1969 Season Summary
|1.||June 8||Dixie Cup||Guntersville, Alabama|
|2.||June 15||Kentucky Governor's Cup||Owensboro, Kentucky|
|3.||June 29||U.I.M. World Championship||Detroit, Michigan|
|4.||July 6||Indiana Governor's Cup||Madison, Indiana|
|5.||July 20||Atomic Cup||Pasco, Washington|
|6.||August 3||Seafair Trophy||Seattle, Washington|
|7.||September 28||APBA Gold Cup||San Diego, California|
|6/8||Miss Budweiser (6)||George McKernan||Ed Karelsen||Ed Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|6/15||Miss Budweiser (6)||George McKernan||Ed Karelsen||Ed Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|6/29||Miss U.S. (3)||Dave Seefeldt||Les Staudacher||Les Staudacher||Rolls Merlin|
|7/6||Myr's Special||Jim Kerth||Cantrell-Brantsner||Bill Cantrell||Rolls Merlin|
|7/20||Myr's Special||Jim Kerth||Cantrell-Brantsner||Bill Cantrell||Rolls Merlin|
|8/3||Miss Budweiser (6)||George McKernan||Ed Karelsen||Ed Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|9/28||Miss Budweiser (6)||George McKernan||Ed Karelsen||Ed Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|Built||Boat High Points||Total||Team Points|
|1.||(1968)||Miss Budweiser (6)||6775||(1)|
|3.||(1967)||Miss U.S. (3)||5150||(3)|
|4.||(1969)||Notre Dame (8)||4482||(4)|
|5.||(1957)||Atlas Van Lines (3)||3978||(5)|
|6.||(1960)||Miss Madison (2)||2625||(6)|
|7.||(1961)||San Diego Mist||2240||(8)|
|8.||(1969)||Pay'n Pak (1)||1484||(7-2284)|
|10.||(1967)||Miss Bardahl (5)||1396||(10)|
|12.||(1969)||Pay'n Pak (2)||800|
|13.||(1967)||Parco's O-Ring Miss||620||(12)|
|17.||(1962)||Miss Budweiser II||000|
|Driver High Points||Total|
In the off season Unlimited Racing lost four of its race sites and three of its top 10 racing teams including defending National High Point and Gold Cup champion Miss Bardahl. Bardahl had won the Gold Cup and High Points in five of the last six years, so clearly a new era was about to dawn.
The reason for the retirement was basically that Bardahl had sold its marketing rights to a Los Angeles firm that was less than enthralled with Bardahl's hydro racing activities in promoting its product and rather wanted to pour its sports advertising budget into car racing. Thus the promised twin auto powered cabover was not built and the two time National and Gold Cup champion was retired.
Harrah's Club and My Gypsy had also joined Miss Bardahl in retirement and the firmament was changed even further by Dave Heerensperger of Eagle Electric (now Pay'N Pak) going with a new radical hull resembling the jet Miss Stars & Stripes which cracked up in a test. In contrast Atlas Van Lines abandoned their skateboard hull and brought the former Wayfarer's Club Lady out of mothballs to represent them. Notre Dame had a new Karelsen to be driven by Leif Borgersen not yet proven to be a worthy successor to the retired Jack Regas.
The Schoeniths lost Smirnoff as a sponsor and replaced them with the Myr Sheet Metal Company. The last Smirnoff, their attempt at a safe hull, was also heavy and relatively slow and was revised by Bill Cantrell over the winter including a weight reduction program of 1000 lbs. The Schoeniths had not won a race since 1964.
Miss Budweiser was by far the fastest boat in the fleet.
Based on her 1967 performance and not 1968, Miss U.S. could potentially run with her. However Miss Budweiser completed only two of 10 events without a mechanical failure in 1968. Miss U.S. was similarly inconsistent in 1967 and therefore the field was more or less wide open for 1969.
A new rule was put in place in 1969. Instead of point ties being resolved by elapsed time, they would now be determined by final heat finish. This meant that there was little advantage to to entering the final heat with 800 points unless there was a high point deficit that needed to be rectified. Consequently a first heat winner could conceivably dog it in her second heat.
Miss Budweiser, Miss U.S. and Myr's Special were within two m.p.h. of each other in regard to competition lap times, but Miss Budweiser swept all three heats to win the Dixie Cup. Myr's Special also had 800 points heading into the final, but could manage only a third in this heat.
