Nick Cunningham of Monterey had his best result of the season in a new sled Saturday, finishing 12th in a four-man World Cup bobsled race at Winterberg, Germany.

Cunningham and crew Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn and Dallas Robinson rode the Century 21 sled to the top American finish, missing a medal by 0.67 of a second.

The former Monterey High track star has emerged as one of the world's top two-man pilots heading into the Sochi Games next month. But Cunningham, 28, also is working toward an Olympic berth in the four-man competition.

After a poor start to the season he switched to the "Night Train" sled teammate Steve Holcomb drove to a gold medal in Vancouver four years ago.

"I'm very happy with the way my crew pushed today and believe we made huge gains in confidence headed into the next few races," Cunningham said in an e-mail from Germany. "We know the push is there and we are in one of the best sleds in the world. It now just comes down to my driving and piecing it all together.

"I'm pleased that its one of our better finishes but we still have a long way to go."

Holcomb was in position to medal Saturday after a blistering first run put him in second place. But during the second run he crashed on curve nine -- the same place that he and Cunningham crashed during training runs earlier in the week. That left the Park City Olympian in 20th.

Californian Cory Butner also rolled his sled on the tricky curve in the first heat and finished 25th with brakeman Chuck Berkeley of Walnut Creek among his crew.

"Corner nine has always been an interesting corner because there's not a lot of variance in finding the right line," U.S. coach Brian Shimer said in a statement. "You have to be on the right line or you'll go over, and finding that spot is tough when you've only had two training runs in four-man."

German Maximilian Arndt won with a combined time of 1 minute 49.97 seconds on his home track with fellow German driver Francesco Friedrich taking second and Russian Alexander Zubkov finishing third.

"Everyone has a hiccup in their season, and ours is coming now," Shimer said.

The Americans have another four-man competition in Winterberg on Sunday.

"Winterberg has always been a tough place for the Americans to come in a do well," Cunningham said.

While Cunningham is looking to improve Sunday, he said the main priority is ensure the United States qualifies three crews for the Sochi Games. Only three countries can earn three spots, and it appears Germany and Canada will get two of them. The teams have three World Cup races left to determine Olympic qualification.

Cunningham said it will come down to the United States and Russia to win the third spot.

"We have made that the goal for four years and will work as a team to make this happen," he said.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.