1979 Thunder on the Ohio Regatta

Thunder on the Ohio

The first "Thunder on the Ohio" regatta held at Evansville, Indiana June 24 was a success despite the small, six boat field of Unlimiteds that showed up. An estimated 70,000 fans showed up to look down on the 2 mile course in an amphitheatre setting located at the apex of a horseshoe bend in the Ohio River. As expected, Bill Muncey's Atlas Van Lines romped to victory on the home waters of his moving company sponsor. Miss Circus Circus with Steve Reynolds came in second after winning one heat convincingly and taking an unexpected shower from the Atlas roostertail in a shady move by Muncey in another.

All six boats were scheduled to run together in three, five-lap elimination heats, with the top five scorers going in the final. Steve Reynolds in Circus Circus and Jack Schafer Jr. driving Ken Thompson's Myrna Kay took the start of the first heat but Atlas grabbed the lead on the inside lane of the first turn. U-31 slowed on the backstretch when’ the wheel housing let go on her Rolls engine. Myrna Kay took over second place and it was a parade from there. Myrna Kay, driven by Milner Irvin, held third to the finish, with Jon Peddie running fourth in the interim Miss Budweiser (My Gypsy). Dr. Toyota and Bob Maschmedt didn't start. Atlas began smoking on the fourth lap but was able to finish in the lead. Circus Circus pulled into the pits after a lap.

Heat Two was a thriller as all six hydros made a crowded start. Once again, Circus Circus and Myrna Kay charged over the line on top with Atlas way back looking for a lane. Reynolds opened up a wide lead on lap 1. Atlas caught and passed Myrna Kay to start lap 2. Muncey finally caught Reynolds on lap 4 but the rookie pushed his Reno Rocket back into a substantial lead on the final lap and won by 100 yards. Atlas was second, Myrna Kay third, Dr. Toyota fourth, Miss Budweiser fifth. Miss Madison stalled on the fourth lap while running fourth.' Circus' winning speed was 111.975, compared to Atlas' second place clocking of 111.317.

Reynolds and Muncey were at it again in the third heat as both drivers jumped the starter's gun in a deck-to-deck rush over the line. The two duelled for a lap until the last turn when Circus Circus, running on the inside, disappeared in the white wash of Atlas' flailing roostertail. Muncey powered into the front straightaway alone as Reynolds tried to recover from his unexpected hosing. Although no foul was called Rynolds protested vehemently after the heat that Muncey had not given him a full lane. Back on the race course, Atlas caught and lapped Miss Budweiser and Dr. Toyota to win easily. Circus was able to pass Budweiser for third place. Madison and Myrna Kay did not start.

The final heat was all Atlas as Muncey shook off a first lap challenge from the Circus boat and won at a 117.763 mph average. Reynolds was a game second with Schafer in Myrna Kay third, Dr. Toyota fourth and Miss Budweiser fifth.

Whatever action that went on in the race was nearly overshadowed by the game of "cat and mouse" played by Muncey and Reynolds during the previous night's qualification runs. Circus Circus held the fastest speed of 119 mph all day. At five minutes to five, with the course about to close, Muncey calmly went out and posted a 120 lap. After that decisive run by the Atlas, it was announced the course would remain open for Miss Budweiser'S qualifying attempt. The Circus Circus boys quickly placed their boat back on the ladder and Reynolds flew the big, pink missile around the buoys at a smooth 122 mph clip.

The course closed for the day and Steve Reynolds and crew chief Jim Harvey smiled contentedly.

— Unlimiteds Detroit