1996 Indiana Governor's Cup
Ohio River, Madison IN, July 7, 1996


In the one-hour warmup and test session, Mike Hanson clipped a buoy with the DeWALT Tools and was fined $250 in replacement costs. The Budweiser team, to noone's surprise, declared that they would race the Turbine 3 -- about the only boat they practiced with over the previous two days.

In a 15-minute ceremony prior to the playing of the National Anthem, the "Bill Cantrell Memorial Race Course" was officially dedicated and Pappy's ashes were committed to the Ohio River at the start-finish line, which henceforth will be marked by a large rock (behind the judges' stand) and plaque.

For the first time in UHRA history, all the race teams lined up adjacent to their trucks in the pits for the Cantrell salute and the anthem, while UHRA officials lined up near the judges' stand.

Heat 1A

After one aborted start when the Smokin' Joe's appeared to be ready to jump the gun, the five boats came around a second time in decent order -- Budweiser, Joe's, Computers & Applications, and Exide across the front, with U-7 Racing the trailer -- and the race was on.

Smokin' Joe's easily beat Miss Budweiser to the downriver turn and through it, quickly establishing a full roostertail lead that it maintained the rest of the way. Mark Evans crossed over onto the outside of the Joe's near the end of lap two, but couldn't find any smooth water in which to improve his position. The winning margin was 6.338 seconds.

HEAT 1A
1. Mark Tate, Smokin' Joe's, 147.504
2. Mark Evans, Miss Budweiser, 142.575
3. Ken Muscatel, Computers & Applications, 124.756
4. Mike Jones, Miss Exide, 114.104
5. Rick Christensen, U-7 Racing, 102.548
Fast lap -- Mark Tate, Smokin' Joe's, 150.220 (1st).

Heat 1B 

The lane choice, inside out, beginning with Lane 2 (Lane 1 is left open for evasive maneuvers) was: DeWALT, PICO, Harvey Motorsports and the U-99.9 R.S. Eastin Hotel. With Ed Cooper's piston-powered boat not yet in the pits, there was no trailer.

After a momentary delay to get the abort boat back into the infield, the white and green flags came out in short order. As expected, Dave Villwock wheeled the PICO into a substantial lead from the get-go. Mike Hanson appeared to be back a roostertail or so in the inside lane, and never did get catch up to the eventual second- place boat, Harvey Motorsports. Hanson claimed the other boats were doing "at least 160" all the way down the Kentucky straightaway on the way to the start and that he couldn't catch up. All four finished. Winning margin was 7.106 seconds.

Heat 1B
1. Dave Villwock, PICO American Dream, 145.688
2. Steve David, Harvey Motorsports, 140.309
3. Mike Hanson, DeWALT Tools, 135.177
4. Mike Eacrett, The Miss R.S. Eastin Hotel, 127.220
Fast lap -- Dave Villwock, PICO, 148.510 (1st)

Heat 2A

Smokin' Joe's is left with the inside (Lane 2) starting spot, with DeWALT, Harvey Motorsports and Exide finishing out the front row. U-7 Racing is the trailer.

Virtually no contest, with Mark Tate easily outgunning everyone to the downriver turn and never looking back, en route to an average speed of 146.320 for the three laps. Steve David hustled along into second place with the Harvey Motorsports entry, until cutting back when the issue was fully decided, with DeWALT in third and the Exide in fourth. Rick Christensen went dead up the bridge on the second lap and had to be towed in. The winning margin between the first and second-place boats was 13.624 seconds.

Heat 2A
1. Tate, Smokin' Joe's, 146.320
2. David, Harvey Motorsports, 136.260
3. Hanson, DeWALT Tools, 128.499
4. Jones, Miss Exide, 113.275
DNF--Rick Christensen, U-7 Racing
Fast lap -- Tate, Smokin' Joe's, 147.810 (2nd). 

Heat 2B

Dave Villwock, as the pace boat on the outside, held at 120 miles an hour the first time around, luring the other three into going too fast and drawing warnings for the abort. Next time around, the PICO got the jump from the outside and was an easy winner, with the Miss Budweiser trailing in second. Mike Eacrett was assessed a $300 fine and a one-lap penalty for "forcing Computers & Applications into Lane 1 all the way down the front straight and into the turn." Consequently, Ken Muscatel hooked and went dead in the water in the first turn. He restarted, and looked to be in trouble catching Eacrett before the latter also went dead, momentarily, and eventually finished 37 seconds behind the pack.

As the boats got the checkered flag, the U-3 team pulled into the pits from Evansville.

HEAT 2B
1. Villwock, PICO American Dream, 145.738
2. Evans, Miss Budweiser, 140.190
3. Muscatel, Computers &Applications, 107.657
4. Eacrett, The Miss R.S. Eastin Hotel (penalized a lap for encroachment), 109.839
Fast lap -- PICO, 148.163 (2nd). 

Heat 3A

The U-99.9 Miss R.S. Eastin Hotel stayed on the trailer, opting to try the provisional heat for entry into the final. Rick Christensen was to have been the trailer boat, but went dead in the upriver turn as the other three came around to the start. Steve David was on the inside of Mike Hanson's hometown DeWALT Tools entry and, after a nip-and-tuck first lap, gained a comfortable, roostertail margin. Hanson, on the downriver turn of the third lap, suddenly cut across David's wake in an effort to gain ground, but was forced to go back outside again in the final turn...ultimately losing by 5.251 seconds.

