THE KING OF BOATS: Miss Budweiser made her final voyage on the Ohio River Sunday, winning the Budweiser Madison Regatta World Championship and the team’s 15th Indiana Governor’s Cup in dominating fashion. The river was rough all day and the boat  caught a lot of air in turn one. After the win, driver Dave Villwock (right) was all smiles as he climbed from the boat. (Staff photos by Mark Campbell, and David Campbell)
THE KING OF BOATS: Miss Budweiser made her final voyage on the Ohio River Sunday, winning the Budweiser Madison Regatta World Championship and the team’s 15th Indiana Governor’s Cup in dominating fashion. The river was rough all day and the boat caught a lot of air in turn one. After the win, driver Dave Villwock (right) was all smiles as he climbed from the boat. (Staff photos by Mark Campbell, and David Campbell)
Miss Budweiser’s farewell tour got off to a rousing start as Dave Villwock and the 23-time national champions swept every heat en route to a dominating victory in the Budweiser Madison Regatta World Championship Sunday.

Before this season, Anheuser-Busch announced that it will withdraw all financial support in the sport of Unlimited hydroplane racing, including the title sponsorship for the highly-successful U-1 Miss Budweiser Racing Team.

After opening with a victory in the independent Thunder on the Ohio in Evansville last week, the Bud team set about opening the official 2004 Budweiser Hydroplane Racing Series with a win. Accomplish that goal they did, winning all three preliminary heats in dominating fashion and running away with the final by more than half a lap with an average speed of 130.021 mph.

“This day really showed what the Budweiser team is all about,” Villwock said. “They gutted it out all day long on a tough river. You just can’t say enough about them.”

On a day when wind gusts in excess of 12 mph turned the Ohio River race course into a white-capped sea, the right set up was critical.

Despite of the conditions — maybe because of them — the Budweiser was able to set up the boat perfectly every time out.

“We wouldn’t have stood a chance if the water was smooth,” Villwock said. “Our only chance was if it got sloppy and when it did, our crew was able to adapt and overcome what the river threw at us.”

In the final, Villwock made a perfect start from the outside lane and hit turn one first, powering through the corner. Coming out of it, he was all alone and the race was essentially over.

Steve David and the hometown U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison entered the finals with the most points and the inside lane, but David hit a course buoy on that first turn and was penalized a lap to end his hopes of a hometown win.

“It was just driver error,” said David. “I was just trying to hang on and hold a tight line. When I went in the air and when I came back down, I still had the wheel turned to the left. When we came down, we hooked right into that buoy. I was hoping I didn’t dislodge it, but when I came back around, I knew I had.”

Two other boats, J.W. Myers and the U-8 Llumar Window Film and Mike Weber in the U-10 Miss EMCOR, had their bottom escape hatches blow open in separate incidents in the final, forcing both to kill their engines. Both drivers escaped injury although Weber was taken to King’s Daughters’ Hospital for observation. It marked the second straight year that Weber visited the KDH emergency room. Last year, he blew over in a fantastic 360-degree flip at the beginning of the final heat but also escaped injury.

With Myers and Weber out and David down a lap, Greg Hopp and the U-100 Mariann Travel Inn was able to sneak up and take second place at 124.250 mph.

The Mariann team suffered sponson damage in testing Saturday and had to replace a rear stabilizer due to damage during preliminary heat action Sunday. To top things off, the boat blew up its gearbox on the cool-down lap after the final.

Despite all that, Hopp ran strong all day and emerged from Madison as the season points leader.

“This is a great lift for our team,” said Hopp, who blew the boat over during testing last year at Madison and missed the rest of the season due to his injuries. “I flipped here last year and it was all downhill from there.”

It wasn’t an easy run in the final for Hopp at all. Battling David through the first two laps, he then backed off when, according to Hopp, David encroached into his lane.

“It was too bad. We were set for a good run with him until he tried to push me in the embankment,” said Hopp. “After that, I just laid back and let him go. I knew he was down a lap, but I thought it would just be a great race.”

But the incident had a silver lining for the seemingly snake-bit Hopp.

“After the heat was over, we blew up our gearbox,” Hopp said. “Maybe if I hadn’t backed it off, maybe we would have blown it up sooner.”

