1976 Champion Spark Plug Regatta

Champion Spark Plug Regatta

By Steve Garey

The 1976 Unlimited season opened on a peculiar, if not unpredictable note on May 23 at Miami Marine Stadium in the 6th annual Champion Spark Plug Regatta. A small field of 7 boats, the same number that attended the inaugural race here in 1971, showed up amid forbidding Florida skies and unusually changing water conditions. Howie Benns pushed the new Miss Budweiser to a course qualifying record of 123.457 mph as only six boats qualified. U-5 Gemini, the former Lauterbach Special driven by Sherman Polhamus, failed to make the field. (The course was shortened from 2½ miles to approximately 1⅔ miles due to rough water in open, Biscayne Bay end of course.)


Miss Budweiser, Olympia Beer, Miss Madison.

The start was sloppy with Olympia over alone and Budweiser chasing. Madison trailed slowly all the way. Benns attempted to pass U-74 for first three laps, trying outside and inside lanes but Schumacher kept on it and eventually pulled away on lap 4 as Bud’s engine soured. Madison conked out on her last lap after being lapped by the leaders on lap 4. U-74 400; U-23, 300; U-6, DNF.


Atlas Van Lines, U-7 (Miss U.S. withdrew with engine woes.)

Atlas led the U-7 all the way in a slow heat. U-76, 400; U-7, 300.


Miss Budweiser, Olympia Beer, Miss Madison.

Oly again made a good start with Bud staggering in second and Madison really moving on the outside. Benns and Snyder duelled around the first turn with Bud on buoys slowing momentarily out of turn at which time Madison blew and stopped. Bud stalled on lap 2. U-74: 400; U-12 DNF; U-6: DNF.


Atlas Van Lines, U-7, Miss U.S.

U.S. got a good, fast start and took the inside on the 1st turn. Atlas challenged thru turn but D’Eath blasted out first and led all the way in choppy water. U-7 trailed the distance. U-2, 400; U-76, 300; U-7, 225.

Final Heat

Olympia Beer, Atlas Van Lines, Miss U.S., Miss Budweiser, U-7

Atlas came out of 1st turn with the lead and led all the way with Miss U.S. chasing. Bud stalled on lap one’s 3rd corner, restarting on lap 3. Atlas won easily with U.S. second and Olympia third. U-7 was fourth and Budweiser fifth. A turn judge made a call on Atlas in the first lap but Referee Newton disallowed it.

— Unlimiteds Detroit