HEAT 3A
1. David, Harvey Motorsports, 139.165
2. Hanson, DeWALT Tools, 135.498
3. Jones, Miss Exide, 116.626
DNS -- Christensen, U-7 Racing; Eacrett, The Miss R.S. Eastin Hotel
Fast lap -- Harvey Motorsports, 140.360 (1st). 

Heat 3B

The start, with the Miss Budweiser, Smokin' Joe's, PICO and Computers & Applications across the course, inside to out, was a mess. Just as they got the green, Ken Muscatel in the outside boat came in close to the PICO, who wound up being squeezed out of room . . . and it could have been worse. Villwock got off the throttle to avert any serious difficulty, but was left way behind the Smokin' Joe's. Mark Tate made a solo dash of it for the three laps, averaging a solid 147.869 and winning by 18 seconds-plus.. Muscatel was fined $500 and disqualified by referee Michael Noonan, who also assessed a $300 fine against Mark Evans and the Miss Budweiser for being in lane one going into the first turn -- contrary to something the drivers had been warned about during the Saturday drivers' meeting. With third place assured, Evans limped around home in third while Muscatel pulled off the course, probably to get ready for the provisional heat. Noonan said if something similar happens at the start of the final heat, he'll abort it and start all over.

Smokin' Joe's 1200
PICO 1100
Harvey Motorsports 1000
Miss Budweiser 825
DeWALT Tools 750 
all qualify for the final, with DeWALT as the first trailer. 
HEAT 3B
1. Tate, Smokin' Joe's, 147.869
2. Villwock, PICO, 134.352
3. Evans, Miss Budweiser, 100.635
DSQ--Muscatel, Computers & Applications (lane encroachment at the start). 
Fast lap -- Smokin' Joe's, 148.746 (2nd). 

Provisional Heat

Mike Eacrett went wire-to-wire on the inside to earn the last trailer boat berth in the final, but not without a $300 fine from referee Noonan for coming into lane 1 on the upriver turn. Owner Fred Leland protested, saying that after the U-99.9 hooked, Eacrett had no choice. Ken Muscatel got around to finish second, although when he went wide in that second turn, he wound up forcing Mitch Evans -- at last back on the water with piston power, to the delight of the crowd -- even wider, in fact, off the course. Noonan let that go, saying there was a five-boat overlap in each case.

Provisional Heat
1. Eacrett, R.S. Eastin Hotel, 130.601
2. Ken Muscatel, Mercer Island WA, Computers & Applications, 127.782
3. Mitch Evans, Chelan WA, Mill Bay Casino presents The Spirit of Lake Chelan, 116.449
DNS--Jones, Miss Exide. Fast lap -- Eastin Hotel, 135.030. 

The lane choice for the final shows Budweiser on the inside (Lane 2), and Joe's, PICO and Harvey Motorsports from inside out. DeWALT Tools will be on the inside of the trailer row, with Mitch Evans, tabbed by Leland, to drive on the outside in the U-99.9.

Winner-Take-All Final

MADISON, Ind. (Special, July 7) -- Unlimited hydroplane racing's Big Three hooked up in a daredevil, winner-take-all final here today, each taking turns with the lead, but at the end it was Mark Tate and the Smokin' Joe's flashing under the checkered flag to win the 46th annual and fastest ever Budweiser Indiana Governor's Cup. Miss Budweiser took second when Las Vegas Thunder Tour '96 point leader Dave Villwock and the PICO American Dream momentarily lost power on the penultimate circuit of the five-lap, 12.5-mile final.

Mark Evans and the Bud rocketed into the lead at the start and led through the first turn before his two principal rivals began to exert their full power potential. That led to a dicey, three-boat swoop through the upriver turn and then, as the Budweiser fell back, a wild, deck-to-deck battle for the next 2 1/2 laps as the some 50,000 Ohio River fans cheered wildly.

Only when Villwock's PICO was washed down in the first turn of the fourth lap did Tate and the Smokin' Joe's spring loose for a 10.6-second victory over Evans, averaging a record 145.573 for the 12.5-mile final. Chip Hanauer and the Miss Budweiser held the old mark at 144.695, set in 1994. Villwock finished third ahead of Steve David in the Harvey Motorsports entry. Tate's overall average for the 35-mile race, 146.633, eclipsed Hanauer's 1992 mark of 145.592, also set in the Budweiser.

The victory helped Tate and Smokin' Joe's to vault over the Budweiser and into second place in the Budweiser/O'Doul's national high point championship. Villwock and PICO, winners of three previous races, still lead with 6,986 points to 6,008, with the fleet now headed for the Budweiser Columbia Cup in Tri-Cities, Wash., July 28.

FINAL HEAT
1. Mark Tate, Canton MI, Smokin' Joe's, 145.573
2. Mark Evans, Miss Budweiser, 140.755
3. Dave Villwock, Auburn WA, PICO American Dream, 135.625
4. Steve David, Pompano Beach FL, Harvey Motorsports, 129.313
5. Mitch Evans, Chelan WA, R.S. Eastin Hotel, 127.866
6. Mike Hanson, Madison IN, DeWALT Tools, 121.385 (penalized one lap for cutting a buoy). 

This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
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Leslie Field, 1998