The Bob Hughes Story
For more than three decades, Bob Hughes has served as president of the board of directors of Miss Madison, Inc., the corporation that administers the community-owned U-6 race team from southern Indiana.
Bob’s contributions to Unlimited hydroplane racing have not gone unnoticed. Hughes won the Unlimited Sportsman of the Year Award in 1983 and the prestigious Gar Wood Award in 2003.
Together with team manager Charlie Grooms and crew chief Mike Hanson, Bob oversees all aspects of the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison racing program.
It all started in 1965 when his friend Tony Steinhardt asked Hughes for financial and machine shop support for the struggling Miss Madison. Bob not only obliged but, within five years, was serving as leader of the team's governing body.
According to Steinhardt, who still serves on the board, “That boat would have died a long time ago were it not for Bob Hughes."
Miss Madison is the longest continuously active Unlimited team in history. The original Miss M was a gift to the City of Madison from industrialist Samuel F. DuPont and first entered competition in 1961. Over the years, a total of seven boats have raced as Miss Madison, although one of these was actually a rental.
One day that Bob will never forget is July 4, 1971, when the second Miss Madison (also acquired from DuPont) won the APBA Gold Cup on home waters in Madison, Indiana, with Jim McCormick driving. "I yelled so much I couldn't talk the next couple of days."
A prominent Madison businessman, Hughes founded Clifty Engineering & Tool Company in 1961. Bob had past experience as a welder for an outfit called Williamson Heater. He later worked for Product Engineering Company (PECO) in Columbus, Indiana, as a tool and die designer. During his employment with PECO, Hughes dreamed of having his own tool and die business. After much planning, he was on his way, expanding from a small building about the size of a two-car garage to the present facility of enormous size, located at 2949 Clifty Drive in Madison.
One of the smartest moves that Bob Hughes has made in reference to Miss Madison occurred in 2000 when he negotiated a sponsorship deal with the Oberto Sausage Company of Seattle. The Oberto family has been the team’s corporate sponsor ever since.
Hughes also deserves praise for his hiring in recent years of Mike Hanson as crew chief and Steve David as driver.
Hanson had occupied the driver’s seat of Miss M from 1988 to 1998. Following Mike’s retirement from competition, the position of crew chief was a logical next step for him.
David had retired from Unlimited racing in 1999 but was persuaded to “unretire” by Hughes in 2001. Steve has been an asset to the Miss Madison team and to the City of Madison, both on and off the race course.
In 2007, the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison completed one of the most successful seasons in its 47-year history.
With Steve David driving, the community-owned U-6 scored back-to-back victories in the Chevrolet Cup at Seattle and the Bill Muncey Cup at San Diego. Moreover, the team took second-place honors at the Madison, Detroit and Tri-Cities races, and finished runner-up in National High Points.
This was a major accomplishment considering the boat was brand new and the crew had to work around the clock to be ready in time for the start of the season.
According to Bob, “As a businessman, I recognize the importance of hiring people that are not only talented but who can also work with other talented people and get results. That describes the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison crew. I’m talking about people like Mike Hanson, Larry Hanson, Pat Furnish, Jimmy Gilbert, Cindy Shirley, Randy Gayle, Trevor Hanson, Matt Sontag, Richard Dunn, Bob Hudson, Travis Johnson, and Steve Dean. They worked on the boat and gave driver Steve David a competitive piece of equipment.
“I would also like to commend our board of directors. These include Vice-Chairman Tony Steinhardt, Secretary Hank Bentz, Team Manager/Treasurer Charlie Grooms, Gayle Mefford, Fred Koehler, Rick Grote, Fred Farley, and John Humes. All played an important part in our successful 2007 season.”
According to Grooms, who works for Hughes at Clifty Engineering, Bob is "the glue that holds (the Miss Madison team) together. His managerial style is direct and firm. If you take a problem to him, he solves it right away and you move on."