Terry Troxell and the Miss Elam Plus took home third place in 114.063 mph despite starting from the trailer position, a full roostertail behind the front row.

Villwock won all three preliminary heats he raced, but was assessed a penalty for a “flagrant fuel violation” in Heat 3A which cost him points for that heat. As a result, Hopp leads the overall standings with 123 points while Villwock is second with 120.

In the preliminary heats, three other boats beside the Bud claimed wins. In Heat 1B, Myers raced to victory in his first Unlimited race at Madison, easily besting Hopp. Ken Muscatel, driving the U-25 Mister Home Loan, had his best action of the day, running down Weber at the end for third place.

In Heat 2B, David scored a win when he nailed the start and easily bested Weber, Hopp and Muscatel. Hopp took home the checkered flag in Heat 3B.

The river was a factor all day. Nearly every boat suffered some form of damage with the Oh Boy! Oberto and Mariann Travel Inn suffering the worst of it. On Saturday, the Oberto cracked a new propellor the team had just received from Seattle on Friday.

David described the river as being like running over a speed bumps at 180 mph. Villwock likened it to being a tackling dummy.

“It was like being hit by 20 linebackers every lap,” said Villwock. “Madison is typically a tough course, but today’s conditions on the Ohio were absolutely brutal. I’m glad it’s over and I’ve got a couple of weeks to let all the bangs and bruises I took today heal.”

“Dave’s got the easy job,” said Miss Budweiser owner Joe Little with a smile. “He gets to take 20 linebackers while were pacing back and forth on the dock.”

While this season marks the last for the Budweiser name, Villwock left the door open for a possible return of the team under other sponsorship.

On the judges stand during the trophy presentation, a fan yelled out “One more year, Dave!” to which Villwock replied quietly “We’ll see.”

“We don’t know for sure. This team, myself and the Little family, we are a unit. Whatever (the Littles) decide to do, we’ll do,” Villwock, who is also the team’s manager, had said earlier.

“But this was really for the fans and a chance for us to say good-bye. We’ve said all weekend long that the racing was really secondary,” said Villwock. “For all the fans, this Bud’s for you.”
2004 Budweiser Madison Regatta

World Championship

Sunday, July 4

Ohio River

Madison, Ind.

Results

FINAL HEAT

1. Dave Villwock, U-1 Miss Budweiser, 130.021 mph; 2. Greg Hopp, U-100 Mariann Travel Inn, 124.250; 3. Terry Troxell, U-16 Miss Elam Plus, 114.063; 4. Steve David, U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, no time*; J.W. Myers, U-8 Llumar Window Film, DNF; Mike Weber, U-10 Miss EMCOR, DNF.

*penalized one lap for hitting a buoy

HEAT 1A

1. Dave Villwock, U-1 Miss Budweiser, 139.986; 2. Terry Troxell, U-16 Miss Elam Plus, 126.850; 3. Steve David, U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, 124.686.

HEAT 1B

1. J.W. Myers, U-8 Llumar Window Film, 130.384; 2. Greg Hopp, U-100 Mariann Travel Inn, 122.648; 3. Ken Muscatel, U-25 Mister Home Loan, 112.264; 4. Mike Weber, U-10 Miss EMCOR, 112.099.

HEAT 2A

1. Dave Villwock, U-1 Miss Budweiser, 133.464; 2. J.W. Myers, U-8 Llumar Window Film, 128.118; 3. Terry Troxell, U-16 Miss Elam Plus, 124.399.

HEAT 2B

1. Steve David, U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, 132.233; 2. Mike Weber, U-10 Miss EMCOR, 123.217; 3. Greg Hopp, U-100 Mariann Travel Inn, 119.012; 4. Ken Muscatel, U-25 Mister Home Loan, 109.553.

HEAT 3A

(no speeds available)

1. Dave Villwock, U-1 Miss Budweiser*; 2. Steve David, U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto; 3. Terry Troxell, U-16 Miss Elam Plus; 4. J.W. Myers, U-8 Llumar Window Film.

* loses points due to fuel violation.

HEAT 3B

1. Greg Hopp, U-100 Mariann Travel Inn, 127.103; 2. Mike Weber, U-10 Miss EMCOR, 119.018; 3. Ken Muscatel, U-25 Mister Home Loan, 114.611.

