Chip Hanauer isn't about to let a race that didn't happen overshadow the one that did.
It would have been better, he said, if the Miss Budweiser had been in the field.
But that takes nothing away from the fact that on Sunday Hanauer drove the turbine-powered Miller American to a win in the 21st Columbia Cup before approximately 50,000 fans, his third victory of the 1986 season.
It was also the third consecutive victory for Hanauer on the Columbia River, having won the Gold Cup in the Atlas Van Lines in 1984 and the Columbia Cup in the Miller American in 1985. He also won the Columbia Cup in the Squire Shop in 1981.
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Just when it appeared that a classic confrontation between the two turbine boats was about to take place, a faulty fuel solenoid valve valued at about $25 made a no-show of the Miss Bud.
Instead of a meeting between the winners of the first two heats, the crowd got the Miller American vs. The Squire Shop, a brief encounter but one still full of controversy.
Tom D'Eath, who announced this week that he would retire after next week's race in Seattle, got the Squire across the starting line first, a skill he has been known for throughout his 29-year racing career.
However, by the first turn, the Miller American had pulled almost even and the two boats nearly collided.
The Miller American pulled into the lead on the back stretch and as they came out of turn four the two boats again almost made contact.
The two boats went deck to deck halfway down the straight away before the Miller American's superior speed enabled it to pull away and win.
Steve Reynolds in the Miss 7-Eleven finished in third place.
"We didn't have any heating problems, but the boat doesn't have the power it should. I just wish were running as well as we were last year. We were going faster than the speeds that are winning this year," Reynolds said.
A dejected Jim Kropfeld accepted the mechanical failure with a shrug. "We were ready," he said. "It would have the fastest two boats anybody has ever seen if we could have raced. We lost some ground in the point standings but that just makes it fun for the drivers. It's tough on the owners, but I can't help that."
For Miss Budweiser owner Bernie Little, it was another in a long string of frustrations he's experienced in the Tri-Cities. "We haven't been able to win since 1978. We have a lot of fans here and sponsor the race so it's a big disappointment," he said.
Both the Miss Budweiser and Miller American won their preliminary heats in impressive fashion.
The Miller American had a top speed of 136.013 m.p.h. and an average of 123.873 in winning heat 1A. The Miller American averaged 125.253 in winning Heat 2B.
Miss Budweiser won Heat 1B averaging 121.832. In Heat 2B the Budweiser ran a 138.953 lap on the way to winning with an average of 123.442.