2010 Lucas Oil Madison Regatta

2010 Madison Regatta; A Hometown Win

by Craig Fjarlie

2010 Madison Regatta Programme Cover
2010 Madison Regatta Programme Cover

The 2010 season opened on the Ohio River at Madison, Indiana. The pits were bulging with 13 boats. The river was calm - at least, compared with recent years - and the sky was blue with no rain in the forecast. By the time the weekend was over, the hometown hydro, Oh Boy! Oberto, had notched a win before an enthusiastic crowd.

Testing and Qualifying

The first test session was delayed as patrol boats checked the river for debris. Next, a fire broke out at the Lighthouse Restaurant. Emergency crews rushed to the establishment that sits near the river shore, causing an additional delay. Finally, the river was open and boats took to the water.

Oh Boy! Oberto, driven by Steve David, set the pace with a fast lap of 154.575. Dave Villwock had electrical problems with Spirit of Qatar, but just before qualifying ended he turned a lap of 153.152.

The Formula team brought three boats to the race, U-5 Formula, U-7 Graham Trucking, and the back-up boat that they were “calling” U-57 Formula, but still saying U-7. Jeff Bernard, in U-5, and J. Michael Kelly, in U-7, both had N2 violations and no official speeds were recorded. Jimmy Shane was slated to drive U-57, but the boat never made it to the water.

J.W. Myers turned a lap of 150.360 in Peters & May. Behind him was rookie Cal Phipps aboard Miss DYC. Kip Brown was next with Nate Brown’s U-17 at 147.039.The boat had Cruisin’ Auto written on the engine hood, but still had O’Brien Law on the sponson. Brian Perkins turned a lap of 146.227 in Albert Lee, and Greg Hopp did 145.916 in Fred Leland’s unnamed U-100.

Jimmy King made one fast lap in the piston-powered U-3. As he crossed the start-finish line, the engine began to lose power. He rounded the first turn and went back to the pits. Later it was discovered that owner Ed Cooper hadn’t joined APBA, and he never signed the entry form, so King’s lap of 143.241 didn’t count. The boat never went back in the water all weekend.

Rookie Jon Zimmerman made a good showing in Ken Muscatel’s Boyland Nissan, with a best lap of 143.036. Mike Webster drove Matrix Systems - which had Broadway Tavern added to the engine hood - to a lap of 134.940.

The temperature approached 90 degrees in the afternoon. Crew members from several boats had problems with dehydration. Qualifying was on Friday only. There would be testing Saturday morning, with heats 1A, 1B, and 1C Saturday afternoon.

Heat One

The 11 qualified boats were drawn into three sections. Drivers made lane choice based on qualifying speeds. Because U-5 and U-7 had no official speeds, 2009 point standings were used to determine lane choice. Bernard scored more points last year, so had priority over Kelly. In lane order, 1A would have Oberto, Formula, Graham Trucking, and Miss DYC. 1B would feature Qatar, Albert Lee, Matrix Systems, and Boyland Nissan. 1C would include Peters & May, O’Brien Law, and U-100.

A slight breeze was blowing downriver as the boats took the course for 1A. Graham Trucking led across the starting line and around the first turn. Up the first backstretch, Oberto closed the gap. As they entered the second turn, Oberto took the lead and slowly extended it. Miss DYC was third and Formula fourth. Formula went dead in the water after finishing and was towed in. Following the heat, minor hull damage was spotted inside Oberto’s left sponson.

The boat spent the night on barrels as repairs were made.

Albert Lee led at the start of 1B, but was passed by Qatar at the apex of turn one. Villwock drove just fast enough to win. Boyland Nissan passed Matrix Systems when the latter nearly stalled in turn 2, lap 2. Webster managed to keep going and finished fourth.

The U-100 never left the pits for 1C. It should’ve been a cake walk for Myers, but it wasn’t quite that easy. He hit a buoy in the first turn, and was penalized an extra lap. O’Brien Law physically led the entire first lap, but Peters & May went by as they crossed the start-finish line. A lap later, O’Brien had a gearbox failure and coasted to a stop, done for the weekend. Peters & May ran the third lap and penalty lap all alone.

As the last boat came back to the pits from 1C, the U-3 went on tilt and started home to Evansville. It’sunlikely we will see the boat again this season. Ed Cooper has no sponsor for the west coast and he wants to solve a persistent engine problem.

Heat Two

The remaining 10 boats were drawn into sections 2A and 2B. Lane choice was inverted from heat one finish positions, except the two rookie drivers would start outside and back. Heat 2A would have U-100, Graham Trucking, Albert Lee, Peters & May, and Boy land Nissan; 2B would feature Formula, Qatar, Oberto, Matrix, and DYC.