The next weekend the boats converged on Owensboro, Kentucky for the first time. Miss U.S. had the fastest lap and heat, nevertheless she was defeated by Miss Budweiser. Budweiser spun out in her first heat, but came back in her next two forays to capture the Kentucky Governor's Cup. Miss U.S. had a chance to win having accumulated 700 points in the preliminary heats, however she got off to a bad start in the final losing her chance. Myr's Special defeated Miss U.S. in heat 1-B before going dead in the final heat.
The new Notre Dame amazed the hydro fraternity by turning 120.535 m.p.h. during the qualification period preceding the World's Championship at Detroit. Only the Miss U.S. 5 at 120.9 and Miss Bardahl 120.8 before last year's September Gold Cup went faster. Notre Dame tied Miss Exide's fast lap in 1965 in compiling a 120 m.p.h. three lap average. However during the competition the Shirley McDonald entry's lap times put her six m.p.h. off the pace.
As the preliminary heats progressed in the World's Championship it became apparent that 105-106 m.p.h. would be all that would be needed to take the regatta.and as a result Miss Budweiser, Miss U.S., Myr's Special and incredibly Miss Schweppes all had a chance to take the trophy. Schweppes was the 1965,1968 Gale's Roostertail that ran as Smirnoff in 1966-67. After four seasons the hull had become at least an apparent front runner.
Miss U.S. took an easy victory in heat 1-C and then cooled it in heat 2-B to enter the final heat with the required 700 points. Miss U.S. got out in front leading for the first two laps. Then her chief combatants Myr's Special and Miss Schweppes together went dead in the water in the third lap. This gave the Miss U.S. a chip shot to give owner George Simon his second consecutive World Championship. Driver Bill Muncey did not miss the chip shot.
Miss Budweiser was running second to Miss Schweppes when she spun out and went dead in heat 1-B. Tommy Fults, Pay'N Pak driver, took over for Bud chauffeur Bill Sterett in heat 2-A and could not get by Miss Scheppes either.
Madison, Indiana was next on the schedule and unfortunately the Miss Schweppes did not participate. This left Miss Budweiser, Miss U.S. and Myr's Special as contenders. All three entered the final heat with a chance to win. However Budweiser had beaten Myr's Special who had defeated Miss U.S. in the preliminary heats.
Myr's Special and Miss U.S. were close at the end of the first lap of the Madison final, but then the Schoenith entry expanded her advantage to beat Miss U.S. over the finish line by 8 seconds. Miss Budweiser had mechanical trouble.
The hydros then headed to Tri-Cities, Washington for the Atomic Cup. Miss Budweiser was again out of the running placing third behind Notre Dame and Myr's Special in heat 1-A before having further trouble in heat 2-A. Notre Dame and Atlas Van Lines joined Miss U.S. and Myr's Special as contenders during the course of the competition. Jim McCormick had replaced Earl Wham as Atlas driver which dramatically improved her performance.
Notre Dame got the best of Myr's Special and Miss Budweiser in heat 1-A. Then she beat Budweiser again in heat 2-A although jumping the gun in this heat to compile 700 points before the moment of truth in the third heat of the day. Atlas Van Lines lost to Miss U.S. in heat 1-B, but beat Myr in 2-B to also compile 700 points She had the fastest lap heading into the final heat. Fortunately for Myr's Special at 600 points, nobody had scored 800 points.
Both Atlas Van Lines and Notre Dame came a cropper in the initial lap of heat three. Atlas Van Lines went dead and Notre Dame went up on its side. Myr's Special thereafter had an easy time of it as a chastened Notre Dame declined to challenge.
Ole Bardahl had retired from the sport, nevertheless he attended the Tri-Cities Regatta. Ole was miffed when fellow Seattleite Bob Gilliam was slighted at the Atomic Cup and thereafter decided to reenter the hydro wars. He had two week's to prepare for Seattle. Perhaps for this reason Bardahl driver Billy Schumacher stayed on the beach. His replacement was Fred Alter.
Miss Bardahl easily defeated Atlas Van Lines twice in her first two heats to head into Seattle's final heat with 800 points and the fastest lap thus far giving her a 1-1/2 m.p.h. advantage over the field. Miss Budweiser also had 800 points by virtue of Miss U.S. jumping the gun in heat 1-B. Miss U.S., Notre Dame and Atlas Van Lines had speed, but were too far down in points to be in contention. Myr's Special was also fast nevertheless she was out of the final due to a DNF in heat 2-B.
Miss Budweiser started the last heat inside with the Miss Bardahl outside. However the Miss Bardahl was close behind the first place Miss Budweiser running up the first backstretch. Then Bardahl's engine went south and the Bernie Little entry was away for the win ending a three race drought. Atlas Van Lines and Miss U.S. followed in order.
