KENNEWICK -- As Dave Villwock sat next to his motorhome in Lampson Pits on Thursday, just starting to recount his 2010 APBA Gold Cup victory in Detroit a few weeks ago, here came Chip Hanauer, walking on by and pulling a cooler.
Villwock pointed at Hanauer and said "There is the master of the Gold Cup."
Hanauer, long retired, has a record 11 Gold Cup victories. Villwock just won his eighth.
But Villwock says a Gold Cup win and 50 cents might get him a cup of cheap coffee when it comes to this weekend's 45th running of the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup on the Columbia River.
Never miss a local story.
"Last week was last week," said Villwock, who drives the U-96 Spirit of Qatar (formerly the U-16 Miss Elam Plus). "It doesn't matter if you've won one Gold Cup or eight Gold Cups. This is a big, fast course. But this river throws some bad water (in the first turn). If you're not careful, you could end your race earlier rather than later."
It all begins today with testing at 9:30 a.m., qualifying at 12:15 and 3:45 p.m., and the dog and pony show that is known as the Dash for Cash at 5:10 p.m.
There will be two preliminary heats of racing Saturday and four more Sunday, with the Columbia Cup final set for 4:40 p.m. Sunday.
Villwock will be joined by 11 other sets of race teams and drivers.
This is the third of five scheduled races this season for H1 Unlimited, and the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto and driver Steve David -- the two-time defending national champions and Columbia Cup champions -- come into this weekend leading the standings again.
In fact, it has shaped up into a three-boat race. The Oberto/David combination has 3,305 points, followed by Qatar/Villwock at 3,107 and the U-7 Graham Trucking and J. Michael Kelly at 2,800.
The next closest team, the U-21 Miss Albert Lee Appliance and Brian Perkins pair, is a distant fourth at 1,641.
Not present is the U-3 Go3Racing team, owned by Ed Cooper and the circuit's only piston-powered boat.
Cooper pulled his boat out of the first race in Madison, Ind., earlier this month -- and essentially for the rest of the season -- when H1 Unlimited chairman Sam Cole cut down the amount of qualifying time. Cooper said he was tired of H1 officials not following the rulebook.
The Columbia River course is 2 1/2-miles long and has been described by drivers as a superspeedway -- the equivalent of Taladega in NASCAR.
"This is a cakewalk compared to the other courses," said Nate Brown, driver of the U-17 Miss Red Dot.
To a degree, of course.
And Brown and the other veteran drivers know you need the right gears-to-propellers ratio setup on race day to be successful -- especially with the water turning into an ocean in the first turn.
"In Detroit, you're going 196 mph in the straightaways and then about 127 in the turns," David said. "Here, you're in the 190s, but you take the turns in the mid-140s. There are equidistant turns, 1200-foot turns. This one is really a top-end course. But you need the right props and the right gearing."
Which is what Villwock said his team will work on today and Saturday. They'd even give up being the fastest qualifier in order to get the raceboat setup correct.
"We do not want to make any mistakes, and just try to get through this weekend clean," said Villwock. "These boats are like a woman. You give them what they want, and they'll be nice to you."