1979 Squire Seafair Trophy
Lake Washington, Seattle, Washington, August 5, 1979
Circus Faster; Muncey King
Steve Reynolds jumped the gun, a couple of other drivers were hopping mad and wily olí Bill Muncey took another leap toward an undefeated season yesterday on Lake Washington.
Reynolds was a split second faster than Muncey at the wrong place ó and Munceyís Atlas Van Lines boat went on to win its ninth straight unlimited hydroplane race over two seasons in the annual Seafair histrionics.
Muncey came oh so close to losing for the first time in more than a year not once but twice. As Atlas crew chief Jim Lucero said later with a forced grin, "I think we got pretty lucky."
It was no consolation to Reynolds, whose life long ambition has been to win on Lake Washington, that the hot pink and white Circus Circus came about as close to victory as possible ó but didnít.
Charging down the straightway for the start of the winner-take-all final heat, the bow of the Circus Circus hit the line early, by less than a boat length. Reynolds clutched the lead the entire five laps but when it came time to take the checkered flag symbolic of victory he got the green instead indicating heíd have to run an extra lap.
Meanwhile, Muncey moved from third ahead of Dean Chenoweth in the Miss Budweiser and steered the Atlas to his third straight Seattle victory, the 57th of his unparalleled career.
Muncey readily conceded later, "If the Circus had been a legal starter I couldnít have caught him."
And Reynolds, the 32-year-old rookie driver from Kirkland who has yet to win on the circuit, agreed.
"I donít think there was a boat out there that could touch us today," Reynolds said.
The victory cost Muncey $100 after his engine conked out in a preliminary heat (2-B) but the fine was only the minor part of a near disaster for the Atlas camp.
Munceyís supercharger blew at the head of the backstretch on the second of lap. Fearing the 400 points he earned by winning his first heat wouldnít be enough to make it to the finals, Muncey kept moving ó but just barely. Race officials said he was black-flagged off the course for not keeping the boat on a plane but Bill said he didnít see the flag.
"Each time I came around I looked up at the stand and when I didnít see a black flag, or red flag, or anything I thought Iíd continue on my merry, groovy little way and try and pick up the points to make the final heat," Muncey said.
So Bill Newton, the referee, fined him for not leaving the course. Later Muncey called it "a fair decision."
That heat, as it turned out, was one of the more unusual of the season. The Squire Shop blew its chances to make the final heat when its engine popped, sending the cowling flying off, near the end of the front straightaway of the first lap. When Munceyís Atlas expired, 65-year-old Chuck Hickling took the lead and won the heat. His Tempus was the lone finisher as Bob Millerís Electricraft joined the casualties near the end of the fourth lap.
Thus did Tempus join the big hitters in the finale and Muncey squeezed in on the basis of his 400 point win in the opening heat of the afternoon ó a rout victory.
Circus Circus beat Miss Budweiser and the Squire Shop in 1-B as Reynolds blazed to a two-mile lap world record of 119.601 miles per hour .the first turn around the course.
Circus Circus and the Miss Bud tangled again in Heat 2-A and Chenoweth came out on top this time after a fierce deck-to-deck duel for almost two laps. The Miss Bud got the inside and the boat was riding and handling better than in 1-B.
So the Bud and Circus Circus went to the finale with 700 points each, joined there by Tempus, Barney Armstrongís Machine, Atlas and Vanís P-X.
As the field formed up for the run to the start, Miss Bud was in lane two, Circus Circus in three and Atlas on the outside. Reynolds appeared to back off slightly but was over just ahead of the blast of the starting gun. Chenoweth in Miss Bud gave chase and managed to hold onto second with Muncey pressing in third.
Muncey didnít know for certain the Circus had jumped the gun but he suspected it. "Thereís no way Iím going to make that crummy a start ó not since I was four," Muncey said. "I felt I was right on the money."
At the end of the first lap the starting clock was partially covered, indicating at least one boat had jumped. So Muncey went after the Miss Bud, catching the sputtering beerwagon on the north turn of the second lap. That was the race.
A minor flap developed when at least two buoys were dislodged on the south turn and the Barney Armstrong and Vanís P-X drivers ó Chuck King and Ron Armstrong ó were out of sorts.
