2004 Chrysler Jeep APBA Gold Cup

Controversial finish to a great race Miss Budweiser wins, then loses Gold Cup in hard-fought contest

by Steve Garey

In one of the toughest - and strangest - battles in recent Gold Cup history, substitute driver Nate Brown, driving Kim Gregory's U-10 Dick Scott presents Miss DYC, suddenly found himself the winner of the big race an hour after Budweiser's Dave Villwock had been given the victory. It took Hydro-Prop officials that long to review tapes of the pre-race jockeying prior to the Final Heat to determine that Villwock was guilty of two lane infractions, which led to his disqualification.

A fine set of circumstances to finish off a fantastic four days of action in the sun on the Detroit International Water Speedway. And it's not over yet. Joe Little owner of the Miss Budweiser, has filed a protest with the APBA and we've yet to hear the results.

Chrysler-Jeep Superstores APBA Gold Cup race weekend got off to a slow start on Thursday, July 15 as windy conditions halted action on the water for most of the day. Five of the eight Unlimited entries did get timed, with the T6 Miss Budweiser clocking a 156.442 mph two lap average, needed to get into the Gold Cup race.

The beautifully restored Slo-Mo-Shun V, the 1951 and '54 Gold Cup champion, did a few laps along with the Unlimited Miss DYC in a media exhibition run. Unfortunately, the "Mo " blew a bank of cylinders on her Rolls-Merlin engine and was done for the duration. Ike Kielgass had Barb Carper's Miss Century 21 on hand, though, and provided the nostalgia for the weekend.

On Friday the River was looking better as Terry Troxell spun the Ellstrom's Miss E-Lam Plus around the 2½ mile egg-shaped course at 160.499. Also in the hunt was JW Myers in Bill Wurster's LLumar Window Film, gunning in at 158.789. Dave Villwock was right behind in the fuel-starved Miss Budweiser at 158.502.

Mike Weber took a few spins in the Dick Scott/Miss DYC before determining that his back was still much too tender from his hatch-blowing incident at Madison, so owner Kim Gregory called on Nate Brown to fill in. Little did Kim or Nate realize what was in store for them at this Gold Cup race.

Nate climbed into the yellow and blue U-10 and did 152.417 for his two-lap average.

Steve David, in the much-improved Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison, cranked a 150.652 average out of the sixteen year old hull. Greg Hopp got Fred Leland's U-100 Al Deeby Dodge in at 149.310, and Dr. Ken Muscatel made it at 139.879 in his Miss Bell Forklift.

Surprise entry was local favorite and two-time Gold Cup champ Mark Tate, who wheeled Jim Harvey's Miss Chrysler-Jeep around at 147.430. On a somber note, Mark announced that this would be his last race. He was going after the Big Mug just once more before hanging it up at age 44.

The field was set. Saturday would see four four-lap heats, and Sunday offered four five-lap heats and a five-lap Final. If you're racing for the Gold Cup, you need strength, fortitude and loads of patience. Man and machine will be tested to the max!

Heat 1-A on Saturday held all the fast qualifiers, and it was going to be a shootout. Everyone was so anxious that the entire field jumped the starter's gun! LLumar Window Film and Miss E-Lam Plus took off on the inside lanes in a fabulous speed duel down the backstretch. Al Deeby Dodge was third and Dave Villwock kept the Miss Budweiser way back in fourth. Villwock later revealed that he "saw that there was going to be trouble, so I just laid back and waited. Sure enough, it happened." And sure enough, the two leaders rounded the Roostertail turn virtually in a dead heat. Myers held his lane entering the front straightaway, but Troxell, on the inside, rode the LLumar's wake, and was lifted high into the air by the force of Myers' roostertail. The E-Lam climbed straight into the air and stood on its tail before slowly slamming back into the water upside down.

The race was stopped as rescue crews arrived on the scene and extricated Troxell through his escape hatch. Terry was fine, but was checked out anyway at the medical center upon arrival in the pits. The U-16 was towed back, turned right side up, and placed on her trailer, where Erick Ellstrom and his crew began hurried repairs to try and make it into the second heat. They replaced the turbine engine and all the superstructure that was ripped off in the flip. The crowds in Waterworks Park cheered madly as the crew trailer-fired the big, orange boat. She was ready for action!

Heat 1-B was run next, and out came Oh Boy! Oberto, Miss Chrysler-Jeep, Al Deeby Dodge and Miss Bell Forklift. Oberto, on the inside, took the lead with Greg Hopp's U-100 chasing. Steve David pulled away on lap 2 and won by ¼ of a lap. Deeby Dodge ran second. Mark Tate, in the squirrely Chrysler-Jeep held third and Ken Muscatel brought up the rear in Miss Bell Forklift. David averaged 144.260 mph for the four laps.

In the restart of 1-A, JW Myers was disqualified for coming too close to the wall at Waterworks Park and allegedly clipping the white outside buoy there. Nevertheless, Myers pushed Miss Budweiser all the way. Villwock won, with Miss DYC second. Officials later rescinded LLumar's disqualification and awarded Myers third place points. Bud averaged 142.544 mph for the four laps.

In a slow start in Heat 2-A, Villwock took the lead and pulled away. LLumar held a close second for two laps, but lost power and stalled down in the Boat Club turn. Nate Brown took over second place in the Miss DYC after being challenged briefly by Tate in the U-2. On the last lap, Tate's boat lost power and crawled around, eventually finishing and receiving those all-important points. Miss Budweiser did 145.533 mph for the heat.

