1997 JN Automotive Hydrofest
Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, HI, October 12, 1997


(First day of qualifying for eighth annual JN Automotive Hydrofest)

After a morning test session which saw PICO (165.926), Close Call (165.310), Appian (163.088) and U-99 KGMB Channel 9 (156.898) zooming around the wide, 2,200-foot turns of another Russ Dodge-designed course, anticipation was at a high level for the first qualifying session. Mark Tate, getting ready to drive his final race for owner Steve Woomer, quickly set the pace, churning around the 2 1/2-mile course in an average speed of 167.143 mph. Three other boats got in qualifying times before heavy rain sidetracked the proceeding for a couple of hours. Best of those was Mark Weber in the Miss Budweiser at 164.123. But, when the showers subsided and Fred Leland's two-boat team took to the waters, Mark Evans quickly elevated the PICO American Dream into the second-best spot on the provisional ladder with a 165.987 mph lap. The Budweiser requires 643 points to clinch a 17th national O'Doul's high point title for owner Bernie Little. Third place on the qualifying ladder would provide 23 of those. The first-day speeds:

1. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call Phone Card, 167.143
2. N. Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American Dream, 165.987
3. Mark Weber, St. Clair Shores, Mich., Miss Budweiser, 164.123
4. Mitch Evans, Chelan, Wash., Appian Jeronimo, 162.549
5. Rick Christensen, Eatonville, Wash., KGMB Channel 9, 156.516
6. Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., Miss TruckGear, 156.424
7. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., Deja Vu, 155.936.

After an Unlimited Light testing session involving the five boats here, the second qualifying session was slowed by a persistent rain. No speeds were improved. Ken Muscatel, Seattle, Wash., is yet to qualify. More sessions are carded for Saturday, along with a trio of ULRS preliminary heats.

*  *  *

Mark Evans Flips Big-Time in Honolulu

(Saturday, October 11, 1997)

Veteran unlimited hydroplane racer N. Mark Evans, 40, Wenatchee, Wash., apparently survived serious injury after losing control of his PICO American Dream in one of the more spectacular flips in the long history of the sport. The boat was nearing the end of the front straightaway on the 2 1/2-mile Pearl Harbor course, in the midst of a qualifying attempt, when a gust of wind caught the boat at some 200 miles an hour and launched it some 60 feet skyward.

The three-ton boat performed two, backwards, 360-degree turns in mid-air and then another half turn before plummeting into the water. Evans, protected by an F-16 jet fighter canopy, was able to extract himself from the wreckage, climbing out the bottom escape hatch and standing before rescuers arrived shortly thereafter.

Preliminary examination revealed lacerations and bruises on both legs, the cuts requiring stitches. Evans also incurred bruises around his midriff but did not complain of any head or neck injuries. He was stretchered away from the scene and flown to Queen's Hospital in nearby Pearl City for additional treatment.

Evans appeared to be making a strong bid to gain the No. 1 qualifying position for Sunday's JN Automotive Hydrofest. His chief rival and the man he trails by just 50 points in the race for the national drivers' championship, Mark Tate, currently tops the time trial ladder with two Saturday qualifying sessions to go. He had averaged 165.383 miles an hour in the lap completed just before the spectacular airborne flip.

The PICO owner Fred Leland, has another boat entered here and early speculation was that he would anoint that as a replacement for the PICO and run it as the defending national champion U-1 on Sunday. Early damage reports on the boat were incomplete, but the sponsons are said to be intact, as is much of the main decking of the craft.

Evans, two months ago in Seattle, flipped another PICO boat early in the Texaco Cup at Seafair, and Leland's crew was able to repair it in time for the boat to come back and win the race. It remains to be seen whether such heroics can be performed this time.

*  *  *

With Two Qualifying Sessions Left . . .

1. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call Phone Card, 167.143
2. N. Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American Dream, 165.987;
(boat withdrawn after Saturday morning crash; Rule 4A/7 states that "should the qualified hull be domaged prior to the start of Heat 1A, a back-up hull shall be allowed to compete without qualifying" -- so owner Fred Leland will use his U-99 hull as the back-up for Sunday's Race)
3. Mark Weber, St. Clair Shores, Mich., Miss Budweiser, 165.799
4. Mitch Evans, Chelan, Wash., Appian Jeronimo, 162.549
5. Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., Miss TruckGear, 160.342
6. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., Deja Vu, 155.936.

