1966 Atomic Cup

The Atomic Cup

The New Miss Budweiser Scores a Win in the Land of the Sky Blue Waters

By Eileen Crimmin

Word has filtered by now to those who follow the unlimited racing circuit - the new Miss Budweiser won the first Atomic Cup Regatta held on the Columbia River between the towns of Pasco, Richland and Kennewick.

The Tri-Cities they are called and their Tri-City Water Follies, is an annual aquatic event, which this year played host to the unlimited for the first time. On the basis of this well-staged intelligently organized, financially successful event, the odds are Tri-Cities will have another.

Budweiser managed her win in a manner similar to unlimiteds a decade ago. A boat would be built, christened, run a lap or two, then go out and win a boat race. Miss Budweiser and driver Bill Brow were strangers when they entered the Detroit Gold Cup and finished sixth. They were better acquainted, but not much, when they competed in the British Columbia Cup Regatta, and they were not really pals when they won the Atomic Cup.

Owner Bernie Little and Brow agree the new craft needs balancing, and the few times the boat ran nose-down convinced spectators who esteem Brow he should, figuratively speaking, transfer some of the lead in his boot to his boat's stern.

Strangely, Brow remains a relatively unknown driver. Yet, he boasts a long, successful record in limited inboard competition. As a unlimited driver he's won two Diamond Cups, two Governor's Cups, the Presidents Cup and, now, the first Atomic Cup. Known by other drivers as a charger, Brow's speedy skill is paying off in the quiet, steady accumulation of trophies.

Following several days of testing and running for a $150 daily cash prize for fastest speed, and $100 for second fastest, the final pre-race speeds stood at 111.635 mph for Smirnoff and Bill Cantrell. Chrysler Crew and Bill Sterett along with Wayfarers Club Lady and Bob Fendler tied for second fastest with 106.635 mph. Next came Budweiser and Brow with 105.882; Tahoe Miss and Mira Slovak, 105.634; Miss Madison and Jim McCormick, 103.211; My Gypsy and Jim Ranger, 102.546; Hiltons Hyper-Lube and Bob Gilliam, 97.614 and Savair's Probe with Red Loomis, 97.614. $ Bill and Bill Muncey posted 104.167 mph, but the boat was withdrawn on race morning after blowing a rod in its last engine.

Heat 1A was distinguished by two problems and one thrill. Tahoe Miss went dead in the first lap back chute, and My Gypsy destroyed a buoy to gain an extra lap penalty. It was Chrysler Crew that won the heat with a speedy, slamming, bouncing ride that brought high excitement to all spectators.

Heat 1B found Budweiser winning wire to wire. Smirnoff swallowed water in the first turn, died, sputtered to life then began charging the field. Cantrell picked off two boats to finish third, a good feat any time. Savair's Probe was second, Smirnoff third, Madison fourth and Tri-Cities last.

A happy breeze that kept the desert cool in the morning turned by afternoon into a gusty wind filled with sand. Under these conditions, Heat 2A saw Smirnoff withstand challenges from Tahoe Miss for two laps. But in lap three, Tahoe Miss charged around Smirnoff with Savair's Probe third, My Gypsy fourth, Madison fifth and Hy-per-Lube sixth.

Wind, river current and the curious faculty this water has a retaining wake or roller exactly where it starts, had all boats pitching badly and unable to use full power.

Heat 2B put Budweiser and Chrysler Crew in contention again to state a scorching bow-to-bow duel into the first turn. Budweiser in lane one had the advantage of shorter turn radius, even though Chrysler Crew in lane two had a slight lead. Out of the turn it was Budweiser who led and on the back chute gradually increased that lead. At the finish it was Wayfarer in third followed by Savair's Mist and Tri-Cities. The latter boat posted an average speed of 54.600 mph and was lapped at least once by every boat in the field.

By this time a literal sand storm was in progress with wind and sand so furious at times the upper turn was invisible from the lower. Water roughened, but not badly enough to cancel the Final Heat.

Into it went the two top competitors and the remaining survivors of the racing - Budweiser with 800 points, Chrysler Crew with 700. Smirnoff, fastest boat on the course, was in with 525. Also sporting 525 points were Wayfarer and Savair's Probe. Tahoe Miss entered with her lone head finish of 400 points.

Both Budweiser and Chrysler had to finish first to win the overall title. Knowing this the sand-peppered crowd estimated at 55,000 retained their spaces on the shore. Nobody left.

Strangely enough, just before each heat the merciless wind seemed to relent slightly. The Final was no exception. With lowered wind and clear air the boats entered the course.

Budweiser gained lane one. Savair's Probe was in lane two, Smirnoff in land three, Chrysler Crew in lane four and Wayfarer and Tahoe Miss behind in what amounts to lanes two and a half and three and a half.

Across the start they roared, Budweiser, Chrysler Crew and Smirnoff moving ahead of the others and finally only Budweiser and Chrysler Crew in contention for first dive into the first turn. Budweiser set up for the turn, but Chrysler Crew drove much deeper into it and by the first pin was a minimum two boat lengths ahead and increasing this distance steadily.

Round they went with Chrysler Crew holding tight in lane two Budweiser cranked tightly in land one but not tightly enough and in sliding got some water from the tail of Chrysler Crew. Then Brow cinched in on the turn again and charged after the Chrysler Crew.

Up the back chute the two ran, into the upper turn. Down the front chute they came pounding again toward the first turn. Suddenly, Chrysler Crew leaped, slowed and lost way. Driver Sterett threw both hands high in the air to indicate loss of power to following drivers; then he raised himself in the seat to further warn others as Budweiser roared by in first place.

Sterett was out and Budweiser appeared to have the race sacked. But just behind, Smirnoff fought to retain second place as Tahoe Miss pressured Cantrell without let up. In the turn and out of it Tahoe Miss steadily overtook Smirnoff then, having passed, poured on the power to overtake Budweiser.

Running hard, Tahoe Miss passed Budweiser. To get an idea of how hard Tahoe Miss was running, at the lap one finish she was in fourth; across lap two she was in second and by the finish of lap three Tahoe Miss was first.

Behind these battling leaders Savair's Probe and Wayfarer were having their own busy skirmish. Clearly, this heat was any man's boat race.

With boats dueling everywhere and Sterett helplessly drifting down the front chute just ahead of the first turn the chance for accident or collision was high. Once as the field roared toward him, Sterett raised the engine cowling as he stood on his boat's deck, trying to provide a larger profile for oncoming drivers to see.

Triumphantly, Tahoe Miss charged into lap four a leader, then went dead on the exit pin of the first turn. Again Budweiser was first. She held the lead until the finish. Smirnoff was second followed by Savair's Probe and Wayfarer.

The official placed Budweiser a winner with 1200 points; Smirnoff second with 825; Savair's Probe, 750; Chrysler Crew, 700; Wayfarer, 694 and Tahoe Miss 400. Race over, the wind again kicked up a storm.

In the pits the excited talk was about the tremendous racing job of Chrysler Crew. On return to mundane, nonracing lives conversation centered upon what this hard-working camp might do in the Seafair Unlimited Regatta Aug. 7.

Although that event was only two weeks away, it seemed a long time to wait.

(Reprinted from the Boating News, 1966)