Aug. 2, 1976: Bill Muncey wins Columbia Cup

July 24, 2008 

Put the winningest driver into a boat with the most victories in unlimited hydroplane racing and you have a combination that was too much for the field Sunday in the Columbia Cup.

Bill Muncey of La Mesa, Calif., was the big winner for the $6,000 first-place money and driver Tom D'Eath the big loser as the latter was suspended for the season.

However, a spokesman for the Miss U.S. said that Tom D'Eath would be permitted to drive in Seattle this week.

Referee Bill Newton left for Seattle early this morning and was unavailable for comment.

Racing commissioner Buddy Byers, contacted in Columbus, Ohio, said the matter is under review. Byers said he will arrive in Seattle Thursday at which time the situation will be considered.

It is Byers who must make the final decision on the suspension Newton issued Sunday.

Muncey drove the Atlas Van Lines to its fifth victory of the season in a controversy-filled afternoon of racing on the Columbia River.

Trailing Mickey Remund in Miss Budweiser by 400 yards in the championship heat, the Atlas moved into first when Miss Bud faltered on the third lap and quit altogether at the start of the fifth and final lap.

The Atlas Van Lines set a course record of 116.249 m.p.h. for a 12 1/2-mile heat. The former mark of 113.564 m.p.h. was set by Lief Borgerson driving the turbine powered U-95 in 1974.

A failure in the alcohol-water cooling system caused the Miss Bud engine to overheat.

Second went to Bill Schumacher of Seattle in Olympia Beer. Ron Snyder driving Miss Lynwood, alias Miss Madison finished third while Bob Miller in Vagabond was fourth.

Rain held the crowd down to estimated 30,000, some 10,000 less than last year. It fell in the morning during qualifying time but while the overcast skies appeared threatening there was no rain during racing.

It was Muncey's 38th career victory and the 21st win for the U-76 hull (the former Pay 'N Pak) both all-time highs in the sport.

The win extended Muncey's lead in the national point standings and all but clinched the national driving championship, a title he's won four times. Atlas now has 8,025 points; Olympia Beer 5,346; Miss U.S. 5,100; Miss Budweiser 4,602; Miss Lynwood 3,778; Ms. Everett 1,894; Vernors 1,448; Vagabond 1,257; Sunny Jim 844; Probe 694; Columbia Clipper Such Crust 450; Spirit of Dayton 300.

Nearly overshadowing Muncey's triumph was the argument over the start of heat 1-B that led to the suspension of D'Eath, driver of the Miss U.S.

Referee Bill Newton said he suspended D'Eath for "conduct tending to bring racing into disrepute and for questioning my integrity."

The action stemmed from D'Eath's vigorous protests following a start that, because of faulty communications between timers in the pit area and on the official barge, caused four boats to start nearly a lap behind Schumacher in the Olympia.

"Four of us made a perfect start but then there was a second start for the Olympia," a bitter D'Eath maintained after the heat.

"Oly didn't start with us," agreed Tom Sheehy, driver of Sunny Jim.

Causing the problem was a lapse of six minutes after the firing of the five-minute gun before the start of the race.

As the Miss U.S., Lynwood, Sunny Jim and Columbia Clipper sped toward the starting line, Schumacher saw the yellow caution flag still flying, cut into the infield and circled back to make a legal start.

"The tower officially starts a race and if the others don't pay attention to flags I feel sorry for them," Schumacher said after being declared the winner.

D'Eath then withdrew the Miss U.S. from heat 2-A in protest. He was joined by his brother, Roger, driver of the Ms. Everett.

Muncey took matters in his own hand and jumped into the driver's seat with three minutes to the gun and drove the Ms. Everett in heat 2-B.

The veteran driver later explained his action, ruled a legal maneuver, was taken "for the good of the sport."

Miss Budweiser, making its first start after sustaining severe damage at the Detroit race, was impressive in scoring victories over Atlas in heat 1-A and the Olympia in heat 2-B.

No time was available for the running of heat 1-A because of a malfunction in the timing system. Miss Bud, however, set a course lap record of 119.840 in averaging 115.090 m.p.h., the fastest heat of the afternoon.

Sheehy suffered a broken nose and face cuts when the Sunny Jim was cut off by an unidentified driver in the final heat, the only mishap of the afternoon.

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