1968 Atomic Cup
Eagle Electric Has a Perfect Day
By Bud Livesley Times Sports Writer
TRI-CITIES — What does it take to make a winner of an unlimited hydroplane that last season was 18th in the final point standings?
"Good crew coordination — and Jack Cochrane," said a beaming Warner Gardner. He just had dethroned Billy Schumacher and the Miss Bardahl as the Atomic Cup champion on the Columbia River.
It drew a throng of 60,000 sun-and-hydro worshipers to the Columbia Basin yesterday. (The sponsoring Tri-City Water Follies Association estimated that the 13,569 autos checked through admission gates averaged more than four persons a car.)
Modestly, Gardner quickly gave credit for the victory to a couple of young Spokane mechanics, Cochran and Roger Clark.
"They," Gardner said, "transformed the Miss Eagle Electric from an also-ran to a winner. Jack, our crew chief, personally re-built five Rolls Royce engines during the winter and spring.
Dave Heerensperger, the young Spokane electrical contractor who purchased a winless $ Bill from Bill Schuyler after the Gold Cup race in Seattle last August, spread his compliments further. They included, of course, bouquets for the former Air Force Colonel from Bay City, Mich., who drove the screaming Eagle to its second triumph of the season.
Gardner put together a splendid three-heat sweep and managed, for a second time, to run the Bardahl out of an engine. It virtually was a duplication of Gardner's performance in the season's opener last month in Guntersville, Ala.
The crusty veteran — of six campaigns with three different racing camps — won with a "hot" boat provided by his crew. He won the blue-chip final when he and Schumacher both carried 800 points into the decisive six-lapper.
Heerensperger lured Gardner away from Jim Herrington and the Miss Lapeer camp and Cochran from Bob Fendler.
Today it's on to Seattle and the August 4 World Championship Regatta for the pride of the Inland Empire and the 11 challengers she turned back yesterday.
Eagle Electric picked up $4,500.
Of the field that started — Parco's O-Ring Miss, Savair's Mist, Gale's Roostertail. My Gypsy and Harrah's Club — only McCormick made a legal start. Four other boats had to take a penalty lap — and a stiffer penalty was slapped on the Gypsy's owner. Jim Ranger. He protested too loudly and too vigorously that his rookie driver, Tommy Fults, did not jump the gun and that the My Gypsy had won.
Bill Newton, referee, fined Ranger $200 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It was a bad day all around for Ranger, 1966 rookie driver of the year. Fults spun out on the first turn of heat 1C and the boat was damaged enough that it wasn't repaired in time and had to be withdrawn from heat 2A. The Gypsy finished with zero points, as did Seattle's Bob Gilliam, who qualified for his first race of the season only a couple of hours before the first heat.
Gardner, on the other hand, had a perfect 1,200 points, followed by Miss Budweiser, with 925; Notre Dame, with 869; Bardahl, 800, and Atlas Van Lines, 750. These were the finalists and they put on a dandy climax to the third annual Tri-Cities Water Show.
"I've never gone faster," said Bill Sterett, Bernie Little's new driver for a new Bud.
"I was with them at the start," Schumacher said. "but Warner and Bill had too much speed for me. I froze a cylinder in a new engine and just couldn't run with them."
The Bud and the Eagle ran quickly. Sterett said he was hitting 168 miles an hour as he led the pack into the first corner. This position he held until overtaken by Gardner at the other end of the course. The Eagle was a front-runner for the rest of the race.
The Bardahl stayed close until blowing holes in its engine on the second lap.
But Jerry Zuvich, Bardahl crew chief, neither sought nor offered excuses. Why should he? The Bardahl, the 1967 Gold Cup and national high-point champion, has finished 33 of its past 35 starts. In winning heats 1B and 2B, the Bardahl was a runaway winner over the Smirnoff and the Harrah's Club.
In the first go-round, Schumacher averaged 105.592 miles an hour to 94.971 for runner-up Smirnoff. McCormick made it a bit closer to Schumacher in heat 2B — but not much. Bardahl aver-aged 101.427 to 97.932 for Harrah's Club.
Little, who won his first race here two years ago, came close yesterday but a penalty lap in 2C damaged the cause. Sterett finished second behind Jack Regas in the Notre Dame but was required to go an extra 2½ miles for demolishing a buoy and finished third behind Jerry Schoenith in Gale's Roostertail.
A faulty fuel-pump booster almost ruined the day for Gardner.
After turning in the day's fastest heat (106.635) and winning heat 1C, the Eagle almost didn't make it to the finish line in 2A. Gardner had to hand-operate the booster on his fuel pump, managed to hold off the Atlas, but mostly because Bob Miller was unable to take advantage of the Eagle's ailment. The low-flying Eagle averaged under 96 m.p.h. for the final four laps, but Miller, after picking up ground in the chute, gave it back with sweeping turns.
At the end, Miller was only about 20 feet shy of knocking off Gardner. For that heat, the Eagle averaged 96.222 with the Atlas close at 95.744.
For the final heat, the Gardner-Cochran combo was back in business. It was no contest after the first lap, with the Eagle romping to a 105.882 average to a giving-ground 100.896 for the Bud.
You can be certain there will be several crew chiefs watching Cochran's every move next month in Seattle.
And the next move is for a big bundle — the winner's share of $35,000, the world title and the point leader-ship toward the national championship.
|FINAL POINT STANDINGS|
|Miss Eagle Electric||1,200|
|Atlas Van Lines||750|
|Parco's O-Ring Miss||300|
1-A — Miss Budweiser, 101.508; Parco's O-Ring, 99.557; Atlas Van Lines, 94.77; Savair's Mist, 89.108.
1-B — Miss Bardahl, 105.592; Smirnoff, 94.971; Harrah's Club, 92.276; Fascination, DNF.
1-C — Eagle Electric, 1115.635; Notre Dame, 98.504; Gale's Roostertail, 91.308; My Gypsy, DNF.
2-A — Eagle Electric, 96.222; Atlas Van Lines, 95.744; Savair's Mist, 89.800; My Gypsy, DNF.
2-B — Miss Bardahl, 101.427; Harrah's Club, 97.932; Smirnoff, 94.175; Parco's O-Ring, DNF.
2-C — Notre Dame, 104.976; Gale's Roostertail, 91.185; Budweiser, 85.227 (completed extra lap because it struck buoy).
Eagle Electric, 105.882 miles an hour; Miss Budweiser, 100.896; Atlas Van Lines, 96.463; Notre Dame, 94.339; Miss Bardahl, did not finish.
* * *
Harrah's Club and Jim McCormick also were winners yesterday in a hectic Mira Slovak Trophy consolation race that carried not a penny of the $15,000 prize money awarded for the Atomic Cup.
Mira Slovak Trophy Race
Harrah's Club, 96.497
My Gypsy 83.643
Gale's Roostertail, 79.318
Savair's Mist, 78.374
Parco's O-Ring Miss, DNF
(Reprinted from the Seattle Times, July 22, 1968)