1970 Seafair Trophy Race
Incredible Journey Ends In Seafair Win For Miss Budweiser
By Bill Knight, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Miss Budweiser was staggering at the finish. And despite a bad case of hiccups as she claimed the victory, the boat that represents the king of beers reigned as queen of the unlimited hydroplane fleet in the 1970 Seafair Trophy race on Lake Washington.
On a grey, sullen day, the Budweiser completed an incredible journey that started two weeks earlier from the bottom of the Columbia River at Pasco.
Dean Chenoweth, the Bud driver who was hospitalized when the boat nosed in and flipped in the Tri-Cities Atomic Cup, returned to the cockpit to steer the defending national champion to its comeback conquest.
"Nobody thought it was possible," a jubilant Budweiser owner Bernie Little said later. "But here we are."
Sheer survival made the difference and at one stage of the dramatic final heat it appeared as if the Budweiser success story was to end in crushing disappointment.
The boat actually went dead on the backstretch of the second lap and a groan went up from the Budweiser crew back on the beach, the gang of grease monkeys which had worked night and day to repair the craft in time to enter the Seattle race.
But Chenoweth got it restarted and finished a sputtering fourth to take it all with 969 points.
It barely overshadowed the Cinderella bid by rookie driver George Henley in Burien Lady who ended up second overall with 825. Notre Dame, struck down again by mechanical ailments, won the final heat but had to settle for third with 800 points.
For the favored Bill Muncey and Myr Sheet Metal, it was a day of disaster. Muncey started the afternoon by being penalized for cutting off Miss Madison, driven by Jim McCormick, on the first turn and finished the day, more than six hours later, by drawing a $200 fine from race officials. Myr owner Lee Schoenith was fined the same amount for the way they protested the first heat ruling.
Before the day was out, Muncey had seen his 719-point lead in the national standings shrink to 27 ahead of Budweiser. Notre Dame is only 256 back with only the Gold Cup in San Diego left on the 1970 circuit.
Still the hardluck performer of the day was Tommy Fults and the Lil Buzzard, who actually turned in the fastest heat effort of the entire race -- 108.433 miles per hour -- in the consolation race.
Fults won his first heat with ease but couldn't make it to the starting line for heat 2-B when a short in the engine tripped a valve and the motor and blower were flooded.
In the final heat Leif Borgersen and Notre Dame easily led wire to wire. It was the racing back in the pack which was decisive.
Miss Madison was second with Burien Lady third, Budweiser next and Miss Owensboro and Van's P-X trailing on the first lap. Then Bud went dead temporarily on the backstretch of the second turn of the course. Owensboro, running fourth with Billy Sterett driving, coasted to a halt just after the end of the third lap.
On the backstretch of the fourth lap, Burien Lady passed Madison and held on for second behind Notre Dame.
The duel between Budweiser and Notre Dame in Heat 1-C ended abruptly on the third lap. Miss Bud grabbed the lead and when Borgersen tried to cut inside on the north turn, the Notre Dame's engine blew, spewing oil on the windshield.
Budweiser made it two straight heat wins in 2-A for 800 points as Muncey and Myr sputtered to a stop. Owensboro won 2-B to make it into the finals with 700 points after Lil Buzzard wouldn't start.
And Notre Dame showed why she was considered the fastest hydro afloat in 2-C, winning handily. But after crossing the finish line the boat burst into flames in the south turn. Borgersen got the engine changed and won the last heat.
Chenoweth, who didn't climb back into the boat for a test drive until two days before the race, obviously had put the Atomic Cup mishap far in the background after the Seafair victory.
"I've forgotten we ever went to Pasco," he grinned. "The boat's as strong as it ever was. I wanted to go out and charge as hard as I could and forget that the accident ever happened."
Burien driver Henley was elated over his surprise finish: "You know if the Bud hadn't restarted on that last heat we'd have won it."
But the Bud did -- and won.
(Reprinted from the Miss Budweiser Information Souvenir Magazine 1971)