A reluctant Tom D'Eath braved high winds and rough water to drive the Squire Shop to its second straight Columbia Cup victory Sunday on the Columbia River.
D'Eath twice signaled thumbs down on running the championship final after taking two practice laps, but was overruled by Referee Lee Schoenith and the three other drivers in the heat. The Atlas Van Lines and the Pay 'N Pak qualified for the fan plan championship final but were unable to start.
"These boats are meant to be raced at top speed and under the atrocious conditions at the time, there was no way anyone could go all out," D'Eath said of his recommendation not to run. "However, the referee makes the decisions and he saw things differently. It's tough enough running against the competition and it's asking too much, I think when you have to also consider the elements."
Winds at the time were estimated at 20 to 25 miles per hour and whitecaps marked both ends of the course. Once the race started the Squire Shop sped to an easy victory over the Executone. Kenney Toyota was third and Miss Tempus was fourth. The Squire Shop averaged 110.348 m.p.h. over the 2 1/2 mile course in the championship heat.
Never miss a local story.
The victory by D'Eath, who earlier this season won the Governor's Cup in Madison, Ind., vaulted the Squire Shop into first place in the national point standings. The 1,100 points the Squire earned Sunday brought its season total to 3,444. Atlas, which picked up only 225 points, is second with 3,350. The Miss Budweiser slipped to third with 3,338.
The Miss Budweiser was unable to race because of the crash Saturday that claimed the life of driver Dean Chenoweth.
"This is the first time for both Bob Steil, as an owner, and myself, as a driver, to be in first place. It's really a comeback story, I think, for both of us," said Dean D'Eath of the Squire's top spot in the national point total.
Appropriately enough, the Squire's day started with controversial restart of Heat 1-B. The Kenney Toyota crossed the starting line first but appeared to cut off the Pay 'N Pak in the first turn. The Pak lost its engine cowling in the washdown and the referee, seeing the equipment go into the water, halted the race.
"We got cut off by Kenney but the referee didn't see it that way. It's a judgment call so there's nothing that can be done," said Pak owner Dave Heerensperger.
The Pak, however, was granted a 15-minute extension to repair damage sustained in the mishap. That, in turn, prompted protests from other owners and drivers who felt the Pak wasn't entitled to an extension.
In the restart the Kenney Toyota and Atlas crossed the starting line before the gun and were penalized a lap as the Pay 'N Pak breezed to an easy win followed by the Squire Shop.
The low point of an afternoon, filled with mechanical breakdowns, rough water and false starts was Heat 1-B in which things approached the ultimate of hydroplane zero when only the Squire Shop was running after the first lap. D'Eath was given the checkered flag after only three laps.
"That's no way to lose a race," said a disgusted Chip Hanauer, driver of the Atlas Van Lines, in the pit area after the race. "You have to remember when you have such golden moments as winning the Gold Cup that there'll also be days such as this. I don't know what the reason was we couldn't get started but we'll be ready for Seafair next week."
Heerensperger was equally disconsolate. "These are the two races - Seattle and the Tri-Cities - that I care about. It doesn't do any good to go out and run 195 miles an hour when you're not racing. You have to get up on a plane and we're not doing it. We may have to rechannel our efforts," he said.
It was a day, obviously, for survivors, and the leader in that department was easily Chuck Hickling's U-17 Miss Tempus driven by Jack Shafer. While the hot boats were breaking down, the Tempus completed every lap it started, 22 in all, and was the winner of the Water Follies Trophy in the consolation race.
Competition, to say the least, was at a minimum but D'Eath put it proper perspective when he noted, "We would have like to raced the leaders, but taking the checkered flag anytime is great."