Editor’s note: There are 40 days until the APBA HAPO Gold Cup Heat 1A race 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 the Herald will take a daily look at past storylines leading up to the Gold Cup. These are in no particular order:
July 25, 1971: No fluke.
A few weeks before the Atomic Cup, Jim McCormick drove the Miss Madison to an upset victory in the Gold Cup in his hometown of Madison, Ind.
It was the stuff that movies are made of — and this one was, with Jim Caviezel starring as McCormick.
But the movie made it seem like McCormick and the Madison were a major longshot.
In reality, the Madison wasn’t that bad of a boat.
And McCormick had the weird situation in that he was driving the Miss Madison, but he was the owner of another boat, the Miss Timex.
McCormick and the Madison came into the Tri-Cities ranked second in the national high points championship standings with 4,244 points.
Only Dean Chenoweth and the Miss Budweiser were better at 4,771 points coming in.
But there were other strong contenders.
Billy Schumacher drove the Pride of Pay ‘N Pak to a course record speed of 112.996 mph in qualifying just a few days before the race.
And Bill Muncey — who just days before the final had given the Herald an interview in which he said he recently had done something that outshined any racing accomplishment he’d ever had, jamming with Guy Lombardo and his orchestra — was strong in the Atlas Van Lines.
On Sunday, Chenoweth and the Bud failed to even qualify for the five-boat final.
And in the final, Madison, Pay ‘N Pak and Atlas were all bunched together in the lead after one lap.
But the Pak went dead on the second lap, and McCormick started to pull away from Muncey.
By the time the race was finished, McCormick crossed the finish line 22 seconds ahead of Muncey.
Back then, the Atomic Cup winner was determined by who compiled the most points over the day in two preliminary heats and the final. Both McCormick and Muncey each had 1,000 points.
But based on winning the final, McCormick and the Madison were declared the winner, giving the driver a two-race win streak.
It was one of race historian Fred Farley’s favorite moments on the Columbia.
“Jim won two races in his career,” Farley said. “He had 19 podium finishes in the top three. Most of the time Jim didn’t have the greatest equipment. But he proved that it wasn’t a fluke.”