Walnut Creek's Chuck Berkeley helped pilot Cory Butner to a bronze medal Friday as World Cup bobsledding started its final push before the Sochi Games next month.
Berkeley and Butner took third in the two-man competition at Winterberg, Germany, missing the silver by 0.01 of a second.
Monterey's Nick Cunningham, ranked second in the world after the first half of the season, was 12th while top-ranked Steve Holcomb took seventh in a disappointing day for America's best drivers.
Cunningham, a former Monterey High football player and track star, didn't use his regular brakeman in Winterberg. Still, he and Justin Olsen were tied for fourth after the first run. Cunningham made a few errors in the final run to fall back in the standings.
Switzerland's Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann won the event with Alexander Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda of Russia taking the silver after a strong second run. Butner was disappointed to just miss winning a silver medal.
"It's hard not to wonder where you lost that and how you could have made up some time," he told USA Bobsledding.
Holcomb had won all seven races this season before Friday. But the Utah Olympian had never finished better than fifth in Winterberg.
"I knew coming into this race that it was going to be a challenge," Holcomb said. "I drive by feel, not by visual cues. I've always struggled here, but understanding that doesn't make it any less frustrating."
The four-man competition is scheduled for Saturday.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.