1977 Season Summary
|1||May 22||Champion Spark Plug Regatta||Miami, Florida|
|2||June 11-12||President's Cup||Washington, D.C.|
|3||June 26||Gar Wood Memorial||Detroit, Michigan|
|4||July 3||Indiana Governor's Cup||Madison, Indiana|
|5||July 10||Hydrofair [Kentucky Governor's Cup]||Owensboro, Kentucky|
|6||July 17||Dayton Hydroglobe||Dayton, Ohio|
|7||July 31||APBA Gold Cup||Pasco, Washington|
|8||August 7||Seafair Trophy||Seattle, Washington|
|9||September 18||Jack-In-The-Box Regatta||San Diego, California|
|22-May||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|12-Jun||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|26-Jun||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|03-Jul||Miss Budweiser (8)||Tom Frankhouser||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|10-Jul||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|17-Jul||Miss Budweiser (8)||Tom Frankhouser||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|31-Jul||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Rolls Merlin|
|07-Aug||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Rolls Merlin|
|18-Sep||Miss Budweiser (8)||Tom Frankhouser||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|Built||Boat High Points||Total||Team Points|
|1||(1976)||Miss Budweiser (8)||9894||(1)|
|2||(1977)||Atlas Van Lines (9)||8990||(2)|
|3||(1974)||Natural Light (1)||6275||(3-7600)|
|5||(1975)||The Old Ox||4744||(6-3419)|
|8||(1963)||Elliott Dog Ration||1426||(8)|
|11||(1973)||Pay'n Pak (4)||1025||(11)|
|13||(1967)||Miss Van's P-X (1)||750||(13)|
|14||(1972)||Oh Boy Oberto (2)||225||(14)|
|15||(1971)||Santa Rita Homes||225||(14)|
|16||(1962)||R. Mikulski Advertising (2)||169||(16)|
|17||(1971)||Miss C&H Special||0||—|
|19||(1976)||Miss O'Neil & Knudsen||DNQ||—|
|Driver High Points||Total|
After winning five of nine races in 1976 the four time National High Point Champion Pay'n Pak-Atlas Van Lines had 39 races on her and was ready for retirement - former owner Dave Heerensperger had planned her exit from the hydro wars for 1976. Owner-driver Bill Muncey preferred the rear cockpit, but his new mount was a cabover requiring him to in his own words, "learn to drive all over again". Of the five Ron Jones cabovers only one had won a race.
Miss Budweiser would be Muncey's only major competition for 1977 as the Miss U.S. and Olympia Beer had been retired. In the last few years major teams U-95, Lincoln Thrift and Pay'n Pak had all withdrawn from Unlimited Racing.
In 1976 Miss Budweiser had won one of three races for Mickey Remund being 0 for 3 for his predecessor Howie Benns. She was apparently the fastest boat of 1976, but couldn't hold together at that speed.
At liveable speed the previous Atlas was the better boat.
Against this backdrop the 76 Atlas was a good bet to bring Bill Muncey his coveted sixth Gold Cup and another National High Point Championship. With the new cabover only time would tell whether this hull would give him an advantage over Budweiser.
The new Atlas Van Lines was not the most stable ride at Miami having a tendency to kite, but won the Champion Spark Plug Regatta anyway. Atlas lost a preliminary heat to Miss Budweiser not showing her full potential. However in the championship heat Atlas Van Lines got the inside, matched Budweiser's best lap at 108 m.p.h. and won the race by 5 seconds. The Spark Plug Regatta was run on a 1⅔ mile course for the second consecutive year.
At the President's Cup both Atlas Van Lines and Miss Budweiser turned 115 m.p.h. laps in the preliminary heats. Nevertheless the foxy Muncey sucked Budweiser driver Mickey Remund into jumping the gun in the final heat giving Atlas an easy triumph. Budweiser ran 116 m.p.h. in the championship confrontation so perhaps she might have beaten the Bill Muncey entry.
Atlas driver Bill Muncey was on crutches for the Gar Wood Memorial at Detroit having a broken foot after slipping on the deck of his boat. Instead of hiring Billy Schumacher, Tom D'Eath or George Henley - all champion chauffeurs, Muncey elected to drive himself with a broken throttle foot.
