Miss Budweiser remained the fastest qualifier for the Budweiser Columbia Cup as a leading rival unlimited hydroplane threw a propeller blade Saturday.
Dave Villwock drove the Bud to a top speed of 164.803 mph Saturday, slightly faster than the 163.227 mph he recorded Friday on the Columbia River course.
The Budweiser was assigned to Heat 1B in the first round of eliminations today. The closest rivals, Close Call, driven by Mark Tate at 161.129 mph in qualifying, and PICO American Dream, driven by Mark Evans at 158.943 mph, head the field in Heat 1A.
A propeller blade broke on the PICO Saturday morning, damaging the bottom of the boat. Evans said the hull would be patched, a strut replaced and a new propeller installed in time for today.
Joining Close Call and PICO in 1A at 11:30 a.m. are the Spokanebased Appian Jeronimo, driven by Mitch Evans at 158.851 in qualifying; DeWalt Tools, Mike Hanson, 158.453; Gargoyles Nitro, Steve David, 152.035; Computers & Applications, Ken Muscatel, 146.860; and Miss Tri-Cities, John Watkins, 157.183.
Joining the Bud in 1B are Team Stihl, Mark Weber, 157.181; Miss E-Lam Plus, Jimmy King, 155.360; TruckGear, Nate Brown, 152.284; Spirit of Lake Chelan, Rick Christensen, 134.577; and Red RobinMiss Exide, Jerry Hale, 147.092.
After two more elimination races, the winner-take all final for the top six boats in the 13-boat field is scheduled for 4:10 p.m.
Evans knows Cup
Packet Engines/Appian Jeronimo driver Mitch Evans has a unique piece of unlimited hydroplane history to his credit. It was 1989 when Evans won his first - and only - unlimited victory, piloting the Cooper’s Express to an upset Columbia Cup victory. That was the last race won by a piston-powered boat.
Evans is the second member of his family to drive an unlimited hydroplane from Spokane. Evans’ father, the late Norm Evans, was a driver of the Miss Spokane in 1959 and the Miss Eagle Electric in 1964 and 1967.
Besides being a driver, Mitch Evans is a boat builder. His latest creation is Ed Cooper’s U-3, which will race in Tri-Cities as the Ultima Presents the Spirit of Lake Chelan. Despite having a new hull, it’s still the only boat on the unlimited circuit that runs on the traditional Allison engines.
It is perhaps appropriate that Budweiser is the title sponsor of the Columbia Cup because Bernie Little’s beer boat has won six of the last nine races at Tri-Cities. In contrast to its recent successes, the Budweiser had just three wins in the first 21 races.
The Bud is the all-time win leader on the Columbia River with nine victories in the 31 years the race has been staged. Atlas Van Lines has six wins and Dave Heerensperger’s Eagle Electric and Pay ‘N Pak hulls won four.
With seven victories, Chip Hanauer is the win leader among drivers. Hanauer got his first unlimited victory in Tri-Cities in 1981 and has twice put together three-race win streaks. The late Bill Muncey has five wins on the Columbia River.
The Columbia River is running higher than normal and because of that, the boats are creating dangerous roller waves and tend to get the hydros more airborne. … Today’s finals will be rebroadcast next Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2, and again Aug. 7 at 1 a.m., also on ESPN 2.
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