1991 Budweiser Thunder on The Ohio

Budweiser wins at Evansville; Pierce keeps his job

Scott Free

By E.K. Muller

On June 30 [1991], Scott Pierce drove Miss Budweiser to victory in "Thunder XIII" at Evansville, Indiana. By winning, Scotty strengthened his position as fill-in for Tom D'Eath. He beat Winston Eagle and Mark Tate two heats out of three.

Thunder on the Ohio launched the new spectator-oriented race program, a fan-plan format (fast flight/slow flight) featuring flag starts. While participants bickered, the paying guests loved it. That story is much too complicated to tell here.


The same 11 boats that entered the Gold Cup 3 weeks earlier appeared at Evansville. Jim Harvey's U-2 and Bill Wurster's U-8 ran for local sponsors as ARC Construction and Ellis Park, respectively. Only Edge failed to qualify, throwing a rod in its rear MerCruiser engine Friday afternoon.

Two Budweisers were fastest. Pierce found the '87 hull surprisingly better and even took a swipe at the 160-mph course record. Therefore, Turbine 2--"Bud Blue" announcer Joe Rood called it--got the start again. Turbine 3--"Bud Red"--had been repaired after a qualifying accident in Detroit, but Pierce said it took hard work to drive.

Qualifying per the new format occurs at scheduled times, two hours each on Friday and Saturday. A ladder is established by draw. Boats not ready for their turns (they have 5 minutes) go to the end of the line. This sensible innovation also pleased the public and media. The only hitch was that Wurster, thin on equipment, chose to sandbag rather than race. His team learned what a Bronx cheer sounds like.

During a test period Friday afternoon, Ken Muscatel completed his driver's test in ARC Construction.


Miss Budweiser '87 Pierce 159.681 mph
Winston Eagle Tate 154.044
Miss Madison Mike Hanson 146.637
American Spirit N. Mark Evans 144.462
ARC Construction Steve David 134.504
Ellis Park George Woods 127.261
U-9 Jack Schafer 113.708
Miss D.O.C. Mitch Evans 110.480
Miss Sundek Jerry Hopp 104.167


Withdrew: Miss Budweiser '89 (Pierce) 155.373.

Did not qualify: Edge (Larry Lauterbach)

Spectators loved the new flag-start format

Heat 1

Five fast turbines came out for a noon start on good water with clearing skies, a slight cross wind, and hot, humid weather. Mark Evens, having drawn lane 5, set the prescribed 110-mph pace in American Spirit. Lined up abreast approaching the 1,000-foot buoy, they got the green flag. ARC led them over. Quickly Bud moved ahead from lane three chased by Winston inside. A tight corner grouping left Miss Madison, which hooked, dead in the water. Budweiser kept the lead for five laps despite breaking its horizontal stabilizer. ARC briefly pressed Winston, then settled back into third place followed by Spirit. Miss M restarted a lap behind.

1A summary:

1 Bud Pierce 139.273
2 Winston Tate 136.532
3 ARC David 129.490
4 Spirit N. M. Evans 127.918
5 Madison Hanson 105.042


With four boats running in 1B, the flag dropped on their second try. George Woods, whose Ellis Park is a good, fast race machine, only tooled through five slow laps with Mitch Evans in Miss D.O.C.. Loud U-9, no name, went quiet after a third place lap. Miss Sundek failed on lap three.

1B summary:

1 Ellis Park Woods 108.275
2 D.O.C. M. Evans 107.223
DNF Sundek Hopp  
DNF U-9 Schafer  


Heat 2

They saw green on their second approach to the start. Tate made the cleanest getaway since little Mary Ellen Reynolds took her twinkle toes out of town in 19-ought-four. He whipped the Eagle from lane five to a solid lead while Bud (lane one) was about third. The rough corner--no current--was crowded, and Pierce got a bit damp. He spent several laps catching Spirit. Evans charge hard, flying his boat. Tate flew higher, kited at the line, and again waved to the crowd a lap later. His heat speed was a record for the two-mile course. ARC, surprisingly, threatened no one.

2A summary:

1 Winston 141.711
2 Bud 136.844
3 Spirit 132.600
4 Madison 130.227
5 ARC 118.692


Although staged for popular appeal, 2B was even duller that 1B. Woods let Mitch lead most of the way. Ellis Park nipped D.O.C at the finish: close. Both gained a spot in the final heat. Sundek, not on plane when the flag dropped for the start, died in the dog leg. U-9 ran a rowdy half lap then returned to the pits.

2B summary:

1 Ellis Park 111.296
2 D.O.C. 111.084
DNF Sundek  



The last chance heat was delayed 10 minutes while tows passed through the course. A light chop awaited the three-lap sprint by Madison, ARC, and two non-scores, U-9 and Sundek. U-9 stayed on its trailer, but Jerry Hopp did himself proud by surviving a wave off. Sundek, in fact, went the distance. Far ahead, ARC (lane two), and Madison (lane four), dueled for more than a mile thanks to Steve David's driving skill. Then Mike Hanson pulled away, leading a parade. ARC had hull damage. Madison lapped Sundek on the last turn. By winning, it got into the final.

Last chance summary:

1 Madison 135.433
2 ARC 121.820
3 Sundek 82.656
WD U-9  



A hot sun came back, pegging thermometers at 97 degrees. Quirky southwest breezes put more chop on the water. Seven boats went out; ARC was allowed as a trailer 15 seconds behind.

Fifty thousand spectators stood and cheered when six boats crossed the line abreast. Budweiser accelerated smartly in lane three while Winston made a game try from outside (lane five, actually). Tate's bid fell a little short; entering the turn Pierce, Woods (on the pole!), and Hanson led, but all six boats were within two lengths or so. It looked like a race. Bud's good corner built a slight lead. Ellis Park, unleashed, pushed Bud on the back chute with Winston third outside the roostertails. Winston next took over second place. Ellis Park held third firmly as Spirit, riding light, didn't challenge. Madison again ran in the ruck. ARC, seventh, left sixth-place D.O.C. (performing its best of the day) alone.

By mid-race, Bud claimed more than a roostertail on Winston, but Tate wouldn't give up. He drew closer, on Budweiser's hip. The difference was half a 'tail ending lap four. Pierce wound up a few more revs to keep Winston off. The crowd enjoyed what it saw. Tate crossed Bud's wake, dinged a propeller, and sagged at the end, going dead in the water downstream.

Final summary:

1 Bud 139.136
2 Winston 137.375
3 Ellis Park 128.237
4 Spirit 126.243
5 Madison 122.310
6 D.O.C.  


(Reprinted with permission from the Unlimited NewsJournal, August, 1991)