The hull was still a little flighty at Detroit, but Atlas Van Lines beat Miss Budweiser convincingly in all three of their confrontations during the regatta. Miss Budweiser was off her form of previous races giving Atlas Van Lines another win.
In the Madison Regatta Atlas was erratic getting wet down in in heat 1-B and then having engine trouble in heat 2-B thus missing the championship heat. Miss Budweiser won all three heats to take the Indiana Governor's Cup. She also posted the fastest lap by 5 m.p.h. over Atlas Van Lines and led the latter in their one matchup in heat 2-B.
At Owensboro Muncey's Atlas had about 10 m.p.h. on Budweiser. However they both headed into the final with 800 perfect points. Budweiser attempted to carry Atlas wide off the turn heading for the start of the final heat. It was reported that Atlas Van Lines cut in front of Bud diving into lane 2 leaving Bud driver Remund no place to go. Bernie Little was mad, but no foul was called and Atlas Van Lines had her fourth victory in five starts.
Next the hydros returned to the reformed gravel pit at Dayton, Ohio with its narrow turns and short straightaways. Miss Budweiser was clearly defeated by Atlas Van Lines in heat 2-C, but got inside and led Atlas Van Lines through lap 1 of the championship heat. Fortunately for Budweiser, Atlas Van Lines lost its skid fin and the Bernie Little entry was gone for her second win in three races. She also led the High Point chase after Dayton.
Prior to the Gold Cup at the Tri-Cities Atlas Van Lines was clearly superior to Miss Budweiser. The new Atlas had not exceeded the old Atlas in lap speed/however Miss Budweiser had not matched her performance of 1976. Dave Heerensperger rented the old Atlas and ran it as Pay'n Pak one more time at the Tri-Cities Gold Cup. Championship drivers were passed over and Ron Armstrong got the Pay'n Pak cockpit. The bottom line was the 1977 Gold Cup was Muncey's to lose.
Atlas Van Lines proved to have 8 m.p.h. on the field and won the Gold Cup easily. Atlas turned a lap at 124 m.p.h. as the Budweiser in 1976, but the difference was the Bill Muncey entry could last at this speed. Pay'n Pak was about 5 m.p.h. off form and Miss Budweiser four m.p.h. behind her 1976 pace.
In Seattle's Seafair Atlas and Budweiser first met in heat 2-B. Miss Budweiser in an outside lane was able to nail the start and washed Atlas Van Lines down before the first turn. Thereafter Miss Budweiser had an easy time of it. Nevertheless in the final Atlas again got in front and won the regatta easily.
Approaching the final event of the season at San Diego, Miss Budweiser had first place in the High Point race by 600 markers.
Nothing short of a disaster could deny the Bernie Little entry a National Championship.
This did not happen as Miss Budweiser won the Jack-In-The-Box Regatta when Atlas Van Lines went dead on the first lap of the final heat. But Budweiser almost handed the victory back to fate when she experienced engine trouble in the last lap of the championship heat. However she hung on to escape the ignominy of being passed by her underpowered team mate the Natural Light.
Miss Budweiser was about 8 m.p.h. slower than Atlas Van Lines when the latter reached her peak. Nevertheless she won three of nine events on the tour and the National High Point Championship.
The Bernie Little entry was able to do this by being one of a few boats in history to complete all the heats she started during the season. In contrast Atlas Van Lines failed to complete three heats and had mechanical problems in others and that was the story of how a superior entry who won twice as many races lost the National High Point Championship.
Bill Muncey achieved his goal in 1977 of exceeding Gar Wood in Gold Cup victories with six to the racing legend's five. However it took Muncey 21 Gold Cup starts to achieve #6. In contrast Gar Wood won his first five Gold Cups. Then he lost his next three Gold Cup starts after they changed the rules replacing Unlimiteds with limited power displacement boats. This ended Wood's Gold Cup career.
In his Gold Cup triumphs Gar Wood averaged maybe three competitors. Muncey in his Gold Cup wins averaged about four times as many antagonists.
[Statistics and comments from Greene, V.2]