1978 Season Summary
|1||04-Jun||Champion Spark Plug Regatta||Miami, Florida|
|2||25-Jun||Spirit of Detroit Trophy||Detroit, Michigan|
|3||02-Jul||APBA Gold Cup||Owensboro, Kentucky|
|4||09-Jul||Indiana Governor's Cup||Madison, Indiana|
|5||30-Jul||Columbia Cup||Pasco, Washington|
|6||06-Aug||Squire Seafair Trophy||Seattle, Washington|
|7||17-Sep||Jack-In-The Box Regatta||San Diego, California|
|04-Jun||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|25-Jun||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|02-Jul||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|09-Jul||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|30-Jul||Miss Budweiser (8)||Dave Culley||Ron Jones||Ron Jones||Rolls Merlin|
|06-Aug||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|17-Sep||Atlas Van Lines (9)||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Norm Berg||Rolls Merlin|
|Built||Boat High Points||Total|
|1||(1977)||Atlas Van Lines (9)||7725|
|2||(1976)||Miss Budweiser (8)||5144|
|4||(1973)||Miss Madison (4)||3008|
|5||(1973)||Pressley Truck Center||2934|
|6||(1971)||Elliott Dog Ration (2)||2475|
|8||(1967)||Miss Van's P-X (1)||1563|
|10||(1972)||Oh Boy Oberto (2)||1196|
|12||(1974)||Miss Circus Circus||675|
|13||(1974)||Squire Shop II||525|
|14||(1970)||Miss B & L Plumbing||518|
|18||(1977)||Miss Tri-Cities (3)||DNQ|
|19||(1976)||Miss O'Neil & Knudsen||DNQ|
|Driver High Points||Total|
|8||Jack Schafer Jr.||1563|
Atlas Van Lines beat Miss Budweiser in six of nine races in 1977. Her fastest lap was 124.137 at the Tri-Cities. Miss Budweiser's best lap of 1977 was 116.883 m.p.h., however in 1976 she did 124.481 and died and then 120,160 completing the heat.
In order to make the Miss Budweiser competitive with Atlas a superior driver was needed. Someone like Ron Musson who could take the stock Allison Nitrogen Too and beat the Rolls powered 1960 Miss Thriftway or Bill Muncey with an unstable 1964 Notre Dame being able to defeat the 1963 Gold Cup and High Point Champion Miss Bardahl.
Drivers of this calibre were very scarce and Ron Snyder who was to drive the Miss Budweiser in 1978, on the basis of his record, was not one of them.
Snyder would have a little help in 1978 as the Budweiser was a couple hundred pounds lighter in an off season weight reduction program. This could either make her faster or foul up her balance.
Atlas Van Lines was therefore confronted with an unparalleled opportunity for the illusive undefeated campaign. Adding to this was a seven event season. In baseball parlance it is much easier to hit .400 over a couple of months than an entire season. The Unlimiteds had scheduled up to 17 races during a season.
Hotsy Totsy III had turned the trick in 1930, but there were only four races that year. Imp swept a three event season in 1929. Miss Century 21 almost had a perfect year in 1962 with only 3 m.p.h. on her nearest competition, Atlas Van Lines might have had an 8 m.p.h. spread over the Miss Budweiser heading into 1978
At Miami Atlas Van Lines began her march toward hydroplane racing immortality by taking all three heats having 10 m.p.h. on Miss Budweiser. The Atlas victory was made easy since she was the only starter in the winner-take-all final heat. After two years of using the 1-2/3 mile course, a 2½-mile was used in 1978.
Miss Budweiser was 14 m.p.h. behind Atlas Van Lines at Detroit and failed to make the final heat. However Squire Shop who was only 10 m.p.h. behind the leader did make the championship heat. Atlas got off to a good lead in this heat, but then driver Muncey may have become overconfident and backed off.
Entering the last lap Squire Shop driven by Chip Hanauer was at the drop of Atlas Van Lines' roostertail. Squire continued to sneak up on Atlas on the final backstretch. Suddenly the Bill Muncey entry was confronted with the last place Miss Detroit Radiographics. Atlas went outside with Squire seizing the opportunity by going inside. However the Atlas had just a little more winning the heat and the regatta by a little over a second.
The Gold Cup at Owensboro was next for a record purse of $110,000. Unfortunately for the sponsors only 10 boats - the same as Detroit-showed up, but unlike Detroit only six of the 10 qualified. As a result there were no sectioned preliminaries giving the Owensboro Regatta four heats instead of seven. In addition a tornado threatened the day before the race.
However through rain, wind, sleet or snow as it were Atlas Van Lines won all four heats to give Bill Muncey his seventh Gold Cup.
Muncey was penalized for an illegal cut off in heat three and thus did not have a perfect score. Atlas had eight m.p.h. on Budweiser at the Gold Cup.
Apparently Atlas Van Lines had only a 4 m.p.h. advantage at Madison. She had run the final heat of the Gold Cup without her tail fin. Re-installed for Madison Atlas was flighty in heat 1-B, but was victorious. Without her wing in heat 2-A she was an even match for Miss Budweiser until going dead on the last lap. In the championship heat Budweiser got off to a bad start and Atlas had an easy win.
Prior to the Columbia Cup Bill Muncey said that, "The way we're running there's no way these other turkeys are going to catch us." Perhaps the Lord smote Muncey down for his arrogance for Miss Budweiser won the race ruining Atlas Van Lines' potential perfect season.
Miss Budweiser and Atlas Van Lines both had 800 points prior to the final heat. Atlas Van Lines expired in the first lap of this heat and Miss Budweiser gave Bernie Little his first victory of the season.
The win was an important one for Bernie Little as it made him the all-time owner with regard to race wins at 29. This exceeded the total of the Schoeniths of Detroit at 28. These numbers refer to High Point victories as opposed to absolute victories.
The term high point victory has significance in that it requires a race scheduled for two heats with at least four starters. The Schoeniths won a one heat race against nobody in 1951 for the American Speedboat Championship. In further addition they won a second tier event at Tahoe in 1965. Second tier races did not count for high points since the best boats raced in the first tier.
The next race was at Seattle and for the first time admission could be charged to the park area surrounding the Seward Park racecourse south of the floating bridge. This put the Seattle race on a pay as you go basis. Previously it had been touch and go for the Seafair Regatta relying on skipper pin sales, log boom rentals and program sales to finance their event.
Washington Governor Dixie Lee Ray signed the bill allowing admission to be charged and thus is probably the most important woman in Unlimited history for without a Seattle race, there would be no Seattle boats. And in future years without Seattle boats there would be no Unlimited Hydroplane Racing.
Atlas Van Lines annexed the Seafair Trophy, but was penalized an extra lap in her heat one for a lane changing Violation prior to the start. Some of Atlas' competition probably applauded, but they were all about 9 m.p.h. behind the Bill Muncey entry.
Atlas won again in the final race at San Diego to take her sixth win in seven starts. The Muncey Industries hydro won all three heats posting her best lap of the year at 123.626 m.p.h down a m.p.h. from 1977. Atlas Van Lines did not get her perfect season,but with six out of seven for 1978 exceeded Muncey's five out of six in 1962.
Atlas Van Lines at 123 m.p.h. was in a class by herself having four m.p.h. on the second best boat of 1978 Squire Shop at 119. 048 m.p.h. Miss Budweiser was #3 at 116.580 m.p.h. matching her best lap of 1977. She won one of seven in 1978 in contrast to 3 of 9 in 1977 with a similar speed differential to Atlas Van Lines. Bernie Little would have to do something dramatic to get back in the ball game in 1979.
[Statistics and comments from Greene, V.2]