1976 Columbia Cup
Bud Ties Record, But Muncey Still Favored
TRI-CITIES — Six boats have a shot at the top prize, but there really is only one man to beat in today’s Columbia Cup race.
Bill Muncey remains on the top plateau heading into the seventh — and most observers predict best — regatta of the unlimited-hydroplane season.
Many owners, drivers and crewmen publicly predict success for their own boats in the first race in the West this year; but privately, most admit that Muncey will have the edge when the starting gun fires at noon.
"All you have to do is look at his record," said Bernie Little, whose Miss Budweiser late yesterday tied Muncey’s two-day-old national qualifying record in the Atlas Van Lines.
Muncey has won four of the six previous races this season and is far and away the leader in consistency.
In 19 individual heat races, Atlas has finished first 13 times, has five second-place finishes and one third.
Just finishing a heat will be quite an accomplishment for some of the hydros here. Three were not even able to qualify. Two others made it only after the Unlimited Contest Board last night decided to lower the qualifying minimum from 100 to 90 miles an hour. The three "outsiders" will get two more hours — another late change — to try to reach that speed this morning.
The draw at last night’s drivers’ meeting left Billy Schumacher, Olympia Beer driver, smiling. His boat was placed in Heat 1B while Atlas and Budweiser both landed in Heat 1A.
Both Remund and Schumacher took a shot at Muncey’s qualifying record yesterday. Remund, in his next-to-last try, was clocked at an identical speed as Muncey’s record run on Thursday — 126.582 m.p.h.
"He lost it for about two seconds in the south turn; otherwise we would have made it," Little said after huddling with his driver.
A moment later he went back to consult with Remund and the Budweiser crew chief, Tommy Frankhouser, to see if they wanted to make one more attempt.
Told the decision was up to him, Remund hesitated only briefly before saying, ‘‘Let’s go for it."
But he soon was back in the pits shaking his head. "The water’s too sticky," he said. The mighty Columbia looked like a placid pond, nice for pleasure boats but slow for hydroplanes.
Schumacher’s top effort, which he insisted was not a record-breaking attempt, was 126.227.
If all 12 make it, this will be the largest gathering of thunderboats thus far in 1976.
But regardless of what happens in qualifying attempts this morning, the contest boils down to a battle of six boats — Atlas, Budweiser, Olympia, Miss U.S., Vernors and Sunny Jim.
The Sunny Jim was not considered a serious contender until yesterday, when Sheehy turned a qualifying lap of 118.265 m.p.h. around the 2½-mile course and then confided that "we can go faster than that."
Pete LaRock, the boat owner, said a newly installed propeller has much to do with the improvement.
Vernors is a long shot. Just when the ginger-ale crew decided it had solved fuel-system troubles, a bug developed in the ignition system, leaving the engine sputtering.
Miss U.S., winner of this year’s Gold Cup race in Detroit, still was tinkering with equipment yesterday but the driver, Tom D’Eath, got the boat up to one lap at 120 m.p.h. during testing.
Some of the U.S. equipment was temporarily lost in an air-freight mix-up and did not arrive here until mid-day, slowing down efforts to get the Detroit boat set up properly for the Columbia River course.
The opening heat lineups, with drivers and top qualifying speeds:
Heat 1A — Atlas Van Lines, Bill Muncey, 126.582 m.p.h.; Miss Budweiser, Mickey Remund, 126.582; Vernors, Jerry Bangs, 115.090; Oh, Boy! Oberto, Bill Wurster, 96.774; Ms. Everett, Roger D’Eath, 92.956.
Heat 1B — Olympia Beer, Schumacher, 126.227 m.p.h.; Miss U.S., Tom D’Eath, 120.000; Sunny Jim, Tom Sheehy, 118.265; Miss Lynnwood, Ron Snyder, 106.635.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 1, 1976)
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