1979 Columbia Cup

Muncey Masters Columbia Cup

By Craig Smith, Times Staff Reporter

PASCO — The winner may be the same, but the sport sure has improved.

Bill Muncey drove the Atlas Van Lines to victory in yesterday’s Columbia Cup unlimited-hydroplane race for a record eight consecutive wins over a two-year span.

But he had to work.

"That’s the fastest side-by-side running I’ve had in my career," said Muncey, who also set two national speed records en route to his 96th victory.

Muncey trailed Dean Chenoweth in Miss Budweiser by about five boat lengths when the Bud died in the first turn of the third lap in the winner-take-all championship heat. A gear in its supercharger had broken.

Chenoweth said the broken gear was the only one in the new boat that wasn’t custom-made before the season. He said the Bud camp felt it was strong enough.

"I felt I had the race under control," said Chenoweth. He said an air spoiler made between heats from lawn furniture prevented the boat from its tendency to rock dangerously on its sponsons at high speeds. A spoiler is a strip of metal deflecting air from under the boat.

With the Bud out of it, Muncey he led the parade to the finish line. Following were Chip Hanauer in The Squire Shop, Ron Armstrong in Van’s P-X, Chuck King in Barney Armstrong’s Machine and Chuck Hickling, age 65, in his Tempus.

When Muncey passed the jammed banks of the Columbia River on .a post-victory lap, the crowd treated him like a one-man New York Yankee team — many cheered him, many jeered him.

The day featured some of the most exciting unlimited-hydroplane racing the Northwest has seen in years. The new Budweiser and Miss Circus Circus, driven by Steve Reynolds, pushed Muncey fiercely.

Circus was forced out of action in the second lap of its second preliminary heat when its propeller shaft tore loose. Budweiser was leading at the time, Circus was second and Muncey third. Divers were expected to recover the shaft and propeller today.

Reynolds said he wanted to wait until the boats had completed three laps, making it a legal heat, before jumping overboard to stop the race. But his efforts to stop water from pouring into the boat with a glove proved unsuccessful. He was afraid the craft might sink.

"That’s a half million bucks. Why take a chance?" he asked.

Circus was towed rapidly back to the pits. It will be repaired in time for Sunday’s Seafair Race in Seattle, the crew said.

Chenoweth and Muncey set the tone in the first preliminary heat when the Bud set a national lap record of 129.125 miles an hour in the opening lap. That speed was nearly five miles an hour faster than the previous record, set here in 1976 by an earlier Budweiser. Muncey also beat the old mark while trailing Chenoweth. He used the Bud on lap 2. In the next preliminary heat both Circus and Squire Shop bettered it, too.

Muncey went into the record book for his first-heat average of 124.412 and for his average of 121.168 for the entire day. The old marks for a 2½-mile course were 121.261 by Muncey in San Diego last year and 113.276 by George Henley in Pay ‘N Pak in 1974.

With three races remaining and six already won this season, Muncey, 50, is a shoo-in to repeat as national champion.

But the king of the sport found himself in poor position at the start of yesterday’s championship heat.

"That was the worst start I’ve had this year," he said. "I started at I-95 and Aurora."

Muncey got behind Hickling’s boat and had to swing wide for open water because Tempus lacked acceleration. Muncey passed three boats on the first turn — "I blew into it like a bandit," he said.

In doing so, he infuriated Chuck King in Barney Armstrong’s Machine. King contended that Muncey’s roostertail damaged his boat and Muncey had placed both of them in danger. Muncey denied any wrongdoing.

‘The Bud, the only hydro powered by Rolls Royce-Griffin engines, led Muncey by a roostertail after one lap and lengthened the lead slightly after two laps before going dead.

The second-place finisher, Chip Hanauer, was disappointed with his driving performance.

"It’s too bad it wasn’t a cleaner second," Hanauer said. "The weakest link in the team was me."

Hanauer acknowledged that there had been dissension and disagreements in the Squire camp during the past week about the new boat, but quickly added, "We’ll get together."

The Squire won a preliminary heat against no strong competition and finished second behind Circus in another heat. Muncey won his preliminary heats, although he trailed at times in both of them.


Muncey said his crew chief, Jim Lucero, resented a remark by a Circus crew-man who said, "Why is your luck so good?" Muncey said one reason is hard work. Lucero and other crewmen worked on the boat until 4 a.m. on race-day morning. . . Temperatures were in the 80s, making conditions pleasant for the thousands of spectators, many of them in bikinis and swimming trunks ... The six boats that failed to qualify by Saturday night also failed to qualify yesterday . Candyman, which had to run with only one of its auto engines instead of both of them, lasted only three laps. The boat won’t be coming to Seattle . . . The hometown favorite, Tri-City Tile and Masonry (U-3), failed to make the final heat. An oil line blew in the boat’s second preliminary heat . . . Tickets for Sunday’s Seafair Race are on sale for $2 at 7-Eleven stores ... Qualifying will be Thursday and Friday.


(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, July 30, 1979)