Norm Evans Remembered

By Fred Farley - ABRA Unlimited Historian

The late Norm Evans had a lot of natural ability as a race driver and loved to go fast. It was fun to watch him compete. A man who was taken from us much too soon, Evans was very accessible to the general public and never too busy to sign an autograph.

I was nobody in the late '50s and early '60s, but that man would converse with me and answer my questions. I'll never forget that. I see Norm's friendly easygoing personality mirrored in his sons, Mark and Mitch.

Norm was a part of the Roostertails, Inc., organization that restored the former SLO-MO-SHUN V as MISS SEATTLE in 1956.

It's not generally known but, prior to the 1956 Seattle Seafair Regatta, Evans had never even been an APBA member! His previous competitive experience was zero. But that didn't stop Norm from beating the veteran Roy Duby and GALE VI in his first Unlimited heat and gaining a fourth-place finish overall with MISS SEATTLE.

I remember a story that Evans told m! e. He and his friend Jack Lafferty hauled the MISS SEATTLE down to Las Vegas for the 1956 Sahara Cup. Norm and Jack were so broke, they didn't have enough money for a hotel room. So, Norm wangled a deal with a casino owner and parked the boat in front of the casino in exchange for free accommodations.

In the race, MISS SEATTLE finished second in a ten-boat field and earned just enough prize money to pay for gas for the trip home. If this isn't an example of pure grassroots level boat racing, I don't know what it is!

Between 1956 and 1970, Evans drove a lot of boats but for some reason never seemed to stay with any one team for very long. He drove the new Ted Jones-designed MISS BARDAHL to victory in the 1958 Apple Cup, a race that he helped to promote, in his hometown of Chelan, Washington. This was the first victory by a MISS BARDAHL hydroplane. Unfortunately for Norm, it was the first and last such victory. He was fired a month later and replaced by Mira Sl! ovak with no public explanation given.

But Evans was too talented a driver to remain on the sidelines for very long. Norm qualified MISS SAMMAMISH for the 1958 Seattle Gold Cup and, at season's end, piloted MISS MOSES LAKE to third-place in the 1958 Sahara Cup on Lake Mead.

In 1960 at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Evans traded off with Dallas Sartz in MISS SEATTLE TOO to win the Diamond Cup on Lake Coeur d'Alene. This was on the same race course where, a year earlier, Norm had been pitched out of MISS SPOKANE, while leading in the Final Heat.

In mid-season 1959, Evans went to work for industrialist Sam DuPont, with whom Norm had some of his best years in racing.

As driver of DuPont's NITROGEN, Evans finished second in the 1959 Indiana Governor's Cup, the 1959 Reno Regatta the 1960 Apple Cup, and the 1960 Harmsworth Trophy and took third in the 1960 Silver Cup and 1960 President's Cup races. Norm also steered DuPont's NITROGEN TOO to third-place in the 1960 St. Clair International Trophy.

Evans suffered serious injuries in a construction accident in 1961 and many believed that his racing career was finished. But Norm mended well and, the following year, was back in action at the wheel of Austin Snell's CORAL REEF.

In the years that followed, Evans saw action with the likes of MISS EAGLE ELECTRIC, MISS LAPEER, $ BILL, and PARCO'S O-RING MISS.

One of the finest races that Norm Evans ever drove was also his last--the 1970 Gold Cup on San Diego's Mission Bay with Bob Gilliam's TOTUM TRAILER SALES (U-88). He finished fifth overall with a victory in Heat 2-C. Norm gave that old U-88 the ride of its long career. In his own words, "I drove my heart out."

In my way of thinking, a performance like that should have merited another shot at a competitive ride for Evans. But that didn't happen. And I'll never understand why. Instead, his career was pretty much over.

Norm's murder in the spring of 1981 was a shock to everyone. His life ended in a hail of bullets. Much has already been said and written about the brutal crime, and I would rather not comment on the details. Suffice to say that the sport lost one of its most popular and most enthusiastic participants on that terrible day.

I know that Norm, looking down from above, can't help but be proud of what his sons have accomplished in the s! port. They have continued their Dad's tradition of competition and victory on the water. I try to take consolation from that.

To the Evans family--Norm, Mark, and Mitch--I say, salute and thank you.


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