1974 APBA Gold Cup
Lake Washington, Seattle WA, August 4, 1974
The Beautiful People
Unlimited hydroplane racing’s survival of the fittest came down to a coin flip yesterday.
Jim Lucero’s coin came up tails, and Dave Heerensperger headed for the champagne.
Lucero, crew chief of the Pay ‘n Pak, the boat which won yesterday’s Gold Cup race on Lake Washington, almost was outvoted until coming up with the coin-flipping idea and a last-minute engine change.
Pay ‘N Pak’s driver, George Henley, was pleased with his engine’s performance in the next-to-last heat of the nine-hour regatta and suggested the crew leave the same motor in the boat for the final heat.
Heerensperger, Pay ‘n Pak owner, agreed, "but I told Lucero the final decision was up to him."
Considering the way other boats’ engines had been flying apart all day, Lucero wasn’t certain he wanted to take a chance.
"The engine that was in the boat had four heats of racing on it, and you never know when one of these things is going to break," said the crew chief. "We had this other engine which had no racing time whatsoever on it.
"Tails was the new engine, heads the other one. When it came up tails, we switched."
Heerensperger, who said he was hauling the champagne around "just in case" Pay ‘n Pak won, popped the cork after the race and bubbled about Lucero:
"Since I first hired Jim, we’ve won 10 of 18 races. He’s got to be doing some-thing right."
Henley, tired but beaming, couldn’t seem to conjure up enough compliments about Lucero and the rest of the Pay ‘n Pak crew.
"You should have seen the way they worked all day," said Henley. "They made three engine changes, the last one in about 15 minutes. They’re really beautiful."
"George is by far the easiest driver to work with I’ve ever been with," Lucero said in return. "He does everything you ask, and, besides, he’s a super guy.
Then came Heerensperger’s turn:
"Our crew was very prepared. They worked down here until about 8:30 last night, checking everything over. They wanted to give me this as a wedding are sent, and who could ask for a better one? I’ve waited for this for nine years."
Heerensperger, who was married Saturday night, never before had won a Gold Cup, although his boats had won every other major hydroplane race in the country. The win also was Henley’s first in a Gold Cup race and came in his first year as the Pay ‘n Pak driver.
"We weren’t satisfied with the way the boat was performing after Thursday’s qualifying," said Lucero. "We worked on it a lot to improve the handling and changed the gear ratio in one engine which wasn’t snappy enough."
From then on, things went smoothly in the Pay ‘n Pak camp—so smoothly that some of the crewmen found time for a Frisbee-throwing contest yesterday while other crews frantically worked to get their boats back into the action.
The Pak finished first in every heat in which it raced, and the skywriting plane did a splendid job of spelling out "Dave and Jill" with accompanying heart.
"I guess," said Lucero, "you could call that a perfect day."
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 5, 1974)
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