2005 Budweiser Columbia Cup

Back In The Saddle Again! Villwock Rides Ellstrom to Winners Circle

by Dan Lopez

On Friday, seven of the ten entries were on hand, but several of those were not ready to run.

During the morning qualifying session, Jimmy King took the unnamed U-3 out and ran a lap of 141, then entering turn one of the second lap, the boat coasted to a halt. A propeller blade had broken off and the resulting vibration burned out the strut, cracked the gearbox. The U-3 was towed in and set on barrels where the crew began the effort to repair the boat for Sunday's race.

Friday afternoon Dave Villwock drove Ellstrom for the first time since replacing J. W. Myers after the APBA Gold Cup. He had only time for one lap before the course closed for the air show, but one lap was all he needed to show he still had "it." He ran a speed of 161 mph, but exceeded the N2 limit. Villwock ran a faster lap during a later qualifying session, but again saw this speed disqualified due to an N2 violation.

Miss Rock also had its qualifying speed disqualified because of a fuel flow violation. It wouldn't be the last for this team.

As qualifying closed Friday, Steve David and Oh Boy! Oberto were the only legal qualifier at 155.593 mph. Ellstrom and Rock were credited with the 130.000 minimum.

Traditionally, Friday ends with the Dash for Cash. The "Dash" is an exhibition featuring the top four top boats in national points. Of these only Oberto was available. Its challengers were Miss Rock, Al Deeby Dodge, and Beacon Plumbing. Al Deeby conked out on the backstretch and never crossed the starting line. Miss Rock died in the first turn, restarted a half lap behind, and finished third. Although Beacon Plumbing was on the inside, Oberto won a close race. It was not all good news for the Madison gang as the boat returned with damage to the bottom and right side near the stem after hitting some debris in the river.

The Madison crew worked into the night under lights to repair their boat for the following day of racing, as did the Coopers crew. Their boat was seriously damaged that morning.

By Saturday most ofthe boats were able to turn sufficient qualifying speeds, although two, Beacon Plumbing and Al Deeby Dodge, were scored at the 130 mph minimum due to fuel violations. The only unqualified boat was Graham Trucking, which used the Chairman's Option after the crew spotted previously undiscovered damage from the Gold Cup.

Heat 1

Heading to the line in 1A, the boats were very spread out as LLumar Window Films, in lane 1, crossed first. Graham Trucking was next, about a roostertail back in lane 2, then Al Deeby Dodge running outside. Lakeridge Paving was running back about another roostertail in lane 3 when suddenly the bow rose and the boat did a complete revolution, coming down stem first. The engine was still running and it appeared as if Jerry Hale would get the boat back on plane. However, after a few seconds he shut the engine down instead. Hale was not seriously injured (complained of back pain), but the hull suffered a crack that stretched across the width of the boat near the transom.

In 1B,Ellstrom held off a surprising Miss Rock. Oh Boy! Oberto was right behind in third just ahead of Beacon Plumbing. Mike Weber and Formula Powerboats ran last.

After the heat, it was announced that Ken Muscatel was guilty of a fuel flow violation and Miss Rock would receive no points.

In the rerun of 1A, Graham Trucking got to turn 1 first, but LLumar, on the inside, exited with the lead.

Graham was second and Al Deeby was third.

From here on it was essentially a parade to the checkered flag. In the end, none of it mattered as all three finishers had their points deducted for fuel flow violations.

Heat 2

In 2A Sunday, Ellstrom led from wire to wire. Oberto and Al Deeby battled hard for second place before Oberto pulled away to finish second. Formula was fourth. LLumar scored a DNS after losing its propeller in the minutes before the start. The boat was undamaged, but still had not scored a point in the race.

Jimmy King and the U-3 grabbed the inside lane in 2B and the lead on the way to an easy victory. Graham Trucking was second. Miss Rock chased hard after Graham, staying close, but couldn't catch them. Beacon Plumbing started in lane 2 and ingested some water exiting the first turn killing the engine. Greg Hopp restarted and was reeling in both Graham and Rock, but ran out of time and finished fourth. Incredibly, Miss Rock was again dinged for a fuel violation.

Heat 3

Graham Trucking, Oberto, Ellstrom, and Al Deeby battled hard through most of the heat. In the end, Graham crossed the line first, followed by Oberto, Deeby, and Ellstrom. Deeby, however, had to run a penalty lap for jumping the gun, moving Oberto and Ellstrom up a notch as Terry Troxell finished last after his extra lap.

This time around, J. Michael Kelly and Graham Trucking lost their points due to a fuel violation.

In 3B, LLumar and the U-3 quickly settled into first and second place respectively, where they ran for the heat. Miss Rock and Formula Powerboats had a good race for third with Muscatel prevailing.

Final Heat

The disqualification of Graham Trucking in 3 A opened the door for LLumar to race in the final and Jean Theoret was determined to make the best of it. Maybe a little too determined. Beacon Plumbing and LLumar led across the starting line. Out of the first turn, LLumar led as Oberto settled into second, followed by Ellstrom, U-3, Beacon, and Formula. Ellstrom caught and passed Oberto near the end of lap 2. It was about this time that the crews and drivers were notified that Beacon and LLumar both had jumped the gun and incurred one-lap penalties. Villwock, concerned the decision might be reversed, continued the chase and physically took the lead in turn two on lap 4. Villwock went on the score his fifth Columbia Cup victory, tying him with Mark Evans, second only behind Chip Hanauer's seven Tri-Cities wins.

Oh Boy! Oberto finished second, followed by U-3 and Formula Powerboats. Formula had trailed the field throughout the heat, but gained two spots due to the one-lap penalties of LLumar and Beacon Plumbing.

(Unlimited NewsJournal, October 2005)