Editor’s note: There are 46 days until the APBA HAPO Gold Cup Heat 1A race takes place on the Columbia River. At the same time, the Tri-City Water Follies’ annual event is celebrating its 50th year of racing unlimited hydroplanes. So the Herald will take a daily look at past storylines leading up to the Gold Cup. These are in no particular order:
July 31, 1983: Upset special.
Of all the surprises on the Columbia River these past 49 years of racing, the 1983 Columbia Cup was one of the biggest.
American Speedy Printing driver Jack Schafer Jr. wasn’t a favorite to win this race.
That honor went to Chip Hanauer in the Atlas Van Lines, and Jim Kropfeld in the Miss Budweiser.
Hanauer had set a world record for qualifying on a 2-mile course on Friday, taking the Atlas out for a lap of 131.387 mph.
This was after Kropfeld had set the mark earlier that day.
As for the points standings, Kropfeld and the Bud led Hanauer and the Atlas by a mere 200 points coming into the Tri-Cities.
It was the year after Dean Chenoweth had died on the Columbia, and Kropfeld was Bud owner Bernie Little’s new driver and was dominating the circuit.
It was also a big reason that the course had been shortened from the 2.5-mile course to the 2-mile setup.
In addition, Tri-Cities fans had a special place in their hearts with the Miss Renault and driver Milner Irvin. The team had named the Tri-Cities as its home port.
Meanwhile, Schafer’s boat was sixth-fastest in qualifying on Friday, but jumped up the ladder to fourth on Saturday.
On race day, Schafer picked up a fourth-place finish and then a third in the team’s preliminary heats. But it was enough to get the team into the final.
And in the final heat, things fell into place for Schafer and American Speedy Printing owner Bob Taylor.
As drivers jockeyed for position at the start, Kropfeld was late to the line.
As he came flying up, Schafer moved over into his lane, legally, and washed Kropfeld down.
Kropfeld, disoriented, recovered, but he was already a half lap down.
Hanauer battled with Schafer for a lap until his engine broke a wheel case.
Schafer went on to the upset victory, winning the first-place money of $11,900, while Kropfeld rallied the Bud to a second-place finish.
The Executone and driver George Johnson was the only other team to finish the race and placed third.
Schafer’s victory marked the third consecutive year there was an upset on the river.
It was also the only time either he or Taylor ever won on the Columbia.