Rick Christensen, Eatonville, Wash., KGMB Channel 9, 158.064 (withdrawn as U-99 and substituted as U-1)

Still unqualified in the Columbia Communications/Computers & Applications is Ken Muscatel of Seattle, Wash. Weather has been cloudy and overcast, and humid, but no persistent rain as was the case during much of Friday's qualifying action.

Muscatel complained to UHRA chief referee Mike Noonan that his fuel was contaminated by water, thus accounting for the boat's sputtering performances in two trips out onto the course Friday. The situation is being investigated.

Weather has been cloudy and overcast, and humid, but no persistent rain as was the case during much of Friday's qualifying action.

With only seven hulls remaining intact, there will be no provisional heat on Sunday afternoon. The final may include as many as six boats on the front line with one trailer boat.

If the qualifying concludes with no further changes in the top two, Mark Tate will stretch his season point lead over Mark Evans to 60 points in the race for the driving championship.

UNLIMITED LIGHT RACING SERIES, HEAT NO. 1

(Three laps, five miles)

1. Bo Schide, Dayton, O., Alamo, 105.797
2. Randy Haas, Toledo, O., Miss Leroi, 104.496
3. George Stratton, Las Vegas, Nev., Wild Fire, 99.730
4. Phil Bononcini, Redmond, Wash., Pocket Mechanic, 99.333
DNF-- Dennis Macy, Garden City, Mich., The Menace (fast lap, Schide, second, 109.569).

For purposes of season high points, points are doubled in this event, thus Schide and the Alamo collect 800, Haas and Leroi get 600, Stratton and Wild Fire 450 and Bononcini and Pocket Mechanic 338.

*  *  *

With One Qualifying Session Left . . .

The unthinkable happened to the Miss Budweiser just after a mid-day qualifying run here Saturday. Half of a propeller blade let go on the back straightaway of the cooldown lap for driver Mark Weber, who needs just 643 points to cinch a 17th O'Doul's high points championship for owner Bernie Little of Lakeland, Fla.

When the boat was towed to shore, the veteran Budweiser crew immediately began hauling replacement materials out of their truck and dropped the wounded hull down onto oil barrels, preparatory to what looms as an all-night repair session.

If all goes well, a new strut for the propeller shaft -- torn loose by the impact of the broken blade -- will be installed and the Budweiser will be able to continue the last lap of its long journey to the season title on the JASPER Thunder Tour presented by LAS VEGAS for unlimited hydroplanes.

The boat, which appears to have gained 23 points for the third-best qualifying time in a two-day session also punctuated by a spectacular flip by the PICO American Dream, would need 620 points in Sunday's JN Automotive Hydrofest heats to put the championship away.

Points are awarded on a 400-300-225-169 basis for heat finishes. A win and a second would do the job for Miss Budweiser.

Reports from Queens Hospital in Pearl City have Mark Evans, slightly injured in the PICO qualifying flip Saturday morning, receiving eight stitches for a cut on his right shin. He is expected to return to the pits later this afternoon and, likely, will pilot the Fred Leland-owned back-up hull in Sunday's race. Evans is just 60 points behind Close Call's Mark Tate in the race for the driver championship.

Still unqualified is the Columbia Communications/Computers & Applications is Ken Muscatel of Seattle, Wash.

*  *  *

"Hydroplane flips; driver spared" is the headline across the top of the Honolulu Advertiser's Page One on Sunday morning, accompanied by still photos of N. Mark Evans' hair-raising blowover taken by longtime hydro buff Karl Pearson of Seattle. While ESPN2 embargoed their video of the flip, local television stations used a variety of footage taken by spectators, both from the Pearl City and the Ford Island sides of the course. "Wreck part of thrill, official says," is the drop-line below the Page One headline. Searching down through the story, the "official" turns out to be none other than Miss Budweiser owner Bernie Little.

"Yes, it's a morbid curiosity," he is quoted as saying, "but the crashes are part of the show's attraction. Nobody wants to see someone get hurt or killed, but when (a crash) does happen, people want to see it."

Notably, the sports section of the Advertiser contains not a single line devoted to the competitive aspect of the sport. Odd, since three Unlimited Light Racing Series heats were conducted Saturday, as well as the final stages of the Thunder Tour qualifying.

