1974 APBA Gold Cup
Lake Washington, Seattle WA, August 4, 1974
Engine Gamble Paid Off
By Don Fair
That hometown Pay’n Pak gang kept yesterday’s silver anniversary Seafair from becoming a marathon Seafarce.
Comprised in equal parts of owner Dave Heerensperger, driver George Henley and crew chief Jim Lucero, the Pak was so thorough, so good in its Gold Cup performance that all the day’s colossal blunders, mistakes, charges and counter-charges paled in the wake. .
And maybe Lucero was the key guy in the Pak’s domination of the dusty, dingy Sand Point race site.
It was his decision to change engines in the final heat, one which neither Heerensperger nor Henley particularly felt necessary. That was a calculated gamble, but the Pak never missed a victory beat on its six-lap winning ride which ended just about the time the gals had shifted from bikinis to bathrobes or bath towels or anything which a was a mite warmer to the skin.
"Personally. I wouldn’t have changed the engine that final heat," Heerensperger admitted. "We went to one we’d never used before, but Jim figured it was best. Be figured we needed six hard laps to win it."
"The other engine had run four heats," Lucero explained. "You just don’t know whether it’s right to change. Henley said the old engine was running good. But I decided to try the new one."
The fact the Pak ripped through everybody on the course yesterday is a tribute to thorough preparation.
"The crew is very organized," Heerensperger said. "They worked on the boats until 8:30 Saturday night. The way it rides in the water is a tribute to Jim Lucero.
"We tried a lot of things on Thursday which didn’t work. We, frankly, weren’t happy with our qualifying. Lucero is the one who engineered the changes for today."
There’s no way one can criticize Henley ‘s sure-handed job as skipper. When he brought the Pak out of the north turn and into the lead on the third lap of the final heat, his boss, Heerensperger positively leaped from his lounge chair atop the team bus. That’s where the owner watched the final — and ended nine years of Gold Cup frustration.
"I had to do it (make his move) then." Henley said. "I didn’t know if I could get by the Budweiser, but I had to find out. We were getting too far along in the heat to wait any longer.
"So it was go and hope. Anyway, you have to stay right side up, you have to go to the limit to win. That’s when I had to find out."
What did Henley think about when he took the permanent lead in the final heat?
"Just finish," he answered with that winning smile.
If the Pak victory was extra sweet to Heerensperger, he was prepared. His orange-and-white hydro had hardly crossed the finish line before he fled the top of the bus — bottle of champagne and plastic glasses in hand — and ran to Lucero.
First he gave his crew chief a big hug and then pored him some champagne.
"Finally, after nine years," Heerensperger yelled. Then back to the more serious business of pouring champagne, hugging crew members hugging Henley’s wife, hugging well-wishers.
"I’ve had that champagne for two months," Heerensperger admitted. "This was a very important race for us because it’s in Seattle, and, besides,I always have a little champagne somewhere on that bus."
This incidentally was the first Gold Cup victory for Heerensperger, Lucero and Henley. They agreed it was their best hydro moment.
Until the Pak’s last parade to the victory circle — its fourth win of the long afternoon and night — there was little to recommend the 1974 event.
Except, perhaps for Cathy," the gal in the see-through blouse. But Cathy left early, and that left one with only weird happening.
It started before a heat result, when the Lincoln Thrift withdrew. Owner Bob Fendler listed the reason as "perhaps an aerodynamic problem, something different than we’re used to." Thrift driver Mickey Remund stuck to a "no comment" format.
This meant that the hydro resembles an untamed bronc in the water.
Then came the competition itself, and boats began disappearing in wholesale lots. In the first heat, three didn’t last two laps. One didn’t get started for the second heat, and the U-95 went to the bottom in a try at heat 1-C.
That was just a warm-pup.
In the re-run of heat 1-C. Miss U.S. caught fire and driver Tom D’Eath wound up blasting the fire-fighting crew ... "If they had done the job, tried to put out the fire right away, we could have saved the boat for this season. That’s what hap-pens when they move the race to a ghetto."
The engine blew, we got some oil in the bilge, and nobody wanted to get close enough to put it out right away," the U.S. driver added heatedly. "It took nearly 10 minutes for anybody to do anything."
Then things began to deteriorate rapidly.
Muncey, despite two heat wins, admitted, "I’d rather race for $30,000 at Seward Park (the old race site) than for $50,000 here."
Budweiser driver Howie Benns lost a tremendous Heat 1-C duel with Henley when his "foot slipped off the throttle." That lapse gave Henley a lead which stood up.
The next time the Bud and Pak dueled, Heat 2-C, it was a "15 cent spring in the throttle" which went haywire. Benns went for speed, got nothing, and Henley zipped into a big lead.
Heat 3-B was red-flagged to a halt because the official time clock wouldn’t work.
One Northwest Tank Service person reportedly, drew a $50 fine for "shoving" a race official.
Then came a delay in a heat when nobody got gasoline to the Red Man.
There was heat in which veteran Fred Alter blew a p1ug, had to use his gloved hand to try to stop the oil spurt, and finished the race. That made 45 gallons of oil used by Alter in his Pizza Pete, so owner Lee Schoenith went to Fendler ‘s Thrift for more oil.
Or Kirby Classic driver Bill Wurster lost track of laps, tried to finish too soon, and had to make another circuit. As he said, "It was embarrassing."
Or the time someone asked Budweiser boss Bernie Little what was going on as the delays and mishaps compounded. Little answered. without a hesitation, "I certainly don’t know. I wonder who does?"
Whatever was happening at Lake Washington yesterday — when it was happening which was seldom — wasn’t much to stir the imagination.
At least until the Pak went into action. Heerensperger, Henley, Lucero and Co. kept Seafair afloat.
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 5, 1974)
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