Editor’s note: There are 10 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 20, 1969: Six stars and the moon.
Unlimited hydroplane historian Fred Farley once called this one of the greatest days ever on the Columbia River.
Six heats, six winners.
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Dean Chenoweth in the Myr’s Special took the checkered flag.
But the best part was between the heats, as KONA radio piped in the live broadcast of the astronauts of Apollo 11 landing on the moon.
The crowd on both sides of the river roared.
Dean Mitchell, who owned the radio station then, recalled it vividly in 2005.
“It happened in between heats,” Mitchell said. “At the same time, I had a guy at the station play The Star-Spangled Banner. People stood up, and they were all singing. The Pasco people had their radios on and were singing.”
Thanks to replays, fans were able to go home after the race and watch the moon landing themselves.
As for the race, Myr’s Special and Notre Dame, driven by Leif Borgersen, both finished with 1,000 points for three heats.
In 1969, you had to finish the day with the most compiled points to win the Atomic Cup.
But the win by Myr’s in the final heat provided the margin of victory.
Notre Dame and Atlas Van Lines, driven by Jim McCormick, were the point leaders (each with 700) heading into the final heat. Myr’s had 600.
Chenoweth jockeyed to the inside lane at the start and led across the starting line, with Notre Dame, Atlas and Pay ’N Pak in hot pursuit.
Atlas blew an engine in the first turn and was finished for the day.
Myr’s churned through the corner first and ahead of the rest of the pack.
By the time the rest of the field had gotten through the turn, Chenoweth had a sizable lead and held on for the victory.