1955 APBA Gold Cup
Lake Washington, Seattle WA, August 7, 1955
Detroit Takes Gold Cup;
How Bonus Points Won It For Lee Schoenith and the Gale V
By Harry LeDuc
SEATTLE, Aug. 8 -- After five feverish years of costly campaigning, Detroit has won back the Gold Cup by the narrowest margin in the race's 48-year history.
A margin of 4.53 seconds on the timer's tape handed the victory to Lee Schoenith in his father's Gale V after the 500,000 or so spectators had left Lake Washington yesterday believing the new Miss Thriftway had saved the Cup for Seattle.
Miss Thriftway, driven by Detroiter Bill Muncey, won the second and third heats after a third in the opening heat, while Gale V took only two seconds and slumped to third in the final.
But Schoenith raced the entire 90 miles those 4.53 seconds faster, and they earned him 400 bonus points for best total time. Bonus points were neglected by the crowd, and it took officials a full half-hour to figure them, but they gave Gale V a total of 1,225 to Miss Thriftway's 1,025.
The departing crowd was not alone in its ignorance of the facts of Gold Cup scoring. As much in error were most newsmen, the wire services, TV and radio (which put out wrong results for a half-hour) and some hard-working photographers.
But even more chagrined were Miss Thriftway's owner, Willard E. Rhodes; Ted Jones, her designer; the whole crew; and driver Muncey.
Certain they had won, the whole Miss Thriftway entourage moved to the official barge as the thousands cheered, sirens shrieked and people milled to meet them. Everybody hugged Muncey, kissed him, pounded his back, boosted him to their shoulders, and finally tossed him and Jones into Lake Washington. Pictures recorded every detail.
Stan Sayres' Slo-mo-shuns finally had failed after five victories, but Seattle still had the Gold Cup -- so most everybody thought.
But in the press row, a few were unconfused and unconvinced. They knew that Gale V went into the third heat with a 37-second lead on Miss Thriftway and a 10-second lead on Slo-mo-shun IV, driven by Joe Taggart.
When Slo-mo threw a rod and went out of the race on the seventh lap of the final heat, they knew Miss Thriftway had to make up those 37 seconds.
As Muncey got the checkered flag and Miss Thriftway crossed the finish line, they snapped their stop watches. They snapped them again as Gale followed across. Their readings showed Miss Thriftway had not made up the 37 seconds.
"I think the Gale has won this race," said W. Melvin Crook, the referee who had resigned Friday.
The race referee who succeeded him, Stanley Donogh, announced that Miss Thriftway was the "unofficial winner" but that the official winner could not be known until there was "an auditing of the timer's tape."
That deterred not many, and the celebrating and picture-taking and interviewing reached new highs.
A full half-hour later came the official announcement.
While the press, TV and radio tried to make corrections, photographers, with few plates left, rushed to find Lee Schoenith; his father, Joe; his mother, Milly; and the Gale crew.
The dejected Schoeniths were down at the pits, nearly a quarter-mile from the official barge. The Schoeniths had lost again. Since 1951 they had sent six boats the 2,800 miles from Detroit and had spent tens of thousands of dollars. This time Gale IV, Bill Cantrell driving, had thrown a rod on the first lap of the second heat to go out of the race. Their "beaten" Gale V was on its cradle.
Up rushed a reporter. "You won -- on points," he all but shouted.
"Who's kidding who?" Lee Schoenith answered, sad-faced.
Up rushed more of the task forces.
Faces went blank with wonderment and unbelief and then broke into joy rarely seen.
Mrs. Schoenith kissed and hugged her 26-year-old son. All the Schoeniths and their crews hugged, pumped hands, slapped backs, then they, too, grabbed driver Lee and tossed him into Lake Washington.
"Like a dream, isn't it?" said Mrs. Schoenith, adding: "Oh, I hope it isn't."
Muncey and the Miss Thriftway group were too stunned to comment.
The race itself, beginning with nine starters, had five finishers. Until the seventh lap of the final heat, it seemed certain that Slo-mo-shun IV would win again, though Miss Thriftway was pressing hard.
In the first heat Slo-mo broke the heat record with an average speed of 103.159 miles an hour and the day's fastest lap, 107 mph on the third time around the 3 3/4- mile course. Gale V was second in that one, Thriftway third.
Slo-mo sagged to a third in the second heat as Thriftway won at 100.944 and Gale V finished second. So the Slo- mo went into the final heat tied with Thriftway on points, 625 each. Gale V had 600.
But Slo-mo also had 400 bonus points for the fastest heat hanging over the heads of Schoenith and Muncey. Then Slo-mo quit, after winning the start and leading for six laps. Bonus points go only to finishers, so there could no heat bonus unless either Thriftway or Gale V could top Slo-mo's 103.159.
Neither did. Thriftway averaged merely 99.99 mph for the third heat.
Only human casualty of the race was Danny Foster, whose arm was burned when Tempo VII caught fire on the turn near the end of the first lap of the first heat. Owner Guy Lombardo didn't get a ride in her. He planned to drive the second heat.
Boat casualties, however, were numerous. George Simon's Miss U.S. couldn't start (supercharger trouble). Henry Kaiser's Scooter Too did not finish the first lap, sinking at her pits. Rebel Suh, with Lt. Col. Russell Schleeh getting wet, sank on the seventh lap of the first heat while running sixth. Jack Schafer's Such Crust III did not start the first heat, though it qualified yesterday morning.
In the second heat Gale IV failed on the first lap, but Such Crust III got going and finished fourth.
Running at the finish of the 90 miles besides Miss Thriftway and Gale V were Such Crust III, which finished second to Thriftway; Frank Saile's Miss Cadillac, consistently in the high 80 and 90 mph bracket; and Breathless of Oakland, Calif., whose 22-year-old pilot, Jay Murphy, finished last in all three heats -- but lasted.
"I just followed everybody and tried to learn," he said.
(reprinted from the Detroit Free Press, Aug. 8, 1955)
History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at email@example.com
© Leslie Field, 2000