys, they did this for a living. They were making a lot of money. Over time, though, we’ve lost some race sites. Like last year, we only had five races. It takes a lot of effort to put on these events.

I have three boys. I have a stepson who’s 17, and then I’ve got a seven-year-old and a newborn. My seven-year-old is all about going to the boat races. He gets to meet a lot of the fans too. When we go to do autograph sessions, he pulls up a chair and climbs right in there and wants to sign autographs too. He’s already itching to get a boat and go racing. I keep on telling him he has to wait two more years, and he’s like, “I can do it now.”

The first step to winning is getting a good start.

This article appeared in the August 2016 issue of Seattle Met.