Chenoweth admitted he might have nudged a buoy and Muncey said he hit one, after it was loose. But a review of films failed to detect the culprit and, even so, after the fact, the rules allow no provision for a protest.
But nobody felt any worse yesterday than Reynolds.
"I knew on the second lap Iíd jumped and it was sickening. I felt terrible," he said. "I was just damn mad. I stuck my foot in it and went for it and tried to pass as many boats as I could."
Even with an extra lap be was fourth, behind Atlas, Bud and Ron Armstrong in Vanís P-X. The Circus camp burned some midnight oil all week on repairs and it was about 3 a.m. Sunday that Tacoma prop expert George Lockhart finished working on the wheel that made the Circus run better than it has all season.
"Itís our miracle wheel," said boat designer Dave Knowlen.
But the miracle didnít quite come off yesterday.
Pit Patter ó Bill Muncey did not clinch the national championship, simply because hydro officials have revived the possibility of a Long Beach, Calif., race, with Circus Circus involvement to the tune of $20,000. And the Salt Lake City race is on again. Munceyís winning the title, though, is only a formality.
Seafair Race Summaries
HEAT 1-A ó 1. Atlas Van Lines, Bill Muncey, 105.356 m.p.h. 2. Barney Armstrongís Machine, Chuck King, 91.510 m.p,h. 3 Tri-City Tile and Masonry, Jack Schafer, 87.762 m.p.h. 4. Tempus, Chuck Hickling, no time available 5. Electricraft, Bob Miller, 70.5574 m.p.h. Dr. Toyota, Bob Maschmedt, DNS.
Atlas took a wide start, overtook the field in his first turn and won handily. Bob Miller jumped the gun jn Electricraft and was penalized a lap. Barney Armstrongís roostertail broke the Tri-Cityís windshield in the first turn after the start and driver Chuck King was warned for changing lanes.
HEAT 1-B ó 1. Circus Circus, Steve Reynolds, 112.395. 2. Miss Budweiser, Dean Chenoweth, 108.303. 3. Squire Shop, Chip Hanauer, 104.987. 4. Miss Vanís P-X, Ron Armstrong, 101.466. 5. Whatcom Lady, Steve Jones, DNF.
Circus Circus blazed to record first lap of 119.601 and won wire to wire. Miss Budweiser, handling roughly, was content to finish second. Squire Shop sputtered at start when nitrous failed to work, came back for third.
HEAT 2A ó 1. Miss Budweiser, 109.552. 2. Circus Circus, 106.698. 3. Vanís P-X, 102.447. 4. Tri-City Tile, 98.874. 5. Barney Armstrong, 80.598. 6. Dr. Toyota, 80.717.
Budweiser got even with Circus Circus, getting inside and holding on for the win after a keen battle for almost two taps. Tri-City broke the clock but couldnít keep the pace, slipping to fourth behind Vanís P-X.
HEAT 2-B ó Tempus, 83.585. Atlas DNF, Squire Shop DNF, Electricraft DNF, Whatcom Lady DNS.
Atlas was in full command before blowing a supercharger going into the backstretch of the second lap. Squire bowed out with a sick engine on the straightway into the first turn after the start. Tempus took lead and was the lone finisher.
FINAL HEAT ó 1. Atlas Van Lines, 111.077; 2. Budweiser, 110.024; 3. Vanís P-X, 95.923; 4. Circus Circus, 93.9897; 5. Barney Armstrong, 84.586; 6. Tempus, 77.237.
Circus Circus led wire to wire but was penalized extra lap for jumping the gun. Miss Budweiser on inside beat Atlas to first turn and waged keen battle until Muncey took lead on north turn of second lap, forcing Bud to go through wake. Steady Vanís P-X was third.
NATIONAL STANDINGS ó 1. Atlas 8588. Circus Circus 5544, 3. Tri-City Tile 4488, 4. Miss Budweiser 3669. 5. Dr. Toyota 3192, 6. Squire Shop 2150. 7. Vanís P-X 1294. 8. Barney Armstrong 1192. 9. Tempus 1185. 10. My Gypsy 957. 11. Candyman 594. 12. Miss Madison 619. 13. Detroit Radiographics 254. 14. Electricraft 127.
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 6, 1979)
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