As a result of the Seafair Regatta, Miss Bardahl (113.9), Miss Budweiser (111.5), Notre Dame (110.2), Myr's Special (110.0), and Atlas Van Lines (109.9) were all with 4 m.p.h. of each other. Tri-Cities added Miss U.S. to the field of front runners as she did a competition lap of 109.756 on a 2½ mile course in comparison to Atlas Van Lines at 110.2 and Notre Dame 108.4. Of these six chargers three had won races. In addition Pay'N Pak, another front running team, was replacing their radical outrigger hull with a copy of the immediately prior Miss Budweiser for the Gold Cup.
Adding to the excitement was a three way battle for the National High Point Championship that would be resolved at San Diego. Miss Budweiser led the chase with 5375 points. Myr's Special was next at 5150 with Miss U.S. having 4925.
Notre Dame did a lap of 116.883 m.p.h. on San Diego's 2½ mile course during the qualifying period. This broke the record by 4 m.p.h. and was three m.p.h. faster than any other entry in the Gold Cup. The lap translates to nearly 122 m.p.h. on a three mile course arguably making the present Notre Dame the fastest boat in history.
Notre Dame won heat 1-B over Atlas Van Lines and Myr's Special, but failed in the next two heats and missed the final heat. Miss U.S. placed third in heat 1-A and was unable to make a start the rest of the day. Miss Bardahl was watered down in heat 1-A, finished second in heat 2-B, and then blew her supercharger in heat 3-A to also miss the final heat.
The new Pay'N Pak had won two heats during the day having defeated Miss U.S. and Miss Budweiser in heat 1-A and even though failing in heat 2-A still had a chance to win the regatta if Miss Budweiser went down in the final heat - not an unlikey prospect since five of the seven hot boats had experienced mechanical failure. Myr's Special, another contender scheduled for the fourth heat,was back in the pack in heat 1-B, won 2-A and then expired in 3-B after leading the first lap.and had no chance given her point score. Atlas Van Lines like Budweiser had finished all her preliminaries, however she could not rise above second place and was 275 points behind Budweiser.
Miss Budweiser entered the determining heat with 1100 points being defeated by only Pay'N Pak in the elimination heats. With five starters in the final, she needed only a fifth to win and give Bernie Little his first Gold Cup. Instead she got second behind Myr's Special and not only gave owner Bernie Little his first Gold Cup, but also his first National High Point Championship.
* * *
Bernie Little started racing in 1963 and inspired guffaws on some occasions that first year. Undaunted, the Florida sportsman acquired the ex-Maverick -- 1959 Gold Cup and High Point Champion -- for 1964 and also a full Budweiser sponsorship. In reality the ex-Maverick was a notorious hooker spinning out 5 times in 1959, twice in 1961 before doing her dance four times in 1964.
After the first Budweiser lost a sponson in her last spin out, Little went back to his four seater which had run as Tempo in 1963. Unlike 1964 Budweiser was not even close to being a contender. Little apparently solved his problems by agreeing to purchase the three time Gold Cup and National High Point Miss Bardahl after the 1965 season. Little was jilted when Ole Bardahl decided to keep his champion in case his new, radical hull did not work out in 1966.
Landing on his feet, Little might have improved upon his Bardahl purchase by buying Miss Exide from the Stoen Brothers. With the Exide came her crew and driver who had won four races in three years. Assuredly driver Ron Musson and crew chief Leo Vanden Berg would stay with Bardahl.
This became a crucial factor when the new Miss Budweiser was destroyed in her second race. Bernie Little purchased a new Miss Budweiser from Les Staudacher and went on to take two of six races with the hull. If points could have been transferred that year, Budweiser would have been down only 381 points to Tahoe Miss and unlike the Tahoe missed one event on the circuit.
More trouble was ahead for Little as his new hull cracked up in her first race of 1967 forcing him to run a hull that had been discarded by Shirley McDonald. With rookie Mike Thomas in the cockpit the hull progressed to the point that she won her fifth event of the season at Kelowna. Nevertheless the hull was significantly slower than the Karelsen Miss Bardahl, so Bernie Little purchased a virtual copy from Karelsen.
Unfortunately the promising rookie Mike Thomas died in the off-season in a non boating accident and Chrylser Crew's Bill Sterett was hired. The new Karelsen Miss Budweiser had mechanical troubles in 1968 before taking the final race of the season at Phoenix in impressive fashion.
Now Miss Budweiser and Bill Sterett have won 4 of the seven races in 1969 including the Gold Cup and National Championship.
Bernie Little should be congratulated for his skill and determination.
[Statistics and comments from Greene, V.2]