———

Season Points Leaders

1. Greg Hopp, U-100 Mariann Travel Inn, 123; 2. Dave Villwock, U-1 Miss Budweiser, 120; 3. Steve David, U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, 110; 4. Terry Troxell, U-16 Miss Elam Plus, 99; 5. J.W. Myers, U-8 Llumar Window Film, 87; 6. Mike Weber, U-10 Miss EMCOR, 77; 7. Ken Muscatel, U-25 Mister Home Loan, 63.

———

2004 Madison Regatta

Time Trial Results

1. Dave Villwock, Miss Budweiser, 151.527 mph; 2. Steve David, Oh Boy! Oberto, 147.596; 3. Terry Troxell, Miss Elam Plus, 146.129; 4. Greg Hopp, Mariann Travel Inn, 144.764; 5. J.W. Myers, Llumar Window Film, 144.603; 6. Mike Weber, Miss EMCOR, 144.209; 7. Ken Muscatel, Mister Home Loan, no time.

———

2.5 Litre Results

Friday, July 2

Heat A

1. Keith Anderson, S-17 Dan Carter for Commisioner; 2. Wayne Dunlap, S-96 Mane Attractions presents W.D. Racing; 3. Sean Bowsher, Y/S-52 Koehler Tire; Clarence Pfaff, S-19 Claim Jumper, DNF; Fred Benzinger, S-2 Superior Miss, DNS; Myron Jackson, S-5 Chris Sauers Racing, DNS; Paige Taff, Y-31 Jon Peddie Body Shop, DNS; Jan Pearce, S-69, Miss Behavin’, DNS; Jesse Carlton, S-77 Carol Marie’s Country Dining, DNS.

Heat B

1. Keith Anderson, S-17 Dan Carter for Commisioner; 2. Wayne Dunlap, S-96 Mane Attactions presentes W.D. Racing; 3. Clarence Pfaff, S-19 Claim Jumper; 4. Fred Benzinger, S-2 Superior Miss; 5. Myron Jackson, S-5 Chris Sauers Racing; 6. Jesse Carlton, S-77 Carol Marie’s Country Dining*; Paige Taff, Y-31 Jon Peddie Body Shop, DNS; Sean Bowsher, Y/S-52 Koehler Tire, DNS; Jan Pearce, S-69, Miss Behavin’, DNS.

* penalized one minute

Saturday, July 3

Heat C

1. Keith Anderson, S-17 Dan Carter for Commisioner; 2. Wayne Dunlap, S-96 Mane Attractions presentes W.D. Racing; 3. Fred Benzinger, S-2 Superior Miss; 4. Sean Bowsher, Y/S-52 Koehler Tire; 5. Myron Jackson, S-5 Chris Sauers Racing; 6. Clarence Pfaff, S-19 Claim Jumper; 7. Jesse Carlton, S-77 Carol Marie’s Country Dining; Jan Pearce, S-69 Miss Behavin’, DNS.

Heat D

1. Wayne Dunlap, S-96 Mane Attractions presents W.D. Racing; 2. Fred Benzinger, S-2 Superior Miss; 3. Sean Bowsher, Y/S-52 Koehler Tire; 4. Jesse Carlton, S-77 Carol Marie’s Country Dining*; 5. Keith Anderson, S-17 Dan Carter for Commisioner*; 6. Clarence Pfaff, S-19 Claim Jumper*; Myron Jackson, S-5 Chris Sauers Racing, DNS; Jan Pearce, S-69 Miss Behavin’, DNS.

* penalized one lap for jumping the gun

Sunday, July 4

HEAT E

canceled due to rough water

Final Standings

1. Wayne Dunlap, S-96 Mane Attractions presents W.D. Racing, 385; 2. Keith Anderson, S-17 Dan Carter for Commisioner, 380; 3. Fred Benzinger, S-2 Superior Miss, 270; 4. Sean Bowsher, Y/S-52 Koehler Tire, 265; 5. Clarence Pfaff, S-19 Claim Jumper, 240; 6. Jesse Carlton, S-77 Carol Marie’s Country Dining, 235; 7. Myron Jackson, S-5 Chris Sauers Racing, 155; 8. Jan Pearce, S-69 Miss Behavin’, 0; Paige Taff, Y-31 Jon Peddie Body Shop, 0.