1996 Gila River Casino Unlimited Cup
The Final Report From the Thunder Tour Opener
PHOENIX — "Super Dave" Villwock of Auburn, Wash., ended a year and a half of winless frustration by outgunning Chip Hanauer and the Miss Budweiser in the five-lap championship final match race of the season-opening Gila River Casino Unlimited Cup at Firebird Lake, just south of here in Chandler. Villwock's PICO American Dream swept undefeated through three heats to record his fourth career win and first since San Diego in September, 1994.
Hanauer lost lane choice to Villwock when he hit a buoy in the semifinal against Villwock's teammate, Mark Evans, in the U-99.9 Waffle House. He got away with the extra-lap penalty when Evans' gearbox blew after two laps, but the resulting elapsed time was slower than Villwock's semifinal victory against Mark Tate and the Smokin' Joe's — thus giving the ultimate winner the choice of the slightly quicker inside lane.
Any chance Hanauer had of winning the final went away in the warm-up lap to the final — when he struck another buoy and sustained another one-lap penalty. For good measure, he hit one more before completing his troubled tour of the 1.5-mile course.
Villwock and Hanauer were teammates in 1990 on the world champion Miss Circus Circus team, Villwock as crew chief and Hanauer as driver.
GILA RIVER CASINO UNLIMITED CUP — (all 3 laps, 1.5-mile course)
Heat 1A — Chip Hanauer, Miss Budweiser, Seattle, WA, 139.760, def Rick Christensen, Ron's Rods & Customs, Eatonville, WA, (loser did not start);
Heat 1B — Mark Evans, Waffle House, Wenatchee, WA, 126.794, def Mike Hanson, DeWALT Tools, Madison, IN, 125.307;
Heat 1C — Dave Villwock, PICO American Dream, Auburn, WA, 130.338, def Mitch Evans, Chelan's Mill Bay Casino, 109.423;
Heat 1D — Mark Tate, Smokin' Joe's, Canton, MI, 119.819, def Mike Jones, Miss Exide, Sumner, WA, 102.273.
Heat 2A (consolation) — Mike Hanson, DeWALT, 128.638, def Rick Christensen, Ron's Rods, did not start;
Heat 2B — Mike Jones, Miss Exide, 101.024, def Mitch Evans, Mill Bay Casino, 99.430;
Heat 3A (fifth place) — Hanson, DeWALT, 116.005, def Jones, Exide, 101.343;
Heat 3B (third place) — Mark Tate, Smokin' Joe's, 131.725, def Mark Evans, Waffle House, 117.593.
Heat 2C (semifinal) — Chip Hanauer, Miss Budweiser, 133.024 (penalized one lap for hitting a second-turn buoy), def Mark Evans, Waffle House, DNF; Heat 2D (semifinal) — Dave Villwock, PICO, 140.851, def Mark Tate, Smokin' Joe's, 129.235.
FINAL — Villwock, PICO, 136.069, def Hanauer, Miss Budweiser, 131.647 (penalized one lap for hitting a buoy on the warmup lap)
(Reprinted from the URC Thunder Letter Vol. 2 no. 83 May 8, 1996)