1976 Columbia Cup
Muncey Sets Hydro Record
By Chuck Ashmun, Times Staff Reporter
TRI-CITIES — Respect for elders is not passé in the unlimited-hydroplane family.
Bill Muncey, the George Blanda of boat racing, was commanding a great deal of respect around, the Columbia Park pit area today as the holder of a new national qualifying record.
The 20-year veteran, who at age 47 is more than twice as old as the youngest driver here for the Columbia Cup race, whipped around the choppy Columbia River course at 126.582 miles an hour yesterday to top first-day qualifiers for Sunday’s regatta.
"Older folks do some things better," Muncey said with a smile after his last-minute record run some-what tarnished an exceptional day of time trials by the rebuilt Miss Budweiser.
Only a few minutes remained for boats to attempt qualifying runs when Muncey hopped into the Atlas cockpit and went out after the record.
"The boat was really running good the first time out; that’s why we decided to get right back out and go for it," he said.
By the time he had the record tucked away, the clock had run out on Billy Schumacher. Schumacher was sitting in his boat at dockside, ready to take to the course, when regatta officials notified the Olympia Beer driver the day’s testing was over.
"One-twenty-six doesn’t surprise me," Schumacher said after hearing about Muncey’s feat. "I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody got that up between 127 and 130 before the week is out."
Does that mean Schumacher will shoot for the record?
"I don’t know if Jerry will let me," the Seattle driver said, motioning toward Jerry Zuvich, co-owner and crew chief. "We’ve got three different propellers to try, some adjusting to do on the carburetor . . . Two engines are race-ready. I just don’t know if we’ll have time for me to use another engine to try for the record.
"To tell you the truth, I was very surprised at our own speed," added Schumacher.
The Oly averaged 122.951 m.p.h. in its best lap around the wide-turned course. "The fastest I did was 155 on the straightaways, and I know the boat will do 170," said Schumacher.
"He might be able to do 130 here," said Muncey. "I’d really be impressed to see him do it. I hope he does."
The only other qualifier yesterday was Miss Budweiser, at 125.000 m.p.h.
Promoters have been attempting to cook up a Muncey-Schumacher rivalry here, getting a spark from Schumacher’s comments to a luncheon gathering earlier in the week.
"Muncey gave me a good water bath at Dayton, and I believe in repaying those debts," Billy was quoted as saying.
When Atlas left the Olympia in its wake at the Dayton, Ohio, regatta, Muncey was en route to win No. 37 of an illustrious career that appears nowhere near reaching its end.
Yesterday’s record-breaking run was just one of many for the former Seattleite who now lives in La Mesa, Calif.
The previous Tri-Cities and national record for a 2½-mile qualifying lap, set here in 1973 by Mickey Remund in the Pay ‘n Pak, was 124.654 m.p.h.
Ironically, Muncey’s marks were in the same boat — he purchased the Pak from David Heerensperger last winter and changed the name.
Remund, now driving the Miss Budweiser, had several laps over 120 m.p.h. yesterday, including the top one at 125.
Those times were exceptionally quick, considering Remund and the Bud both were getting "baptismal" trips.
The Bud has been out of the water, undergoing repairs, since it crashed and sank in the Detroit Gold Cup regatta. Remund is replacing Howie Benns, who was injured in that accident. Mickey has not driven in a race this season.
"I spent the past four months telling myself I was not missing this, but I guess I really was," Remund said, stroking his newly bearded chin.
"Sometimes things out there scare me, but what’s fear and what’s a thrill go hand in hand. Sometimes I’ll hit a bump and go flying and hold my breath; but an instant later I’ll think, ‘Hey, that was really neat’."
That’s sort of how Mr. Muncey (remember, respect for elders) felt today.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, July 30, 1976)