1972 Seafair Trophy
Atlas Crew Solves Engine Troubles; Sterett Criticized
"We didn’t expect to have this kind of season," Bill Muncey said. "Who’d ever believe ten years ago that I’d bring Lee Schoenith a national championship?"
Muncey just had completed his greatest season in 17 hydroplaning years, riding aboard his white charger, Atlas Van Lines, to his sixth win in seven races before one of the largest Seafair Trophy Race crowds in recent years.
Muncey did it by shattering the lap and 15-mile-heat records on the three-mile Lake Washington course that he had set in Miss Thriftway 10 years earlier. He hinted the records might fall early yesterday afternoon after finishing second in Heat 1 B.
"The lid’s off now. We can go racing," balding Bill had said.
His crew chief, Jim Kerth, put a new power plant in the Schoenith-owned Atlas, and Muncey ran the first lap in Heat 213 at 115.139 miles an hour. He later upped the mark to 117.137 in the final heat runaway.
The longtime Seattleite, who now lives in San Diego, said, "I wouldn’t have given us a 5-2 chance to win this race Saturday."
Muncey’s happy wife, Fran, chimed in: "Saturday night the engines were all apart here. Things went wrong Saturday."
Among the problems, Bill said, was a broken blower section from Saturday’s final tuneup session.
"We didn’t have all the spare stuff we needed here from Detroit," Muncey said.
Kerth said, "You find things like that by testing. It’s great working with Muncey. It’s just the way he drives. He’s superb. I never worry once he leaves the dock. There’s nothing you can do after that."
The unexpected elements in the race were the complete fold-up by the Pride of Pay ‘n Pak — two broken engines without a full lap run and the strong, third-place showing by the patch-quilt Van’s P-X team.
"It just wasn’t our day," said a dejected Billy Sterett, Jr., Pay ‘n Pak driver.
"These engines were strictly race engines. They were built up for this race. We broke them in like we usually do. We ran three laps this morning and thought we were ready to go.
"This kind of blows you out of the water. I just don’t know about next year yet. We had the Pasco race won and now we’ve gone three straight heats without a finish. That’s pretty bad."
Dave Heerensperger, Pay ‘n Pak owner, said in frustration: "We break three engines in two days. I’d like to run a 120-mile-an-hour heat right now just to show the people."
Of the first-heat failure, he added, "the back four cylinders were not firing and they finally blew. They loaded up with fuel. Billy should have cleared it out."
Heerensperger intends to stick with Sterett for 1973. "If Billy wants to drive, he’ll be my driver. It’s his decision," Heerensperger said.
Heerensperger said the sale of his Pride of Pay ‘n Pak boat had "nothing to do with the performance" yesterday. The boat was purchased yesterday for $30,000 by Bernie Little, who will campaign the hull as Miss Budweiser next year.
Heerensperger said he will build a new boat for next season, virtually a cop, "but hopefully a lighter-type boat."
The Van’s P-X got the job done with some help from Gary Crawford, Timex crew chief, who formerly worked alongside Jerry Zuvich on the old Bardahl national-championship boat.
"They’ve got half our motor in there," Crawford said. "We gave them the stuff they needed a gear box, wheel housing and quills, most of the front section."
"That’s not a bad effort for three weeks’ work," Zuvich said.
Leif Borgersen, P-X pilot, said, "The crew told me, ‘If you can’t win, get third place.’ So I did." Borgersen, close behind the second-place Notre Dame at the finish, added, "After that many heats in that rough a water, I don’t think I could have held on much longer."
"The cockpit temperature out there today must have been 150 degrees," said Muncey. "It was a lot easier running out front than where Leif was running."
Wild Bill Cantrell, longtime hydro driver and boat manager of the Atlas, said, "I wish we could have hooked up with the Pay ‘n Pak. Now we’ve got to sit all winter long and not know how we’d have done."
Schoenith, the boat’s designer, won the Gold Cup on Lake Washington in 1955, edging Muncey with the help of a disputed "bonus points" system. The result added fuel to the Seattle-Detroit battle in which Schoenith was the "bad guy" from the East and Muncey was Seattle’s "hero."
"We’ll go with this hull again next year," Schoenith said. "I’m happy with it. I don’t know now what I’d do different if I were going to build a new boat."
Cantrell said, "There’ll be a couple new Detroit boats next year. George Simon is building a new Miss U. S., with a turbo-charged Rolls engine. And Jim Herrington’s building a gas-turbine job. They’ve been testing the engine for a year in the old Mariner, but they haven’t raced it."
Muncey, commenting on the Pay ‘n Pak’s miseries, said, "I’m sorry for them, but I’m not disappointed they didn’t run. Racing involves everything, not just qualifying.
"We came to Seattle wanting that qualifying record; but when they (Pay ‘n Pak) went 125.8, we felt there was no way. So we started shooting for a victory today.
"Our goal was to do exactly as we did."
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 7, 1972)
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