In the Miss Budweiser camp, fingers are crossed Sunday morning that the all-night repair session will bear the fruit of a 17th national championship. An approximate, three-foot by six-foot section of the hull's bottom (beneath the propeller shaft) was replaced, along with the shaft strut. At 8:30 a.m., the boat is back atop its trailer, with repaired areas drying in the early morning sunshine. With 23 points garnered in qualifying, driver Mark Weber needs to gain 620 more points to fend off the distant challenges of the Close Call and PICO American Dream for the O'Doul's national high-point title.

The Close Call has the catbird's seat for the race. The wide, 2,200-foot turns will make it difficult for boats to pass on the outside. Mark Tate, with the fast qualifying speed, has the inside lane draw -- and with only three or-four boat heats in prospect -- even the inverted start of the second heat should make it easier for an outside boat to finish well.

If Tate were to sweep the day, he'd hold off PICO driver Mark Evans and earn a fourth driving championship -- and thus join the exclusive company of Bill Muncey, Dean Chenoweth and Chip Hanauer as the only unlimited pilots to earn as many as four driver crowns. If Evans were to prevail, it would be his first championship.

Evans began Sunday by passing his 7:30 a.m. physical and is certified ready to climb aboard the so-called "P- 2" version of the PICO, the back-up boat which will replace the craft he flipped over in Saturday. Contrary to many eye-witness accounts -- it's amazing how people's eyes deceive them -- Evans performed "only" one and a half backward somersaults at the end of the main straightaway.

"I guess John Walters still holds the record," chuckled the amiable 40-year-old, who was interviewed from a wheelchair Saturday afternoon by local television Channel 2. Evans is limping slightly from the cuts and bruises absorbed by his shins in the crash and has bruises about his mid-rift. Otherwise, he appears fairly fit for today's race.

Ken Muscatel in the U-14 Columbia Communications/Computers & Applications accepted a Commissioner's Option in lieu of a successful qualifying run. The team has been plagued most of the season by a continuing series of engine gremlins. The hull, built in 1982, is the oldest active boat in the unlimited fleet. 

UNLIMITED LIGHT RACING SERIES (Saturday)

Dennis Macy, contrary to earlier reports, is through for the weekend. A rod blasted through the side of a brand new motor in Saturday's Heat 1 for the Unlimited Lights. Phil Bononcini, after losing a prop while en route to the course for Heat 2, came back to finish second in Heat 3 when Randy Haas' Miss Leroi expired late in that preliminary, won by Las Vegas' George Stratton in the Wild Fire.

Points awarded (double points for Hawaii, remember) so far:

George Stratton, Wild Fire, 1,850
Bo Schide, Alamo, 1,600
Randy Haas, Miss Leroi, 1,050
Phil Bononcini, Pocket Mechanic, 938

Dennis Macy, The Menace, 0.

Schide and the Alamo team clinched the ULRS season championships in San Diego four weeks ago.

The ULRS final is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.

HEAT NO. 1 -- (Three laps, five miles)

1. Bo Schide, Dayton, O., Alamo, 105.797
2. Randy Haas, Toledo, O., Miss Leroi, 104.496
3. George Stratton, Las Vegas, Nev., Wild Fire, 99.730
4. Phil Bononcini, Redmond, Wash., Pocket Mechanic, 99.333
DNF--Dennis Macy, Garden City, Mich., The Menace
(fast lap, Schide, 2nd 109.569);

HEAT NO. 2

1. Schide, Alamo, 115.253
2. Stratton, Wild Fire, 114.973
3. Haas, Miss Leroi, 106.329
DNS-- Bononcini, Pocket Mechanic; Macy, The Menace
(fast lap, Schide, 3rd, 119.064);

HEAT NO. 3

1. Stratton, Wild Fire, 107.592
2. Bononcini, Pocket Mechanic, 105.949
DNF -- Haas, Miss Leroi
DNS -- Schide, Alamo
(fast lap, Stratton, 3rd, 113.125)

*  *  *

The battle for the drivers' championship remained even-Steven for Messers. Tate and Evans, with the latter getting a big assist when UHRA officials disqualified TruckGear driver Nate Brown for cutting off Evans' PICO American Dream in the second turn of the first lap of Heat 1B. Tate's Close Call had outpulled Mark Weber and Miss Budweiser in the first section, although the Bud's 300 points for second moved it to within 320 points of clinching a 17th national title for owner Bernie Little.

Brown actually was assessed two penalties: one, a lap penalty for crowding in on Evans in the first turn, and then the disqualification for nearly causing Evans to barrel roll in the second turn. Evans nearly lost control when he encountered the mammoth wake of the TruckGear. Tate continues to lead Evans by 60 points in the close race for the driver title.

