Hydro Racing

July 28, 1980: Muncey's gamble snaps Bud's streak

Driver Bill Muncey in the Atlas Van Lines hydroplane decided not to wait until next year, but the new turbine-powered Pay 'N Pak is going to have to.

Muncey, who is planning to build a new boat for next year's races, pushed his present Atlas Van Lines to the limit Sunday in the winner-take-all final to win the Columbia Cup.

This victory ended the five-race winning streak of Dean Chenoweth in the previously undefeated Miss Budweiser.

Saying he thought someone was watching out for him, Muncey, the sport's all-time leading driver, threaded his way around the edge of disaster as he ran the 12 1/2-mile championship heat in the world record time of 128.571 m.p.h. before 35,000 spectators.

Rookie driver John Walters was less fortunate. Driving the new Pay 'N Pak at a speed of approximately 160 m.p.h. in a test run at 10:40 a.m. prior to the race Sunday the boat did a spectacular 2 1/2 somersault flip and crashed upside down on its right sponson into the water.

Walters, 27, Renton, was thrown from the boat just as it hit the water. He was rushed to Kennewick General Hospital where he is listed in stable condition today with a broken left hip socket, sprains and generalized soreness.

The innovative Pay 'N Pak, which is owned by Dave Heerensperger of Seattle, sustained damage estimated at $30,000.

Heerensperger said the boat would not be raced again this year but added he was encouraged by the mechanical performance of the boat.

The spectacular flip of the Pay 'N Pak, which took off like a jet plane from a runway, all but obscured other Columbia Cup activities leading up to the championship final. Mishaps and breakdowns during the first two heats made them a study of frustration for the participants and boredom for spectators.

Muncey's performance in the final heat, possibly the finest of a career that shows a record 58 victories, changed that.

"I was prepared to do anything to get out in front. You have to be willing to perform at world record level, to go right to the ragged edge, to be in contention with a boat like the Bud," he explained.

Taking the inside track in a surprise move, Muncey timed his start perfectly and took the lead with Chenoweth and the Miss Budweiser in second.

Coming into the first turn of the third lap the Atlas appeared certain to flip as the right sponson rose perilously high to a point where the boat looked perpendicular to the water, hung there for an agonizing second, then settled back down under control.

"It went beyond anything I've ever experienced," Muncey said. "I wasn't sure I would be able to get that sled back in attitude.

"The sponson was out of the water, the rudder was out of the water and the prop was out of the water - nothing was in the water.

"The truth is I've always felt someone was watching, and I need watching more than most folks."

The loss for Miss Budweiser snapped a five-race win streak and a skein of 20 consecutive heat victories after the beer boat had won its' two earlier heats Sunday.

Third went to Dr. Toyota, driven by E. Milner Irvin, Bob Maschmedt in Miss Tempus was fourth and Steve Lacava was fifth in the Oh Boy Oberto. Don Campbell Food Service failed to finish.

"It was just one of those things, we just had a sour engine," said Chenoweth. "I knew I was in trouble when we came to the starting line and hit the gas and things just went blah. There was oil streaming out behind me but I ran as hard as we could. We were lucky to finish the race."

It was another afternoon of frustration for Steve Reynolds in the Circus Circus and Chip Hanauer in the Squire Shop.

Hanauer couldn't get the Squire on a plane before Heat 1A, and then running with an engine borrowed from the Circus in Heat 2A, threw a prop causing the boat to almost sink.

Circus Circus was leading when it went dead in the water in heat 1B on the fourth lap. In 2B Circus went dead just as it crossed the starting line.

In five heats of racing eight of the 25 entrants failed to finish while another five were unable to make the start.

The Miss Budweiser accounted for a world record with a lap time of 130.624. Atlas, however, bettered that mark with a lap of 133.730 m.p.h. in the championship heat.