2002 Budweiser Columbia Cup

Good, Solid Racing At Tri-Cities

E-Lam Beats Bud in Hectic Final

by Dan Lopez

The 2002 Columbia Cup saw the debut of one boat, the apparent end of another, controversy about calls that were or were not made, and plenty of the good, solid racing that fans like.

Hydro-Prop fuel handicaps again evened out the Miss Budweiser vs. E-Lam Plus competition, and the orange boat beat the red boat this time—but barely.

Testing and Time Trials

Friday and Saturday testing and time-trial sessions produced two memorable moments.

E-Lam Plus posted the fastest lap Friday, had the speed disallowed for a fuel violation, and then came back Saturday with an even faster lap to regain its spot as the top qualifier. The new Vacationvillle arrived in the pits Saturday morning. The crew worked all day and sent their boat onto the racecourse late that afternoon. Without pushing it, Mitch Evans turned three laps, the fastest at 134 plus. Sunday morning he upped his speed to 141. Back in the pits, however, it was discovered the U-3 had a cracked strut. With no replacement on hand, the Cooper team’s day was over.

Friday morning Harold Mills got in two laps with Silver Dollar Casino to continue his quest for driver qualification, and Jerry Hale turned two laps in American Pride (Leland’s #9810) to retain his qualification.

The first head-to-head competition was the Dash for Cash Friday afternoon. Dave Villwock in Budweiser T6 (complete with saltwater hood) grabbed the lead coming out of the first turn and led the rest of the way. Jack-sons in lane 2 chased the beer boat, put on a furious charge in the last turn, and finished about two lengths back. Miss Fairweather Masonry led in the first turn, came out in third place, and died at the end of lap 1. Oh Boy! Oberto, never a factor, finished third.

Heat 1

In heat 1A, E-Lam led into the first turn followed by Jack-sons, American Pride, and LLumar, with Fairweather Masonry late for the start. Jack-sons pulled slightly in front on the backstretch and battled side by side with E-Lam the rest of the heat.

Jack-sons finished about 30 feet in front. Pride and LLumar had a similar race for third, with U-100 slightly in front the entire way. Fairweather suffered throttle problems, which caused the late start and the boat to go dead on lap 2. Terry Troxell, however, was able to re-start the engine and finish fifth.

In heat 1B, Budweiser (T5 ’97) was first exiting turn 1, followed by Trendwest, Oberto, EMCOR, and Silver Dollar. Although Mark Tate spent three laps right on Villwock’s hip, he was actually one lap down, having incurred a penalty for bearing out in the first turn. EMCOR chased Oberto until the first turn of lap 3 when the yellow boat spun out. Mike Weber got his mount re-started, but not before Ken Muscatel passed him for third place. Afterwards it was announced that Silver Dollar lost points for a flagrant fuel violation.

Heat 2

In heat 2A, LLumar, in lane 2, grabbed the lead from Oberto on the backstretch of lap 1 and held on for the victory. Oberto, in lane 4, led into and out of turn 1 and finished second. Jack-sons was ’way outside at the start and ended up third. Fairweather started on the inside and seemed to weaken as the heat progressed. After one lap, Troxell was fourth, only two and a half roostertails out of the lead. By the end of lap 3, he was barely holding off Silver Dollar. In this heat. Muscatel again suffered a flagrant fuel violation.

Trendwest started in lane 1 in heat 2B and led until the first turn of lap 2. E-Lam, in lane 4, appeared to carry Budweiser wide into the first turn, then chased down Trendwest and EMCOR for the victory. EMCOR led briefly on lap 2Before succumbing to E-Lam’s speed. Bud just had too far to travel and was too far behind after the first turn to catch its rivals. Pride conked out just before the start. Greg Hopp brought his boat to life but trailed the field from start to finish.

Villwock felt Nate Brown had fouled him in that first turn; the officials ruled no infraction. This would not be the last official decision Villwock would disagree with.

Heat 3

Heat 3A was easily the most convoluted of the day. During the milling period Jimmy King was blinded by another boat’s spray and failed to see Pride. King cut in front of U-100 and drowned out its engine. Even though Hopp was able to re-start, he was late for the start and spent the entire time physically in fifth place. In the first turn, LLumar was first in and out, meanwhile Villwock had gone ’way wide, nearly forcing Brown outside the outer course markers. Budweiser caught LLumar on lap 2, and after lap 3 it was Bud; E-Lam and LLumar side by side; Oberto and Pride.

Budweiser, however, did not receive the checkered flag, having acquired a penalty for bearing out in the first turn. Bearing out also earned King a one-minute penalty, which made the official results E-Lam, Oberto, Pride, LLumar, and Budweiser.

At the start of 3B, Trendwest led into the first turn, followed by Jack-sons in lane 4 and EMCOR slightly behind and between the two. Suddenly, Weber found he had nowhere to go except through the Jack-sons roostertail. EMCOR went up so high that some observers thought it had blown over. It didn’t but spun around and came down. Weber immediately radioed to his crew that he was OK, and the race continued. Trendwest, Jack-sons, Fairweather, and Silver Dollar spent the rest of the heat in that order. Afterwards, Weber thought that both Tate and Mike Hanson were responsible for bearing out and in on him, respectively. However, neither was penalized. Weber credited the HANS device he wears with saving him from injury.

Although not severely damaged, EMCOR couldn’t be repaired for the provisional. Both Leland entries sat it out, which left only Silver Dollar. The heat was canceled and Silver Dollar got a pass to the final.

Final Heat

It took two tries to get the final heat off. First the drivers were called back to the pits as an inner tube was floating on the backstretch about two minutes before the scheduled start.

They diced for their lanes. Villwock grabbed the pole, with Brown beside him, then Hanson, Tate, Steve David, and King on the outside. Muscatel was the trailer. Trendwest led into turn 1, but it was E-Lam first out, followed by Bud, Trendwest, Jack-sons, Oberto, LLumar, and Silver Dollar. On lap 2, King made a wrong turn and missed a buoy. He had to go back for it and eventually found himself in lastplace. Villwock entered lap 3 still slightly behind and to the inside of E-Lam. Villwock appeared to be trying to carry E-Lam a little wider through the east turn. However, when E-Lam started its turn, Villwock was forced to react sharply. The Bud skittered up on its left sponson and passed inside two buoys.

Villwock then physically led, but Bud was penalized a lap and really held seventh position. E-Lam had first. Meanwhile, Jack-sons passed Trendwest for second place, but on lap 4 it was Hanson’s turn to go back for a missed buoy.

Now Jack-sons led only LLumar and the penalized Bud, because the fourth-place Silver Dollar blew over on the backstretch. The boat struck the water with the sponson tips and landed upside down. The impact broke the hull in half. Muscatel, who had just replaced his air mask after it worked loose, climbed out the bottom hatch.

An angry and frustrated Villwock, who felt Brown was the one who should have been penalized, refused to talk to the media. He reportedly suffered even further sanctions from Hydro-Prop™.

(Unlimited NewsJournal, September 2002)