Again, the U-100 never left the pits. Albert Lee led through turn one of heat 2 A, but Graham Trucking charged hard up the backstretch. The two put on a great duel for the next two laps until Graham was able to start pulling away. Peters & May was two buoy lengths back in third, Boyland trailed in fourth. Following the heat, the Boyland crew discovered a broken doubler on the bottom.

The boat was withdrawn from further competition.

Qatar led into the first turn of heat 2B and sprinted away from the field up the backstretch.

Formula and Oberto had a spirited duel during the first lap, but Formula had the advantage of the inside lane and Bernard held off David’s challenge. Matrix lagged and DY C passed it to take fourth.

Heat Three

Heat 3A pitted Graham Trucking against Oberto, Albert Lee, DYC, and U-100; 3B would have Peters & May, Qatar, Formula, and Matrix.

The U-100 did not leave the trailer for 3 A.

Oberto was in the lead as the boats rounded turn one, but Graham was in close pursuit. In the second turn, Oberto began to pull away. Albert Lee and DYC both slowed as they reached turn 2. Albert Lee got going, but DYC had broken a propeller and went dead in the water. The prop had gone up through the wing, leaving a gaping hole. Phipps had been momentarily out of control when the prop broke, causing Albert Lee to get wet. Perkins initially called for a drivers ’ rep because of the incident, but dropped the matter when the team learned what had happened to DYC.

Heat 3B should have been a runaway for Qatar, but boat racing never comes with a guarantee. As the rest of the boats left the pits, Villwock was unable to keep the engine going.

He tried several times, each time moving a couple boat lengths before stalling. The one-minute gun sounded, leaving Villwock with the best seat in the house. (The crew had left a dust cover on the engine.) Formula and Peters & May had a great duel for the entire heat. Formula won by a couple boat lengths. Matrix was a half-lap behind in third. A few minutes after the heat, there was an announcement. Formula had a flagrant N2 violation and was disqualified from the heat. Peters & May was then moved up to first, with Matrix second.

Final Heat

The Final heat would have Peters & May in lane 1, Oberto in 2, Graham Trucking in 3, and Albert Lee in 4. The second row had Matrix inside and Qatar outside.

Scattered dark clouds rolled across the Ohio Valley and the humidity climbed as crews prepared for the final. The breeze started blowing up-river. The water was still race-able, but the river had a few bumps that hadn’t existed during earlier heats.

Oberto was the first boat to leave the pits. The drivers played cat ‘n mouse during the warm-up period. As the one-minute gun sounded, Qatar was ahead of the pack, almost under the Madison-Milton Bridge. The four boats on the front row had to go around the slow-moving Qatar as they approached the shape-up turn. Villwock was sandwiched between Oberto and Graham Trucking as the field went by.

The four boats in the front row hit the start even. Oberto pushed its bow ahead at the apex buoy of the first turn, but Peters & May and Graham Trucking kept pace as they started up the backstretch. Slowly, Oberto inched ahead. By the time they reached the entrance buoy to the second turn, Peters & May was three lengths back, with only Graham Trucking still challenging the high-flying Oberto.

Through the second turn and it was all over. Oberto powered away down the front straightaway and continued to extend its lead throughout the heat.

Meanwhile, Myers used the inside to push Kelly and the two had a tremendous battle for second throughout the final. Kelly took second by a couple lengths. Albert Lee was a steady fourth. The surprise was Qatar. Villwock finished fifth and was never a factor in the heat. Matrix Systems was well back in sixth.

As Oberto received the checkered flag, the crowd roared and car horns began honking. The cheering persisted for at least five minutes. Steve David was paged to the trophy presentation, but was surrounded by TV cameras and newspaper photographers and had difficulty getting away from his pit area. A huge crowd surrounded the fence behind the judges’ stand, cheering as David and the team received the first place trophy. “Mike Hanson won this race for us,” David said, as he hoisted the Indiana Governor’s Cup. It was the 60th running of the Madison Regatta, and it seemed fitting that the home town boat was the winner. As the crowd thinned, David spotted Ron Snyder at the edge of the crowd. The two shook hands and Snyder offered hearty congratulations.

“It was a little risky picking lanes for the final,” David said, explaining why had selected lane two. “In lane 1, there’s no room for error. I came out of the first turn with pretty good momentum.”

The opening event of the 2010 season produced a popular winner, most heats had excellent racing, and regatta sponsor Lucas Oil received a great deal of publicity. It was a fine start to the season.

[Reprinted from Unlimited NewsJournal, July 2010]