Did the Budweiser win the Columbia Cup Sunday by cutting off its opponents illegally at the first turn?
And is the sponsoring Water Follies Association left awash in debt?
Those two questions remain after a race run before a mostly mellow crowd of about 30,000 that Follies executive secretary Ken Maurer estimated was 20-30 percent smaller than last year's crowd of 40,000.
"I just don't know if we're going to make enough money to pay the bills," said Maurer.
For the third consecutive year the winning driver the checkered flag wave in the breeze and then had the rule book waved in his face.
Tom D'Eath and the Miss Budweiser won the 23rd annual Columbia Cup when written protests by drivers Chip Hanauer in the Circus Circus, Scott Pierce in the Mr. Pringle's and Larry Lauterbach in the Vantage Ultra were denied.
The race took place in 95-degree weather before a crowd of approximately 30,000. While the crowd was mostly subdued, police enforced a "zero tolerance" policy and reported a record 391 arrests for the weekend in both counties.
The controversy over the Budweiser's win came after D'Eath went into the first turn on the outside, then moved inside in front of the other boats. The drivers felt D'Eath did not leave them enough room.
"We had two referees in the helicopter and one on the inside of the course and they were all in agreement. There were two lanes left inside for the Circus Circus and the Vantage Ultra and as per our rules, there were no infractions," said chief referee Paul McKee.
"I left them plenty of room," D'Eath said.
Other than in his rear-view mirror, D'Eath didn't see much racing. He was the first to the start in both his heats and again in the final and was never behind.
"After the start, those guys were sucking Bud suds the rest of the day," D'Eath said. "I'm real proud of those starts. That's the real fun part of racing. After the starts, I'd just as soon come back to the pits. After that it was just a matter of logging laps."
Hanauer drove the Circus Circus after the Miller High Life went down in smoke during the first heat. He was unable to start in the second heat, but made a spirited run at the Miss Budweiser in his backup boat and finished three seconds back.
Mr. Pringle's was third, with Vantage Ultra fourth. The Holset/ Miss Madison driven by Ron Snyder, was fifth, followed by Mitch Evans in the SEACO Aviation Fuels.
The Miss Budweiser was extensively damaged when it hit something in the water Friday. It was trucked back to Seattle for repairs, arrived back in the pits early Sunday morning and ran flawlessly.
"The crew did everything right," D'Eath said. "This is their win. They put in 300 man-hours in 24 hours, and boat was 100 percent. They didn't just patch it, they fixed it permanently."
D'Eath, who came out of retirement to drive the Miss Budweiser when Jim Kropfeld was injured in a race earlier this year, averaged 133.426 m.p.h. in winning the final. Hanauer averaged 133.048 m.p.h.
Maurer said it will be a few days before Follies officials will know if they met their $500,000 budget.
"Nothing has changed. We need to take in that amount in one form or another to stay on top," he said.
"We only have $30,000 in reserves, and that won't take us very far," he said.
Maurer said the smaller crowd "was expected by most of us," because of the decision to ban drinking on both sides of the river outside of several beer gardens.
The smaller crowd could spell "real serious (financial) problems for us," Maurer said.