The draw for the next heat: Heat 2A (inside out) -- TruckGear, Deja Vu, Budweiser, Evans; Heat 2B (inside out) -- Appian Jeronimo, CC/CA U-14, Close Call. Heat 2A is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

Unlimiteds, Heat 1A

1. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call, 156.686
2. Mark Weber, St. Clair Shores, Mich., Miss Budweiser, 153.925
3. Mitch Evans, Chelan, Wash., Appian Jeronimo, 147.738
4. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., Deja Vu, 140.390
(fast lap, Tate, 3rd, 158.618).

Heat 1B

1. Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American Dream, 139.416
2. Ken Muscatel, Seattle, Wash., Columbia Communications/Computers & Applications, 123.643
DSQ -- Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., Miss TruckGear, N/A
(fast lap, Brown, 1st, 154.504)

UNLIMITED LIGHT RACING SERIES

HEAT NO. 1 -- (Three laps, five miles)

1. Bo Schide, Dayton, O., Alamo, 105.797
2. Randy Haas, Toledo, O., Miss Leroi, 104.496
3. George Stratton, Las Vegas, Nev., Wild Fire, 99.730
4. Phil Bononcini, Redmond, Wash., Pocket Mechanic, 99.333
DNF--Dennis Macy, Garden City, Mich., The Menace
(fast lap, Schide, 2nd 109.569)

HEAT NO. 2

1. Schide, Alamo, 115.253
2. Stratton, Wild Fire, 114.973
3. Haas, Miss Leroi, 106.329
DNS-- Bononcini, Pocket Mechanic; Macy, The Menace
(fast lap, Schide, 3rd, 119.064)

HEAT NO. 3

1. Stratton, Wild Fire, 107.592
2. Bononcini, Pocket Mechanic, 105.949
DNF -- Haas, Miss Leroi
DNS -- Schide, Alamo
(fast lap, Stratton, 3rd, 113.125)

George Stratton of Las Vegas, Nev., started on the inside of chief rival Bo Schide of Dayton, Ohio, and led from start to finish of the Unlimited Light Racing Series final heat Sunday afternoon on Pearl Harbor. The race was the supporting feature of the JN Automotive Hydrofest.

In winning, Stratton's Wild Fire entry -- owned by fellow Las Vegan Kim Gregory -- capped the ULRS season with three straight victories here and, earlier, in Seattle and San Diego. Schide, however, off the strength of early season victories back east, had clinched the season championship in San Diego.

Unlimited Lights Final

1. George Stratton, Las Vegas, Nev., Wild Fire, 107.688
2. Bo Schide, Dayton, O., Alamo, 104.973
3. Randy Haas, Toledo, O., Miss Leroi, 96.399
DNS--Phil Bononcini, Redmond, Wash., Pocket Mechanic
(fast lap, Stratton, 2nd, 110.145)

*  *  *

A win and a second in the first two preliminary heats of Sunday's JN Automotive Hydrofest at Honolulu's Pearl Harbor clinched the 1997 O'Doul's High Point National Championship for the Miss Budweiser unlimited hydroplane. It was the 17th such crown for owner Bernie Little since 1969.

Mark Weber, 34, St. Clair Shores, Mich., drove the Bud, as he has since taking over for the injured Dave Villwock after a bad wreck at Tri-Cities, Wash., in late July. The team had a scare in Saturday's qualifying when a prop blade let go on the boat, tearing a large piece out of the boat's bottom and forcing an all-out repair session to get the big red hull back into running condition for today's action.

Mark Tate, with a second straight heat victory in the other Heat 2 section, increased his lead in the battle for driver honors. Tate, with two heats remaining, has a 160-point lead over Mark Evans in the PICO American Dream, who ran second to Weber and the Bud in Heat 2A.

Unlimiteds, Heat 1A

1. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call, 156.686
2. Mark Weber, St. Clair Shores, Mich., Miss Budweiser, 153.925
3. Mitch Evans, Chelan, Wash., Appian Jeronimo, 147.738
4. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., Deja Vu, 140.390
(fast lap, Tate, 3rd, 158.618).

