Editor’s note: There are 50 days until the APBA HAPO Gold Cup 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 starting Saturday, the Herald will take a look at some of the past storylines daily, leading up to the Gold Cup. These are in no particular order:
July 19, 1970, Atomic Cup: Bud tosses Chenoweth when boat hooks in the water.
A year after Dean Chenoweth won the Atomic Cup in a boat called Myr’s Special, he made his debut in Bernie Little’s Miss Budweiser.
After five races in the 1970 season, Chenoweth and the Bud were ranked No. 2 in the points standings.
But it all went down the tubes as Chenoweth drove in Heat 1C.
As Chenoweth entered the east end turn, a roller wave caught his right sponson, sending the left side of the boat up into the air.
When the boat came down, the propeller hit the water and lurched forward.
There were no enclosed cockpits in 1970, and when the boat lurched forward, Chenoweth was launched out of the cockpit and went flying through the air.
The boat, meanwhile, sank.
Chenoweth suffered just a few minor bruises.
But the boat was in shambles, and the Budweiser team couldn’t recover that season, losing out on a chance for the national championship.
“Normally you expect something like this on rough water,” Bud crewman Howard Lichtenwalter told the Herald at the time. “But the water just wasn’t choppy enough for something like that to happen.”
That’s what most fans will remember.
The national points leader at the time was Myr’s Sheet Metal and driver Bill Muncey.
But Muncey couldn’t make the final heat after the boat died in the second heat of the day and didn’t have enough points for the final.
Teams only got two cracks in preliminary heats to qualify for the final of the one-day event.
Meanwhile, the Pay ’N Pak Lil’ Buzzard, with driver Tommy Fults and owned by Dave Heerensperger, won the Atomic Cup title.
Back then, the champion was determined by how many points over the race that a driver compiled.
Fults had already won his two preliminary heats.
Fults knew he had the championship wrapped up, so he didn’t push the Lil’ Buzzard in the final.
“We were pretty certain that if we could finish the heat, we could win the race,” Fults said at the time. “The closest to us in the standings was the Miss Owensboro, and the way she had been running, there was a good chance that boat wouldn’t be able to finish.”
Leif Borgersen drove the Notre Dame to the win in the final, while Fults coasted to a second-place finish and the overall crown.
It was a big day for Heerensperger, who considered Fults and the Lil’ Buzzard his second unit.
Ron Larsen drove the main Pay ’N Pak boat to a sixth-place finish.
Overall, though, it was a rough day for the entire 11-boat field.
Six times, a boat died while out on the race course. Four other times, a boat wasn’t able to start its race. Thus, the estimated 50,000 fans on the river never got any close, deck-to-deck racing all day.
For the team’s efforts, first-place prize money was $5,875.