1973 UIM World Championship
‘Floorboard is the Floorboard’
The refugees clogged the roads, in a shambling procession of despair. Even in benumbed shock, they clutched their worldly possessions: chests, blankets, sacks of sodden food. Tired women carried exhausted babies, the men wore hunted expressions. They were cold, wet, dirty, disheveled. They might have been stumbling down a rural road in France, victims of the Nazi blitzkrieg. Their sodden shoes and muddy cuffs seemed to suggest the Bay of Pigs.
And, in fact, they had been eyewitnesses to one of the classic naval battles of all time, fought out on the storm-tossed waters of Lake Washington, under a grey and weeping sky.
It was a three-act showdown between Mickey Remund and Dean Chenoweth. Remund’s frigate was damaged in the first exchange of firepower. At the end of the second volley, Chenoweth was floating dead in the water, his cruiser flashing with flames.
But both returned to action for yet a third time, and Remund’s hydro screamed across the waves to victory, with Chenoweth on his shoulder, half-a-second back at the finish, his thumb jammed down on the nitrous oxide button, still charging at the end.
And then everybody went home, having witnessed a bit of history, on a decidedly uncomfortable afternoon.
Chenoweth’s Miss Budweiser had established a new record speed of 122.504 m.p.h., in Heat 1-C of yesterday’s World Championship Seafair Trophy Race. Remund’s Pay ‘n Pak hydro had set a new lap record of 124.4, in that same heat of competition. And after winning the final, winner-take-all sprint, the Pak Was Back, once again out in front of Miss Budweiser in the race for the national championship.
That was it, a two-boat race, but a classic.
Defending national champion Atlas Van Lines had never been a factor, even though that camp generated more noise’ and more controversy, than all others combined, during the week leading up to yesterday’s finale.
Atlas owner Lee Schoenith, a persistent critic of the "Fan Plan" format, said it would not provide spectators with the best-possible show. And then he set about trying to insure that his prediction would come true.
"Look what happened," Schoenith said yesterday. "During the week everybody went out to run as slow as they could in qualifying, to avoid the fast heat."
Yet in the last analysis, "Everybody" consisted of Atlas Van Lines, and driver Bill Muncey, who purposely qualified a full 10 miles below his boat’s potential, to avoid a premature confrontation with the Bud and the Pak. The Atlas strategy was self-serving, and certainly did nothing to provide a better race for the fans.
Of course, the Atlas team hoped the two hot boats would eliminate each other mechanically, in the blistering opening heats. And in fact the Pak did throw a prop in heat 1-C, and the Bud threw a rod in 2-C. But even though the Bud ran the final with its second-best engine, and despite the fact that the Pak had to use a borrowed propeller, they both ran away and hid from Atlas in the finale. As events transpired, Muncey had earlier been racing just where he belonged, in a second-class heat with a second-class entry.
Meanwhile, Remund and Chenoweth insured the success of the show, holding nothing back, from the first day of qualifying to the final second of competition.
The weather was lousy, visibility marginal at 160 miles an hour. Yet Chenoweth said after the record-breaking heat 1-C that, "We couldn’t have turned any faster with improved visibility. The floorboard is the floorboard, and that’s where I had my foot."
And when they flashed across the line for the final time, in the fading light of the day, the Pak was only a boat-length ahead of the accelerating Budweiser.
"If the race had lasted enough seconds, we might have beaten him," Miss Budweiser owner Bernie Little sighed. "But Dean did a helluva job. And that’s boat racing."
It sure was.
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 6, 1973)
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