Heat 1B

1. Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American Dream, 139.416
2. Ken Muscatel, Seattle, Wash., Columbia Communications/Computers & Applications, 123.643
DSQ -- Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., Miss TruckGear, N/A
(fast lap, Brown, 1st, 154.504)

Heat 2A

1. Weber, Miss Budweiser, 156.202
2. Evans, PICO American Dream, 152.830
3. Brown, Miss TruckGear, 151.116
4. David, Deja Vu, 133.116
(fast lap, Weber, 2nd, 157.911)

Heat 2B

1. Tate, Close Call, 157.517
2. Mitch Evans, Appian, 150.366
3. Muscatel, CC/CA, 120.089
(fast lap, Tate, 3rd, 158.820)

Heat 3A

Scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Honolulu time (8:30 p.m. Eastern time).

*  *  *

Unlimited Preliminary Heats

Mark Tate established a new 12.5-mile heat record speed of 160.740 mph while dusting off the Miss Budweiser in a particularly swift Heat 3B. The old mark of 158.058 mph was set by Chip Hanauer in the Miss Budweiser in 1993. Tate will be in the inside lane for the winner-take-all final. He has a 160-point lead over Mark Evans in the drivers' championship race.

Unlimiteds

Heat 3A

1. Evans, PICO American Dream, 151.347
2. Brown, TruckGear, 147.657
3. David, Deja Vu, 145.480
4. Muscatel, CC/CA, 125.709
(fast lap, Evans, 1st, 152.913)

Heat 3B

1. Tate, Close Call, 160.740
2. Weber, Miss Budweiser, 157.032
3. Mitch Evans, Appian, 142.513
(fast lap, Tate, 2nd, 162.218)

*  *  *

Tate, Close Call Win!

Mark Tate, smashing records left and right along the way, spreadeagled the field through four consecutive racing heats Sunday, including the winner-take-all-final, and put the Close Call Phone Card unlimited hydroplane in the win column for the first time in 1997 Sunday. The effort earned the 38-year-old Canton, Mich., resident a fourth Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association season drivers' championship.

Only racing greats Bill Muncey, Dean Chenoweth and Chip Hanauer have ever won as many driving titles.

Tate beat the Miss Budweiser -- which earlier in the day sewed up the team high-point championship for the season, the 17th such diadem for owner Bernie Little -- and PICO American Dream for top honors in the JN Automotive Hydrofest as a big crowd of 55,000 looked on from Ford Island and the main shoreline.

Tate, who outpointed PICO driver Mark Evans, 12,462 to 12,202, for the 10-race JASPER Thunder Tour presented by LAS VEGAS season, set a 7.5-mile course record (160.740 mph), plus 12.5-mile final heat (154.289) and 35-mile race (156.876) world records.

Mark Weber was in the Budweiser as it finished at 13,068 points in the team standings, with Tate and Close Call 606 points behind in second place. The final:

1. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call, 154.260
2. Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American, 150.362
3. Mark Weber, St. Clair Shores, Mich., Miss Budweiser, 145.904
4. Mitch Evans, Chelan, Wash., Appian Jeronimo, 137.706
5. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., Deja Vu, 133.468
6. Ken Muscatel, Seattle, Wash., Columbia Communications/Computers & Applications, 127.881
DNF--Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., Miss TruckGear (fast lap, Tate, 1st, 157.555)


Hydrofest: Woomer Going Out a Winner
By Catherine Toth

It was poetic justice for unlimited hydroplane owner Steve Woomer.

His boat, the Close Call Phone Card, driven by Mark Tate, stole the show at this year's JN Automotive Hydrofest yesterday at Pearl Harbor.

"I do deserve a little poetic justice after last year," Woomer said. Tate steered into first place with a 12.5-mile final heat world record of 154.260 mph, securing his place as national driver champion. He outdistanced second-place finisher and defending national champion PICO American Dream, driven by last year's Hydrofest winner, N. Mark Evans.

In the process, Tate also broke the 35-mile race world record (156.876) and a qualifying heat course record (160.740).

"It was nice that the final was a nice, clean race," Woomer said. "We were able to do our thing."

At last year's Hydrofest, Woomer's boat, Smokin' Joe's, was knocked out of contention before the race even started. The Pfleuger Honda/KPOI pace boat misread the markers, pushing Smokin' Joe's out.

Frustrated at officials and his team's overall past performance, Woomer said yesterday his boat racing days are over.

"I've pretty much decided enough's enough. I love the sport. I grew up watching the sport. I love it more than anything and I wish (the team) all the luck in the future. I just have some frustrations and I have a lot of other things I want to do.

