1974 Champion Spark Plug Regatta
Bud’s Win Overshadowed
MIAMI — (Special) — The Miss Budweiser backed into the winner’s circle here yesterday as the unlimited-hydroplane season began on a tragic note.
The Budweiser’s victory on points was overshadowed by the death of George (Skipp) Walther, rookie driver who was fatally injured in a pre-race test run.
Walther, whose death is the 10th in the modern era of unlimited-class racing, was filling in for the injured Jim McCormick in the Red Man. McCormick was hurt when he spun out and was tossed from the boat during a practice run last Thursday. McCormick’s leg injuries required more than 300 stitches. He was scheduled for skin-graft surgery this morning.
The Budweiser, with Howie Benns at the wheel, ran second in two of three heats, but still managed to win the $30,000 Champion Regatta’s first prize of $7,750 with 1,000 points.
The Seattle-based Pay ‘n Pak, after two impressive victories in preliminary heats, was leading in the final when a shaft worked loose and the engine blew.
With the Pak disabled on the second-lap backstretch, Benns moved to the front and headed for home — only to be overtaken on the fourth lap by Milner Irvin, a rookie in Miss Madison.
Irvin won the final heat by about one boat length over Benns in the beer wagon, but came up 200 points short in the final accounting.
The Madison well could have won the race. After a first place in a Section of Heat 1, Benns could not get his boat started for Heat 2. A third-place finish in the heat section that he couldn’t make would have given Irvin 225 points and enough overall to win the whole thing.
Disappointment reigned in the camps of the Pay ‘n Pak and Atlas Van Lines.
George Henley of Eatonville. Wash., had the Pak humming in the prelims. Henley averaged 104.530 miles an hour in 1A and 105.634 m.p.h. in 2A. His 2A speed was tops for the day.
When the Pak conked out in the final, Henley walked to the front deck and forlornly watched the rest of the fleet scoot past.
The Atlas, with veteran Bill Muncey up, was leading in two elimination heats but stalled both times. Muncey did not finish 1B and chugged home with a speed of 69.930 m.p.h. in 2A.
The U-95, Seattle’s twin-turbined boat jockeyed by Leif Borgersen, also had engine problems. Borgersen chased Henley in 1A averaging 100.897 m.p.h., but then one engine went sour and the U-95 averaged only 63 and 65 m.p.h. in 2B and the final, respectively
It was a satisfying win for Benns, 35, a rookie from Grand Island. N. Y. But Bernie Little, owner of the Budweiser, expressed some concern about Benns’ driving.
"He’s got some learning to do," Little said. "He hasn’t found the knack for going through the corners.
He was letting the other hot dogs get inside him on the corners. But he’ll get better."
The capacity crowd in Marine Stadium was on its feet for the final two laps of the final. Benns had built a lead of seven seconds early in lap 4, but Irvin charged through the tight lower corner, moved to the inside and caught the Bud on the backstretch. The two boats came through the final turn side by side. Milner’s lead was one boat length at the gun.
The hydro fleet today departed for Washington, D. C., and next weekend’s President’s Cup on the Potomac.
Heat 1A — Pay ‘n Pak, George Henley, 104.530 m.p.h.; U-95, Leif Borgerson 100.897 m.p.h.
Heat 1B — Miss Madison, Milner Irvin, 75.440 m.p.h.; Miss U. S., Tom D’Eath, 56.327 m.p.h.; Miss Cott’s Beverages, Tom Sheehy, did not finish; Atlas Van Lines U-70, Bill Muncey, DNF
Heal 1C — Miss Budweiser, Howie Benns, 93.555 m.p.h.; Mister Fabricator, Tom Kaufman, 90,634 m.p.h.; Just-A-Pest III, Danny Walls, 80.717 m.p.h.
Heat 2A — Pay ‘n Pak, 105.634 m.p.h..; Budweiser. 104.651, m.p.h.; Atlas Van Lines U-70, 69.930 m.p.h.
Heat 2B — Just-A-Pest III, 82.342 m.p.h.; U-95, 63.158 m.p.h.; Mister Fabricator, DNF
Final — Miss Madison, 104.167 m.p.h.; Budweiser, 104.408 m.p.h.; Just-A-Pest III, 83.565 m.p.h.; U-95, 65.550 m.p.h.; Pay ‘n Pak, DNF
Final Standings — Miss Budweiser, 1,000 points; Just-A-Pest III, 850; Pay ‘n Pak, 800; Miss Madison, 800; U-95, 769; Mister Fabricator, 300; Miss U. S., 300; Atlas Van Lines, 0; Miss Cott’s Beverages, 0; Valu-Mart and Lincoln Thrift, withdrawn.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, June 3, 1974)
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