1976 Season Summary
|1||23-May||Champion Spark Plug Regatta||Miami, Florida|
|2||30-May||President's Cup||Washington, D.C.|
|3||27-Jun||A.P.B.A. Gold Cup||Detroit, Michigan|
|4||04-Jul||Indiana Governor's Cup||Madison, Indiana|
|5||11-Jul||Kentucky Governor's Cup||Owensboro, Kentucky|
|6||18-Jul||Dayton Hydroglobe||Dayton, Ohio|
|7||01-Aug||Columbia Cup||Pasco, Washington|
|8||08-Aug||Seafair Trophy||Seattle, Washington|
|9||19-Sep||Jack-in-the-Box Regatta||San Diego, California|
|23-May||Atlas Van Lines (8)||Jim Lucero||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|30-May||Olympia Beer (1)||Jerry Zuvich||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|27-Jun||Miss U.S.(6)||Ron Brown||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Allison|
|04-Jul||Atlas Van Lines (8)||Jim Lucero||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|11-Jul||Atlas Van Lines (8)||Jim Lucero||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|18-Jul||Atlas Van Lines (8)||Jim Lucero||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|01-Aug||Atlas Van Lines (8)||Jim Lucero||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|08-Aug||Miss Budweiser (8)||Tom Frankhouser||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|19-Sep||Olympia Beer (1)||Jerry Zuvich||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|Built||Boat High Points||Totals||Team Points|
|1||(1973)||Atlas Van Lines (8)||9750||(1)|
|6||(1973)||Sunny Jim (3)||3844||(8-1669)|
|8||(1976)||Miss Vernors (2)||1734||(7)|
|9||(1963)||Ms. Management & Business Seminar||1482||(9)|
|10||(1967)||Miss Van's P-X (1)||750||(10)|
|14||(1962)||Oh Boy Oberto||338||(14)|
|17||(1976)||Miss O'Neil & Knudsen||DNQ||—|
|Driver High Points|
|13||Jack Schafer Jr.|
The Fan Plan featured a winner-take-all final heat. After running three Fan Plans in 1974, this format was not featured at any regatta in 1975. Abruptly then the U.R.C. decided to adopt a winner-take-all final for all races in 1976. The decision was prompted by Network Television - CBS - that thought this format for determining a winner would be more appealing to their viewers.
Unlike the Fan Plan the new approach would involve a draw for the elimination heat positions. The boats would be kept honest in the preliminaries as these points would count for the National Championship along with the final. Moreover prize money would be determined by total points.
In a dramatic development Pay'n Pak owner Dave Heerensperger sold his entire operation to Bill Muncey, who carried with him the Atlas Van Lines sponsorship. Muncey was able to handle the purchase through a bank loan encouraged by a five year Atlas commitment to Unlimited Hydroplane Racing. Atlas Van Lines had dropped the Schoeniths and authorized Muncey to get them into a competitive situation. Schoenith for his part had sold his team to Gene Benning who ran the Just-A-Pest III in 1974.
Both Muncey and Benning were getting crews along with their purchase. Muncey's new crew was headed by Jim Lucero and Benning's by Bill Cantrell.
Miss Budweiser returned with a new hull 1200 lbs. lighter than last year's boat, which came unglued at several events during 1975. Owner Bernie Little replaced Mickey Remund with his 1974 driver Howie Benns, who drove sparingly in 1975 after breaking both of his legs in a motorcycle accident in 1974.
Weisfields divested themselves of their boat, which was bought by representative owner Leslie Rosenberg and crew chief Jerry Zuvich. Olympia Beer was secured as a sponsor and Billy Schumacher returned to the cockpit. Miss U.S. was back with 1975 driver Tom D'Eath retaining his seat for 1976.
At the opening regatta at Miami in the final heat top contenders Miss Budweiser and Olympia Beer were washed down and in due course Atlas Van Lines sped away from the Miss U.S. to give Atlas and Bill Muncey their first victory in four years. Miss Budweiser had the fastest qualification and competition lap, but had the above referenced engine trouble in the championship heat. Due to the rough water out in the bay, the hydros ran a 1-2/3 mile course within the Marine Stadium horseshoe.
Only five of the seven boat field at Miami ventured north to Washington, D.C. for the President's Cup. Miss U.S. did not make the trip. Olympia Beer and Atlas Van Lines traded victories in the first two unsectioned heats, but in the final Olympia defeated Atlas by a large margin.
Miss Budweiser established herself as a solid favorite to win the Gold Cup championship heat in the three preliminaries. She had defeated both Atlas Van Lines and Olympia Beer twice. Heading into the final Atlas Van Lines however had the fastest lap by 5 m.p.h.
Miss U.S. had defeated no one of importance in the elimination heats. Olympia Beer had stove in her sponson in heat 3-A and did not attempt to run the final.
Miss Budweiser eliminated herself in the first running of the last heat by corkscrewing thus throwing her driver into the water.
Only the Atlas Van Lines and Miss U.S. were left to contest the Gold Cup - Atlas had been the victor in a preliminary heat.
Nevertheless Miss U.S. got inside of Atlas Van Lines at the start of the re-run of the championship encounter. This was essential as Atlas had speed on her. Miss U.S. and Atlas dueled for about four laps and then U.S. was away to give owner George Simon his first Gold Cup in 21 tries since 1953.
