1986 Miller Thunderboat Trophy
Miller Time In Syracuse
After the conclusion of qualifying on Saturday only one question remained at Lake Onondaga in Syracuse, New York. Would the Miller American be ready when the gun fired for Heat 1-A? In a Saturday afternoon qualifying run the L-7 turbine let go sending engine parts flying, mostly through the deck and bottom. Ironically, the motor let go in virtually the identical spot it did in 1985. But the crew didn't call it quits in '85 and didn't in '86 either. Large spotlights and generators were installed around the Miller truck for a late night work effort. A lot of mending was needed, but as always, the Miller American was ready when race time came.
Only five other boats had qualified to challenge Chip Hanauer and the Miller American, they were the Miss Budweiser (turbine) with Jim Kropfeld, the Miss 7-Eleven with Steve Reynolds, the Holset/Miss Madison with Ron Snyder, the unnamed U-22 with Todd Yarling and the U-15 with Jack Schafer, Jr. The Oh Boy! Oberto had made the trip from Seattle but failed to meet the minimum.
One boat showing a marked improvement since the Emerald Cup was the 7-Eleven. Owner Steve Woomer had recruited Jim Lucero, the all time winningest crew chief to iron out the bugs which had been plaguing the 7-Eleven since the season opener in Miami. Lucero's magic had a definite impact as the boat got up and ran faster than it had all season.
The URC decided that even though the Syracuse course is approved for six boats, the preliminaries would be three boats apiece.
Heat 1-A consisted of Miller American (qualifying speed 141.34), Miss Budweiser (136.08).and Miss 7-Eleven (136.00). Bud jumped out to an early lead with Hanauer settling in for second not wanting to push the equipment too hard. Miss 7-Eleven finished a lap and went dead in the east turn. Chip stayed within striking distance in case the Bud should develop any problems but no such luck this time around. The final order of finish was Kropfeld, then Hanauer with Reynolds picking up zero points with a DNF.
Heat 1-B consisted of the Holset/Miss Madison (113.87), the U-22 (111.57) and the U-15 (107.94). Ron Snyder nailed the start and had the lead on the inside. All the boats ran together all the way around the course with the lead going back and forth between Snyder and Yarling. The surprise had to be Schafer who stayed close by staying on the inside and making tight turns, and briefly stuck his nose out in front. But Snyder had just a few more beans and brought the U-6 home in first, followed by the U-22 with Yarling then Schafer taking third. The speeds were slow but the action was good.
Heat 2-A was one of those odd ones you get occasionally in Unlimited racing. The Holset/Madison, Budweiser and the U-22 were slated to race but the Bud was not on a plane at the one minute gun. Kropfeld still made a start but was about a half a lap late. No message on the clock and no black flag appeared. Kropfeld stood on the throttle all the way while Snyder attempted to keep the Madison out front. Kropfeld caught and passed Yarling in the U-22 and had Snyder in his sights. At the beginning of lap five the beer boat stuck its nose in front, but Snyder held on and managed to lead through the turn. Kropfeld passed him for good up the backstretch and seemingly won the heat. But the Bud was given a big DSQ and never really knew until the heat was over. A black flag should have been in order, there was no reason to let the boat run all five laps when it had been decided not to score the boat with one minute still left to the start.
2-B grouped together the 7-Eleven, the U-15 and the Miller American. Miller led over the line and was closely pursued by a new 'hot' 7-Eleven with the U-15 just looking to finish. It was pretty much a parade from there with the results being Miller, 7-Eleven and U-15 in third.
All six boats made the final which was basically no surprise, since only six qualified. Budweiser and Kropfeld nailed the start and led into and out of the first turn. But Hanauer and the Miller American were on the inside lane and passed Bud halfway up the backstretch. Kropfeld made a wide turn and Chip was gone with a 131mph first lap. Miss 7-Eleven developed problems and slowed way down while the Holset/Madison and U-22 dueled for third and fourth. The U-15 stayed slow and steady in the rear. Kropfeld stayed on the accelerator but went dead before lap four. 7-Eleven got the turbine re-lit again and managed to make up a lot of time and took home second place money. Todd Yarling in the U-22 stayed strong for third. The Madison and Ron Snyder were fourth and the U-15 chugged across in fifth. Kropfeld sat dead in the water for sixth place money.
Hanauer, Muncey & Co. chalked up their third straight victory and took over the national points lead by 569 points. Chip's twenty third victory was a tough one, but to stay on top you have to come through when the odds are against you.
(Reprinted from the Unlimited NewsJournal, September 1986)
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