1977 APBA Gold Cup
Gold Record For Muncey
By Bill Knight P-I Sports Writer
TRI-CITIES — Bill Muncey, sometimes brash and occasionally humble, became an unlimited hydroplane legend yesterday in the scorching sun of this Eastern Washington desert settlement.
In what ranks as perhaps the most historic achievement in the history of the sport, Muncey won his sixth Gold Cup. It surpassed the feat of five straight Gold Cup victories by Gar Wood nearly 60 years ago (1917-21).
The only thing more awesome than Muncey’s accomplishment was the way he did it, which was nothing less than sheer perfection. It was Rod Carew, O.J. Simpson and Jack Nicklaus behind the wheel of a roaring hydroplane.
On the way to the winner’s circle, Muncey won all four heats for 1600 points and smashed heat and lap Gold Cup records and did it all with apparent consummate ease. If he was even slightly threatened, it wasn’t obvious to the huge crowd of upward of 50,000 which lined the banks of the Columbia River.
Now 48 but showing no hint he might retire, Muncey said his sixth Gold Cup conquest "certainly is the pinnacle of my career. But it’s not the ultimate because you never know, I may win again."
It took a superb performance by Muncey and the Atlas Van Lines boat — a new, innovative hull designed by Atlas crew chief Jim Lucero — to overshadow an incredible comeback effort by the Miss Budweiser.
As driver Mickey Remund said later: "From the bottom of the river to second place in 36 hours ain’t all that bad."
The Miss Bud, which sank in front of the pit floats Friday after being seriously damaged when a prop broke in a test run, arrived back on the shores of the Columbia shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday.
The Miss Bud was taken to a repair shop in Seattle where a crew of about 16 workmen labored through a marathon session to overhaul the boat.
"The whole crew’s had two hours sleep since Thursday night," said a weary Tom Frankhouser, the Budweiser crew chief.
And while both Remund and owner Bernie Little felt the Miss Bud would go faster next weekend in Seattle’s Seafair race, the soft-spoken Remund praised Muncey’s performance and said bluntly:
"I’m not sure it would have made any difference today."
Muncey, whose victory was the 43rd of his career — more than any other hydroplane driver — came roaring through the field in the middle of the course at the start of the final heat and was in command throughout. He added to his lead with each lap of the 2½-mile course.
Remund was second and the improving Jerry Bangs in The Squire came on for third, followed by rookie Jon Peddie in Barney Armstrong’s Machine, the former Miss Madison.
The other two boats in the winner-take-all final heat, Pete LaRock’s and the Anheuser Busch Natural Light, failed to finish.
For the thousands of Pay’n Pak fans, Gold Cup ‘77 was deep disappointment.
After a rousing victory in its first heat, the Pak locked up with the Miss Bud in a genuine classic race in Heat 2-C. It was another of those head-to-head duels for the old rivals with driver Ron Armstrong and the Pak on the inside.
Speeding around the lower turn only a few feet apart, the Pak hooked, the boat bounced violently and both sponsons received serious damage. The Pak was through for the day.
But Lucero, doing double duty as crew chief for both the Atlas and Pak, voiced confidence the four-time national champion will be ready to race in Seattle next Sunday.
The only scar on a smooth-running racing program came in Heat 3-A. When it was over Seattle driver Tom Martin, in the R. Mikulski Advertising hydro, had been fined $300 and suspended for the rest of the season by referee Bill Newton.
Newton said Martin swerved as he was being lapped by Ron Snyder in Miss Lynnwood Equipment and Miss Budweiser on the fourth lap. "He could have been killed or he could have caused a real serious accident," Newton said. "He was driving in a careless and reckless manner."
Newton said he will recommend that the minimum qualifying speed rule dropped before the ‘77 season be reinstated before the Seattle race. Martin’s boat had been allowed to compete at Tri-Cities despite a qualifying best of only 85 plus mph.
Significantly, the other two drivers involved — Snyder and Remund — disagree with race officials and confirm Martin’s contention that he didn’t change lanes. Martin said he will appeal.
