1997 Pontiac Thunder on the Ohio
Ohio River, Evansville IN, June 29, 1997


Miss Budweiser Victory Sweet Present for Busch
By Gordon Engelhardt

The Miss Budweiser unlimited hydroplane team wrapped up their birthday present to Anheuser-Busch president August Busch III on Sunday afternoon.

Dave Villwock drove Miss Budweiser to victory at Thunder 19 with an average speed of 140.616 mph over the 2-mile Ohio River course.

"It's August Busch's birthday this weekend. I don't think we could've given him a better birthday present," Villwock said.

He said it's never as easy as it looks. "We had a lot of people standing behind us.

"We know it will go away tomorrow," Villwock continued. "We'll sit back and enjoy it. Next week is next week.We're going to enjoy the moment."

Mark Evans drove PICO American Dream to a second-place finish in 138.601. Mark Tate was third, in Close Call, with a speed of 134.165.

Villwock is the first driver to win Thunder in back-to-back years driving different boats. He won in the PICO American Dream last year. The Thunder purse is $149,385.

O'DOUL'S HIGH POINT STANDINGS (through June 29)

Boats

Miss Budweiser           3,505
DeWALT Tools             2,467
Close Call               2,297
U-2 ARC Construction     2,121
PICO American Dream      2,016
Computers & Applications 1,628
Appian Jeronimo          1,135
Miss TruckGear           1,125
Mis Exide                  592
Miss Crazy Tomato          361
Master Tire                169

Drivers

Dave Villwock            3,505
Mike Hanson              2,467
Mark Tate                2,297
Steve David              2,121
Mark Evans               2,016
Ken Muscatel             1,628
Mitch Evans              1,135
Nate Brown               1,125
Mark Weber                 338
Jimmy King                 338
Mike Jones                 254
Rick Christensen           169
Scott Pierce                23

(Reprinted from the Evansville Courier, Monday, June 30, 1997)


Villwock's Victory a Grand Slam
By Gordon Engelhardt

Another day, another analogy.

Miss Budweiser driver Dave Villwock already had compared his crew to an all-star basketball team, his position to quarterback Joe Montana in a big game. On Sunday, after winning Thunder 19, Villwock took a swing at baseball.

"A grand slam is something you don't do very often," said Villwock, who had an average speed of 140.616 mph over the 2- mile course in the Thunder final. "We set that as one of our goals."

Villwock compared having the fastest qualifying speed, winning all three of his preliminary heats and winning the final at the $149,385 Thunder to coming through in the clutch with the bases loaded.

His qualifying speed of 163.934 was 11 mph faster than the second-fastest speed of PICO American Dream, driven by Mark Evans.

In fact, it was the largest qualifying disparity since the 1978 Owensboro, Ky., event, when Bill Muncey in Atlas Van Lines outqualified runner-up Chip Hanauer in the Squire Shop, approximately 127 mph to 113.

But Villwock didn't mind being an overwhelming favorite to win Sunday's final. And he was planning to enjoy himself until the team heads for Madison for the Indiana Governor's Cup Friday through Sunday.

"You know anything can happen," he said. "At the next race, we might crash in the first turn of the first heat."

Villwock is the first Thunder winner to take back-to-back races in different boats. He won Thunder last year in PICO American Dream en route to winning the national high points title.

PICO dominated last year; he's hoping Miss Bud will dominate this year.

After being blanked earlier in the season, Mark Evans won the last two races last year in Miss Bud.

As a result, Miss Bud has now won four straight races. In addition to Thunder, Villwock took the season-opening Gold Cup in Detroit on June 1.

It seems the Miss Bud crew has found a way to adapt to the new N2 limiters far better than the opposition. The N2 limiters are devices that restrict an engine's performance to reduce operating costs for teams.

"It just doesn't add up," said Evans. "If they're legal, then more power to them. That's up to the referees and inspectors to deal with."

In Sunday's final, Miss Bud came out of the first turn with a slight lead on Close Call. Villwock stepped on the gas in the final turn of the first lap to extend his advantage and was never seriously challenged thereafter.

He noted that the boats had to go around the course three times before finally getting the green flag.

"It hit us hard. There were 2-to-3-foot waves, especially in the inside," said Villwock, who started in lane 1.

"We were all piled up. Mark Tate (in Smokin' Joe's) was showered down enough last year for me to sneak by."

Villwock made sure he maintained a comfortable lead.

"I knew that Evans was going to charge right to the last," Villwock said.

Evans had plenty of respect for the speed of Miss Bud.

"It was running strong," he said. "But we kept diggin' after them."&127;

It marked the first time that the new Miss Bud boat, T-5, raced in - - and won -- a final.

"You're always apprehensive," Villwock said. "We knew it was a really fast boat. But many times a really fast boat doesn't handle that well in racing conditions. Both Bud boats are by far the class of any boat I've ever driven."

Evans passed Tate, in Close Call, to move into second place on the third lap of the five-lap heat.

"I have more on the top end," said Evans, who ended up in second, with an average speed of 138.601.

"I was using the flaps quite a bit, sailing that baby. It's a little dangerous to do, but I wanted to make up the ground."

"That's the kind of racing drivers dream about doing, running deck-to-deck with somebody like that. Mark Tate and I have had some good ones in the past, and that was exceptional."

Tate, who finished third at 134.165, said the race water was getting sloppy in the corners.

"I caught Mark Evans' skid fin in the water and couldn't hang on," said Tate, who began in lane 2. "We improved all day. But it was (set up) too loose for the final. We need to lock it in."

PICO American Dream began the final in lane 4 primarily because it earned 0 points after failing to start in Heat 2B, due to gearbox problems. The lane draw for the final was based on how many points a team had accumulated throughout the weekend.

"To come from the fourth lane and finish second is quite an accomplishment," said Evans. "Our gear ratio was just a hair off. The crew was not feeling super, but it all came together."

Mike Hanson, in DeWALT Tools, placed fourth in 130.288. Rounding out the field were Nate Brown, fifth in Miss TruckGear, 121.645; Steve David, sixth in Miss ARC Construction, 120.377; and Ken Muscatel, seventh in Computers & Applications, 118.288.

Muscatel earned his way into the final by winning the three-boat provisional heat.

(Reprinted from the Evansville Courier, Monday, June 30, 1997)


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