"But dammit," Woomer added, "we went out winners."

Tate, who has been with Woomer for eight years, said that winning the national driver championship wasn't as important as winning this race for his team.

"It's a great accomplishment, but my main goal was to try and win this race for the team and my owner, and we accomplished that."

It was Tate's fourth Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association season drivers' championship.

Although Close Call won the Hydrofest, the Miss Budweiser team clinched the 1997 Jasper Thunder Tour presented by Las Vegas championship.

Driven by newcomer Mark Weber, Miss Budweiser crossed the finish line in third place yesterday. Weber said winning the team title was a real group effort.

"Today is for the crew," he said. "They're well into their 40 hours and they're still packing up; they haven't slept yet." The Budweiser racing team racked up its 17th world and national championship, its sixth in the last seven years.

Dave Villwock, defending national driver champion with the PICO American Dream and currently team manager for Budweiser, said that Weber stepped up for the team. Villwock was replaced by Weber in the cockpit in August after a crash sidelined him for the season.

"(He) fought through the tough times," Villwock said. "I won a lot of heats racing and we were dominant. I sort of handed off the ball to Mark when all the linebackers were lined up to tackle him. . . . He held his head up and he worked real hard . . . to gut it out and win that national championship."

Weber offered some advice to Woomer at the awards ceremony.

"Think about it, Woomer, just think about it," said Weber. "You had a great weekend.

Don't stop now."

(Reprinted from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Monday, October 13, 1997)


Tate Edges Evans for Hydrofest Title

(Reprinted from the Honolulu Advertiser, Monday, October 13, 1997)

By Brandon Masuoka

Call them nice guys. Or gentlemen, even. But once inside the cockpit, Mark Tate and Mark Weber turn into speed demons.

Tate won the final race and steered his Close Call Phone Card racing team to the drivers' championship, while Weber guided Miss Budweiser to the team championship at yesterday's JN Automotive Hydrofest at Pearl Harbor.

Tate beat PICO American Dream's Mark Evans -- 12,462 points to 12,202 -- in the winner-take-all final to clinch his fourth career drivers' championship. Only three other drivers, Bill Muncey, Dean Chenoweth and Chip Hanauer, have as many championships.

"(Tate) takes care of business," said Close Call owner Steve Woomer, who announced his retirement after yesterday's race. "He's so focused. I call it the tunnel. When he gets out of the trailer to race, he doesn't see anything. It's total concentration."

Tate was flawless yesterday. The 38-year-old from Canton, Mich., drove the day's fastest qualifying time (167.1 mph) and then proceeded to win all four heats. Entering the five- lap championship race, Tate held a 160--point lead over PICO's Evans.

In the championship race, Evans zoomed to an early lead, but Tate overtook him after the second turn. Tate padded his lead by hugging the inside track.

"I got control of the race course going into laps 3 and 4 and I didn't look back," Tate said. "This is a tribute to the whole team. I'm just the individual who points (the boat) and steers it."

After the race, the question was if Tate would return for another season. Tate said he would "probably not" return next year, unless the conditions were right.

Whether Tate returns or not, yesterday's Tate-Evans matchup was one to remember.

"I like racing against him," Evans said. "He's a great driver."

For Evans, just reaching the championship was a big feat. On Saturday, he flipped his boat and suffered a 15-stitch cut on his right leg, a scrape on his left leg and a groin injury.

During the flip, Evans said he prayed to the "Big Kahuna."

"Yeah, the Big Kahuna was who I was talking to," Evans said. "I promised him I wouldn't do anything goofy anymore if he just let me get through it."

Yesterday, Evans was still limping around. In the background, his busted boat with a torn canopy -- a visual reminder of the danger of the sport -- was on display. He used a backup in the finals.

The team title was decided early yesterday. Miss Budweiser finished first and second in two preliminary heats to clinch its 17th title for owner Bernie Little. Weber took home the trophy, but it was the Budweiser pit crew that was the unsung hero. The crew worked Saturday and yesterday, about 20 hours non-stop, repairing a hole in the boat's bottom that tore when a propeller blade broke off.

"The crew hasn't been to sleep yet," Weber said.

Budweiser finished with 13,068 points. Tate and Close Call were 606 points behind in second place.

In the unlimited light racing division, Wild Fire and driver George Stratton won the race, followed by The Alamo and Bo Schide and Miss Leroi and Randy Haas.


This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at wildturnip@gmail.com
Leslie Field, 1999