In the last Saturday heat, it looked like Terry Troxell, in the resurrected Miss E-Lam Plus, hit the line a little early. He did, and so did Steve David, so both received one-lap penalties. Troxell led the distance, but Greg Hopp in Al Deeby Dodge was legally first. Bell Forklift trailed the field but received second place points. E-Lam was third and Oberto fourth.

Sunday dawned partly cloudy, but warm as the quest for the Gold Cup continued.

Terry Troxell took a good start in Heat 3-A and held the lead for five speedy laps. The Bud ran well in second but didn't have the power to challenge. Miss DYC was third. Bell Forklift trailed the leaders and then flamed out spectacularly on the final turn of the race.

JW Myers grabbed a good lead with his U-8 LLumar Window Film boat in Heat 3-B, but Mark Tate had the Chrysler-Jeep flying and dueled down the Belle Isle backstretch in a tremendous charge. Oberto was third and Al Deeby fourth. The big yellow LLumar pulled away gradually, planing beautifully. Not so Tate's Chrysler-Jeep, which was poorly balanced and giving Mark a tortuous ride. Meanwhile, Steve David was creeping up on Tate. On lap five's final turn, David caught up on the inside and it was a drag race to the finish line. Oberto took second by only a few feet! What a finish! Greg Hopp brought the U-100 in fourth and then stalled way down by the Belle Isle Bridge.

Myers was at it again in Heat 4-A. In a tremendous charge, LLumar and Miss Budweiser raced into the first turn. Myers had the power and took off, leading a four-boat pack past the Detroit Yacht Club docks and into the Roostertail turn. As they finished lap #1, Myers led, with Brown second, Villwock third and Tate fourth. Myers and Brown then staged a breathtaking 3-lap duel that ended on lap 4's final turn when the two nearly collided. The Miss DYC crossed over into the LLumar's wake and stalled. Brown was able to refire his turbine and stay ahead of Miss Budweiser, but the LLumar was gone. Mark Tate trailed in the Miss Chrysler-Jeep. This heat was definitely Unlimited hydroplane racing at its best.

Afterward, a battered Mark Tate told Jim Harvey he was calling it a day. With the final heat set, and Harvey's Chrysler-Jeep designated the "trailer" boat, Greg Hopp agreed to handle the U-2.

In the winner-take-all final, Hydro-Prop decided the boats would fight for lanes. At the five-minute gun, all six drivers pulled away together and began the process of maneuvering for the right lane, the one that would get them to the first turn first. As the clock hit the one-minute mark, the boats scored up slowly on the back-stretch, with LLumar Window Film on the buoyline. Miss E-Lam Plus got washed out, but Troxell kept the fire lit in his Lycoming turbine and pushed his way up in lane #2. Miss Budweiser was in lane 3, Miss DYC in lane four and Oh Boy! Oberto on the outside.

As they poured around the turn heading for the line, Villwock kicked the Bud into high gear and blasted up the middle and into a fair lead. Troxell appeared to have the edge in lane 2 going around the sweeping first turn, but Villwock came sliding around the outside and entered the backstretch with the lead. LLumar and E-Lam dueled for second. Miss DYC passed the E-Lam when Troxell slowed and then restarted on lap 2. The LLumar showed a gaping hole in her right sponson and eventually stalled on lap 4. Nate Brown held a decent second, but the big, red beer wagon was uncatchable on this particular Gold Cup Sunday. On lap 1, the Oberto's wing assembly began coming apart and eventually caved in as the race progressed. Greg Hopp in the U-2 held fifth from the trailer position. At the finish it was Miss Budweiser first. Miss DYC second, Oh Boy! Oberto third, Miss E-Lam Plus fourth and Miss Chrysler-Jeep fifth. LLumar Window Film didn't finish. No penalties were called during the race, but Terry Troxell filed a protest against Dave Villwock for infractions he allegedly encountered during the warm-up period.

After the race, Dave Villwock climbed up on the Chrysler-Jeep Awards Stand in Waterworks Park and accepted the newly refurbished APBA Gold Cup from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and race organizer Tom D' Eath. Cries of "One more year!!" poured up from the crowd, trying to cajole Budweiser into continuing their long-time sponsorship of the team. Joe Little and the crew joined in the festivities, and then retired to the media room in the Horace Dodge Pit Tower for a press conference.

When told of Troxell's protest, Villwock gave his side of the story: "Terry tried to find a lane where none was there, between me and the U-8. He was bouncing off boats trying to make a lane. Terry realized he was trapped and tried to drive up on me when I saw that big sponson go by my canopy."

Towards the end of the press briefing, a cheer went up from the pits as the Gold Cup was taken from the Budweiser camp and placed atop the hull of the Miss DYC in Kim Gregory's camp. What happened was that Hydro-Prop officials had viewed the videos of the pre-race incidents and had disqualified Miss Budweiser for a blocking maneuver. Nate Brown wins the Gold Cup as a substitute driver!

What happens to the Gold Cup next will be determined after the APBA sorts out the protests. But, in the meantime, Kim Gregory's Las Vegas team had a gala celebration Sunday night at the Detroit Yacht Club, sponsored by the Dick Scott Automotive Group. And Joe Little's Budweiser team packed up, still hoping for a positive outcome for themselves at the Race of the Century!

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Jerry Hopp won the Old Time Detroit Hydro Racers Sweepstakes for auto powered boats of all classes. Hopp's UL-1 Happy Go Lucky beat Dennis Macy in The Menace and six other boats in a tremendous Final Heat at noon on Sunday.