Going down to Madison Atlas Van Lines and Miss U.S. were expected to renew their Gold Cup Championship heat duel as Miss Budweiser and Olympia Beer were on the sidelines for repairs. The new Les Staudacher Miss Vernors had run with the Miss U.S. for several laps of heat 3-A at Detroit and was a possible contender.
Seven of the 10 entries in the Gold Cup made it down to Madison. The 1975 Atlas Van Lines run at Detroit as Myr Sheet Metal became a substitute for the damaged Olympia Beer. The old U-95-Sunny Jim at Detroit-became the substitute Miss Budweiser. Billy Schumacher drove the stand in Olympia. Howie Benns had broken his leg at Detroit thus leasor Pete La Rock's driver Tom Sheehy occupied the Budweiser cockpit.
In the Indiana Governor's Cup Miss Vernors showed an ability to dice with Atlas albeit briefly in the preliminaries so she joined Atlas and Miss U.S. as possible final heat winners. Miss U.S. did not run in heat 2-B. Some thought she did this since she didn't need the points to make the championship heat.
Miss U.S. could stay with Atlas Van Lines for only about a lap and then the Bill Muncey entry was gone to win the Madison Regatta. Miss U.S. ran well on the long course at Detroit, but seemed to lose something on a 2½-mile course which was run at Madison.
More of the same was expected at the next race in Owensboro and the pundits were right. Atlas Van Lines got the inside at the start of the final heat and after a first lap battle with Miss U.S. moved away for another easy win.
It was now apparent that only the return of the first string Miss Budweiser and Olympia Beer could stop Atlas Van Lines. Olympia Beer returned at Dayton. Miss Vernors had shown a potential to run with Atlas Van Lines based on her lap times at the previous event at Madison having bested Miss U.S. for a couple of laps. However the Vernors could not keep it together for an extended period of time.
After the Dayton preliminary heats Atlas Van Lines, Olympia Beer and Miss Vernors qualified for the front row in the final heat. The other two finalists would run as trailers. Atlas Van Lines apparently had 5 m.p.h. on the field.
Olympia Beer gave Atlas a tough battle almost to the end of the championship heat, but blew her engine before the finish line.
It was like old times for Bill Muncey as he had his third straight win.
Miss Budweiser returned to the tour at the Tri-Cities driven by 1975 chauffeur Mickey Remund who had replaced the now disabled Howie Benns, who had replaced him after last season. Curiously Remund had not been brought in to pilot the substitute U-95 Miss Budweiser.
At the Tri-Cities Miss Budweiser beat both Atlas Van Lines and Olympia Beer in the elimination heats. Olympia put up a good fight, Atlas Van Lines didn't. Approaching the final Budweiser had 119 m.p.h. Olympia Beer 118 and Atlas-Van Lines 117.
In the championship heat of the now Columbia Cup Miss Budweiser got off to a good lead turning a record 124 m.p.h. lap and then experienced engine trouble. Atlas Van Lines moved into first place having won her duel with Olympia Beer. From here on Atlas was never headed giving Muncey his fourth straight trophy.
Atlas Van Lines could run a 121 m.p.h. lap and live. Budweiser could run 124 and die. Olympia Beer could only turn 118, which equaled her best lap of 1975.
At the following race in Seattle Miss Budweiser led Atlas Van Lines in heat 1-B, but blew her engine allowing the Bill Muncey entry to prevail. Miss Budweiser then defeated Miss U.S. in heat 2-B without any mechanical failure. Atlas Van Lines followed Miss Vernors for a lap and then took heat 2-A. Miss U.S. and Olympia Beer were not in the contest.
In the championship heat Atlas Van Lines went dead in the water and Miss Budweiser was away to give Bernie Little his first win of 1976. Miss U.S. was not a close second.
Atlas Van Lines had clinched the High Point Championship after the Tri-Cities race. However the question as to who was the faster over a relevant distance between Atlas and Budweiser was still up in the air.
Budweiser and Atlas traded heat wins in the preliminary heats at San Diego although Miss Budweiser appeared to be the slightly faster entry. Olympia Beer and Miss U.S. were again about 5 m.p.h. behind the leaders.
In the final heat Miss Budweiser got off to a bad start and Atlas Van Lines won by a clear margin. However she was ruled to have jumped the gun. Olympia Beer was the next boat across the finish line having won her duel with Miss U.S. before the latter went dead. Olympia Beer had faltered in the last lap and came close to being nipped at the line by a charging Miss Budweiser.
Miss Budweiser did a lap at the Tri-Cities of 124 m.p.h., but as indicated couldn't last at that speed. She could last at 120 m.p.h. however. Atlas Van Lines did a lap of 121 m.p.h. at the Tri-Cities and matched that lap at San Diego both without mechanical failure. Buttressed by her five wins - six counting the technicality at San Diego - in nine races and the above statistics Atlas was clearly the Boat of the Year. Budweiser had their first string boat at six races and won once-only going three heats one time at San Diego.
At season's end Olympia Beer was rated at 118 m.p.h. as in 1975. Miss Vernors was next at 116 m.p.h. Miss U.S. turned 114.7 for her best lap of 1976. In 1975 she did 120.160 and blew. Her best lap in completing a heat that year was 115.380.
[Statistics and comments from Greene, V.2]