There weren't many of the big boys left around when it came time for the championship heat in the fifth running of the Atomic Cup race for unlimited hydroplanes yesterday afternoon.
With the two co-favorites on the sidelines, it opened the door for the underdogs on the tour to shine and Tommy Fults took the opportunity right in stride.
"Fults, driving the second string" Lil Buzzard for the Pay 'N Pak camp, stormed to first-place finishes in his first two outings and cruised home second in the final heat for an easy Atomic Cup victory.
Lil Buzzard ended up with 1,100 points and the $5,875 first prize. Notre Dame, with Leif Borgersen behind the wheel, won the final heat in addition to taking an earlier heat to finish second overall.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Favored Miss Budweiser and driver Dean Chenoweth met with some ill fortune during the first section of the race when the boat hooked coming out of the east turn. Chenoweth was pitched into the water, but fortunately suffered only a slightly sprained arm and was released from the hospital after an examination.
The Budweiser, winner of two races on the tour this year, sank in 15 feet of water. It was pulled up from the bottom of the river last night, revealing a badly-damaged front end, ripped open by the crash.
National point - leader Myr's Sheet Metal, driven by Bill Muncey, also was on the beach during the finals after going dead in the water in the second heat.
The afternoon belonged to Fults, who won the rerun of Heat 1-C in a breeze over Miss Owensboro in a two-boat field, then came back for an easy triumph over Fascination in another two-boat session in Heat 2-A.
Lil Buzzard grabbed the lead out of the first turn in the final heat, but was overtaken on the west turn by Notre Dame. When Fults took his boat wide on the turn, Borgersen moved into the inside to take the lead, which he never relinquished.
Fults, realizing that he needed only to finish the race to win the Atomic Cup, pushed Notre Dame for three laps, but then slacked off and was content with second place to insure the overall championship.
Notre Dame captured the opening heat after a battle with Myr's in the only other heat of the afternoon that amounted to much.
Muncey, who lead-footed the Myr's to the top lap time of day at 107.399 mph in Heat 1-A, held the lead for one lap before Borgersen cut inside on the east turn and went in front on the backstretch of lap No. 2.
The Shamrock Lady led the rest of the way, fighting off a series of challenges from Myr's, to win the heat with the top average speed of the afternoon at 104.651 mph, while Muncey was second with an average time of 103.806.
Pride of Pay 'N Pak, the radical rear-engine job powered by Chrysler automotive motors, walked away with Heat 1-B after Parco's O'Ring Miss, driven by Billy Schumacher, went dead coming out of the west turn after leading for four laps.
With Ron Larsen in the saddle, Pay 'N Pak also streaked out in front on the back chute of the second heat, only to conk out on the next turn and end its racing for the day.
After Myr's and Pay 'N Pak both went dead in Heat 2-B, Terry Sterett drove his Miss Owensboro into first place and pulled away from two others to win going away.
The accident by Chenoweth in the Budweiser was the first in the five-year history of the Atomic Cup and marked the first time that a race here ever had to be stopped.
The unlimiteds now will have two weeks off before the Seafair Race Aug. 2 at Seattle. Only remaining race after Seafair is the Gold Cup on Sept. 20 at San Diego.