2002 Thunder on the Ohio
7 Straight for Villwock in Evansville
by George Schulz
Special report from George Schulz-Greetings from beautiful, downtown Evansville, Indiana. It’s 4:30 on Saturday, June 29 and we’re getting ready for Heat 1-A. The six boats are milling around waiting for the one-minute gun. LLumar Window Film just went by and Jimmy King has lost his engine cowling. That’s OK; less weight. The U-3 Master Tire has stalled, but Mitch Evans has got her restarted in time. The entries are Miss E-Lam Plus with Nate Brown, Miss Budweiser with Dave Villwock, Trendwest with Mark Tate coming out of retirement, Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison with Steve David, the LLumar and the Master Tire.
Trendwest takes the start and leads through the turn, but Budweiser takes over down the backstretch. E-Lam is third, Oberto fourth, LLumar fifth and Master Tire last.
At the next turn E-Lam is washed out by Bud’s roostertail and stalls. Oberto moves into third, LLumar into fourth and Master Tire fifth. Nate Brown restarts 1½ laps later and finishes sixth. Villwock wins, followed by Trendwest, Oberto, LLumar, Master Tire and Miss E-Lam Plus.
Heat 1-B is next and out comes Dr. Ken Muscatel in his U-25 sporting a new engine cowl without an airscoop. Looks real sleek.
There’s the start. First one across is the U-99 WGAB, then the U-9 WABX, then the U-10 EMCOR, and the U-100 Miss US And then we have Ken Muscatel in fifth place. Greg Hopp in Miss US takes off in lane one and leads Mike Hanson in U-9, Terry Troxell in U-99 and Mike Weber in the U-10. Positions are held until the last back-stretch of lap 3. Miss US’ turbine gives out a deep moan and grinds to a halt with a thrown prop blade. Hanson takes over the lead in WABX and wins the heat over WGAB, EMCOR and Security Race Products U-25. Miss US did not finish.
Sunday, June 30-OK. Here we go with Sunday’s racing. Heat 2-A will feature Miss Budweiser, Miss E-Lam Plus, Trendwest, Oh Boy! Oberto, LLumar Window Film, and Master Tire - same boats as in 1-A, but the lanes are reversed, with Bud on the outside and E-Lam, the sixth place finisher in 1-A, in lane one.
Nate Brown takes the start in lane #1, but Steve David in the Oberto catches and passes him on the backstretch and the race is on! Budweiser is third, Trendwest fourth, LLumar fifth and Master Tire sixth. E-Lam has gained a good lead over Oberto and pulls away as Steve David is swinging wide and pushing the Budweiser way out on every turn. What a race! On lap 2, LLumar passes an ailing Trendwest for fourth place. At the finish line, it’s Miss E-Lam Plus, Oh Boy! Oberto, Miss Budweiser, LLumar, Trendwest and Master Tire.
After the heat LLumar Window Film received a fuel flow violation and was dropped to sixth place.
Lane assignments for Heat 2-B are: Lane 1, Miss US; lane 2, Miss EMCOR; lane 3, WGAB; lane 4, WABX; lane 5, Security Race Products.
Miss US tears off with the lead in lane #1. Out of the turn, Mike Weber holds second, Mike Hanson is third, Terry Troxell is fourth and Ken Muscatel is a slow fifth. Now comes the announcement that Greg Hopp has jumped the starter’s gun, leaving EMCOR with the lead. Terry Troxell has moved the WGAB to the inside and is really challenging WABX for third. Mike Weber and Mike Hanson pour over the finish line in a near-photo finish, but the win goes to Webers’ Miss EMCOR. WGAB is a close third, followed by Security Race Products and Miss US.
Miss US just got started before the one-minute gun in Heat 3-A and is really tearing after the field, who are heading around the turn for the start. Miss US takes the start as the others crawl over the line. Trendwest is second, EMCOR, WABX and Oberto are next, and Master Tire is last. On lap 2, here comes the announcement: Miss US has jumped the gun again. Greg Hopp has to do an extra lap. Somebody hit a buoy on lap 2, and it’s announced Mike Weber is the culprit. He’ll do an extra lap. So Mark Tate’s Trendwest wins the heat, with Oberto second, WABX third, Master Tire fourth, Miss US fifth. Miss EMCOR receives no points for a fuel violation.
The boats are jockeying around for lanes prior to Heat 3-B and Nate Brown has just been disqualified for forcing out the Budweiser. Villwock has the inside lane and leads to the first corner. Now, E-Lam and Bud are racing side-by-side and keep it up for two solid laps before Bud pulls away. Troxell’s WGAB is holding third, Ken Muscatel is fourth. LLumar never left her trailer for this one.
At the line, it’s Miss Budweiser, WGAB, and Security Race Products. But Nate Brown is steaming in the pits after the heat and demands an explanation for his disqualification. The Director of Competition, the drivers’ rep, even ESPN announcer Chip Hanauer try to calm him down. Finally, out comes the rule book and Brown is exonerated. The disqualification is rescinded and he gets his second place points.
It’s time for the Provisional Heat, the winner of which goes into the Final. Out comes EMCOR, LLumar, Master Tire and Security Race Products. U-3, U-10 and U-8 pour over the line with U-25 way back. Mike Weber and Jimmy King battle for the lead in a great race, but here comes the announcement: the first three boats all jumped the gun. Ken Muscatel is alone in the lead. Security Race Products wins, followed by LLumar, EMCOR and Master Tire. Unreal.
The boats are entering the course for the Final Heat. The lineup includes Miss Budweiser, Miss E-Lam Plus, WABX, Trendwest, Oh Boy! Oberto and WGAB. Ken Muscatel’s U-25 is the trailer boat.
Budweiser, up the middle, is the first over the line. WGAB, E-Lam and WABX are next. Oberto went down before the start but restarted and went over the line last. Trendwest is in there somewhere. Tate’s boat just doesn’t have the speed on the others and is in fifth. Nate Brown gets by Mike Hanson and is going after Troxell who is in second. As Villwock takes the checkered flag, the two battle around the final turn with Brown taking second. But wait. We now hear that Miss E-Lam was disqualified for drowning out the Oberto before the start. So, Terry Troxell and WGAB take second, WABX is third, Trendwest is fourth, Oh Boy! Oberto is fifth, and Security Race Products is sixth.
A wild race, full of penalties and heated rhetoric. But in the end the record books will show that Dave Villwock won his seventh straight Thunder on the Ohio at Evansville, and Bernie Little’s Miss Budweiser has won the last six straight Evansville crowns.
(Thunderboat, August 2002)