Dean Chenoweth ó 1979 Speed Record Attempt
Chenoweth Went Along With Record Try
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A straightaway-mile-record attempt is something that excites unlimited hydroplane owners and scares hell out of drivers.
Yesterdayís near-disaster with Dean Chenoweth in Miss Budweiser seemed to follow the same pattern of owner-sponsor enthusiasm and driver reluctance.
Chenoweth chose his words diplomatically last week in discussing the upcoming mile-record attempt, but admitted it wasnít his idea.
"Iím going along with it," he said, attributing the project to Bernie Little, the boat owner, the crew and Anheuser Busch.
Little began talking in August about how he would like to beat the record of 200.419 miles an hour set in 1962 by Roy Duby in Miss U.S. 1.
Anheuser Busch, which makes Budweiser beer, had sponsored propeller airplanes that set records last summer and something called a rocket car that traveled 638.637 m.p.h. over the Bonneville Salt Flats last month to set a land record. A water record would have given the company bragging rights to a triple-crown of speed.
Chenoweth wasnít alone in his wariness. Miss Budweiserís builder and designer, Ron Jones, said last week the mile attempt was "a scary thing" and added, "Iím not pumped up about straightaway records and never have been."
Some drivers arenít reluctant to talk about how they dislike straightaway speed runs where a boat is on the ragged edge of going out of control.
In most racing situations on an oval course, drivers can respond. They are driving the boat. Itís a skill and they are proud of it. But when running flat out on a straightaway, they are reduced to the status of a helpless passenger.
Steve Reynolds, the cocky driver of Miss Circus Circus, said months ago he wanted no part of any attempt on the mile record.
"Itís crazy;" he said at the time.
Yesterday, hours before Chenoweth crashed and when the mood in the pits still was jovial, Reynolds quipped that he had told William Bennett, co-owner of Circus, "If you want to go for the mile record, Iíll give you a list of drivers and my name wonít be on it."
Bennett replied that he had no interest in the mile run.
Three times in the past season Miss Circus Circus lost propellers during races. Damage was extensive, but Reynolds never was hurt. Chenoweth lost his propeller yesterday going more than 200 miles an hour. Today he is in a hospital, lucky to be alive.
The king of hydroplaning, Bill Muncey, was nowhere around the pits yesterday. In 1960 Muncey set a world straightaway record of 192 miles an hour in Miss Thriftway.
Muncey grew increasingly nervous as the day of his attempt approached. He put his will and business affairs in order and told Willard Rhodes, Thriftway owner, "Look, Iím going to do this once for you. We either make it or we donít make it. But Iím never going to do this again."
He never did, either. But he has continued to race around oval courses. A lot of hydro fans hope Chenoweth makes an identical decision.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, October 24, 1979)
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