"Ron and I agree," Remund said, "Tom gave us the option of going inside or out. I went outside and Snyder went inside. We disagree with the referee."
At the time of the incident, Snyder was leading Miss Bud — for three laps — but when he hit Martin’s wake on the inside, Remund took command and raced to victory. Martin did manage to ignore, though, two black flags ordering him off the course as he came around on following laps.
For the record, Muncey’s earlier Gold Cup victories came in 1956, ‘57, ‘61, ‘62 and ‘72. He voiced high praise for the crew, especially Lucero, who has compiled an amazing record of more than 50 per cent wins in his career as a crew chief in the hydro ranks.
A severe self-critic, Muncey said he was pleased with: 1) his starts and 2) his cornering in this most satisfying win.
"Earlier this year I’ve been muscling the boat around the corners. It’s not an artistic thing. But I did better today. I’m getting the hang of it."
Muncey was indeed humble when he talked of the legendary Gar Wood and his sixth Gold Cup victory.
"To be associated at this point with something historic is the ultimate honor . . . A sixth Gold Cup win makes ma’ tummy turn like I was a little fella."
|HEAT 1A — Pay ‘n Pak, Ron Armstrong, 109.845 mph, Anheuser Busch Natural Lite, Tom Sheehy, 106.111; KYYX, Pete LaRock, 91.852; R. Mikulski Advertising, Tom Martin, 79.051; Lynnwood Equipment DNF,
HEAT 1B — Atlas Van Lines, Bill Muncey, No time: Miss Budweiser, Mickey Remund: Tad Dean’s Body Shop, Chip Hanauer: Mark & Pak, Bob Miller DSQ; Vans P-X, Jack Schafer, DNS, (Atlas second lap of 124.309 mph set Gold Cup lap record.)
HEAT 1C — Barney Armstrong’s Machine, Jon Peddie, 99.889; The Squire, Jerry Bangs, 84.454: Miss Tri-Cities, Bob Maschmedt, DNS: Oh Boy! Oberto, Bill Wurster, DNF,
HEAT 2A — Atlas Van Lines, 103.567, Vans P-X, 99.537: Tad Deans Body Shop, 89.880: Miss Tri-Cities, DNS; Mark & Pak, DNS,
HEAT 2B — Natural Light, 99.502: KYYX, 97.122; The Squire, 76.988, Lynnwood Equipment, DNF, Oh Boy Oberto, DNS.
HEAT 2C — Miss Budweiser, 112.570; Barney Armstrong’s Machine, 98.342; R. Mikulski Advertising DNF; Pay ‘n Pak, DNF.
HEAT 3A — Miss Budweiser, 110.519; Lynnwood Equipment, 108.499; Van’s P-X, 97.279: Mikulski Adv, DSQ Mark & Pak, DNS.
HEAT 3B — Atlas Van Lines, 114.771 (Gold Cup heat record): The Squire, 106.930, Natural Light 101.446: Barney Armstrong’s Machine, 98.612: KYYX, 97.192: Oh Boy! Oberto, DNS,
FINAL HEAT — Atlas Van Lines, 114.869; Miss Budweiser, 109.555: The Squire, 104.509, Barney Armstrong’s Machine, 75.072: Natural Light, DNF, KYYX, DNF.
Gold Cup Points — Atlas Van Lines 1600, Miss Budweiser 1400, The Squire 1050, Barney Armstrong’s Machine 1038, Natural Light 925, KYYX 652, Tad Dean’s Body Shop 619, Vans P-X 525, Pay ‘n Pak 430, Lynnwood Equipment 300, Mikulski Advertising 169, Tri-Cities, Oh Boy! Oberto, Mark & Pak, no points.
National Point Standings — Budweiser 7694, Atlas 7221, Natural Light 6100, Barney Armstrong 4879, The Squire 3800, Tad Dean’s Body Shop 2786, Lynnwood Equipment 2419, Mark & Pak 1126, Gordon’s Seafood 1052, Probe 975, KYYX 652, Vans P-X 525, Pay ‘n Pak 400, Santa Rita Homes 225, Mikulski Advertising 169.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 1, 1977)