1982 Gold Cup Remembered
By Fred Farley - ABRA Unlimited Historian
Following the death of Bill Muncey at Acapulco in 1981, Chip Hanauer took over as driver for the ATLAS VAN LINES team, now owned by Fran Muncey (Bill’s widow). Chip was Bill’s hand-picked successor.
For 1982, the re-organized ATLAS team had a new Rolls-Royce Merlin-powered hull, designed and built by Jim Lucero.
Hanauer and crew chief Jim Harvey pulled off a heart-stopper of a victory in the 1982 Gold Cup at Detroit.
The new ATLAS VAN LINES, in only its third competitive appearance, almost blew over during a Final Heat battle with defending champion Dean Chenoweth and the Rolls-Royce Griffon-powered MISS BUDWEISER, which boasted much more horsepower than ATLAS VAN LINES.
After trailing for the first few laps, Chip executed a daring maneuver and ducked inside of Dean. This forced the BUDWEISER to run a wider--and longer--track.
When the roostertails subsided, Chip and ATLAS had won the Gold Cup. It was the answer to a lifetime’s dream for Hanauer and the perfect “pick-me-up” for a sport that was still grieving the loss of Bill Muncey.
This was the first of eleven Gold Cups won by Chip between 1982 and 1999. But this first one would always be extra special to Hanauer.
ATLAS VAN LINES averaged 122.566 miles per hour in the Final Heat, followed by MISS BUDWEISER at 118.681. THE SQUIRE SHOP was a distant third with driver Tom D’Eath making his first Gold Cup appearance since 1976. Then came Jon Peddie in MISS KENTUCKIANA PAVING and Ron Snyder in RICH PLAN FOOD SERVICE (alias MISS MADISON).
The attrition was fierce at the 1982 Gold Cup. Thirteen boats attended but only ten were able to qualify. And only six of these scored points.
MISS BUDWEISER, a model of reliability in the past, was having trouble finishing races in 1982. She was as fast as before, but her engines were not as strong. At the first five races of the season, only once did the “Beer Wagon” go the distance. In Heat 1-B of the Gold Cup, she blew an engine while battling for the lead with ATLAS VAN LINES.
Two weeks before the 1982 Gold Cup, PAY ‘n PAK and driver John Walters won the “Thunder In The Park” race at Seneca Falls, New York. This was the first-ever victory by a turbine-powered boat in the Unlimited Class.
But in the Gold Cup, PAY ‘n PAK damaged the left sponson during Heat 1-B and had to withdraw.
MISS PRODELCO, the former THOUSAND TRAILS, now owned by John Still and driven by Steve Reynolds, was another disappointment. The boat failed to score in either of the two preliminary heats but advanced to the Final by winning the Consolation Heat. MISS PRODELCO then couldn’t be readied in time and was replaced by MISS KENTUCKIANA PAVING, which had finished second in the Consolation Heat.
The remainder of the 1982 season was a mixture of triumph and tragedy.
ATLAS VAN LINES won four of the next six races at Evansville, Seattle, San Diego, and the UIM World Championship in Houston, Texas. Hanauer and ATLAS also tied down the National High Point Championship.
For the ATLAS VAN LINES organization, the Houston triumph capped the ultimate storybook season. Who could have predicted that a team, leaderless at the end of 1981 and its boat destroyed in Acapulco, could have fired back every bit as strong in 1982 with a new boat, a new driver, and a new crew chief? It was truly one of the all-time great sports stories. Bill would have been proud.
Bob Steil’s THE SQUIRE SHOP likewise did itself proud in 1982. The only team other than ATLAS to win more than one race, Steil and pilot D’Eath took first-place in the Indiana Governor’s Cup at Madison and the Columbia Cup at the Tri-Cities. And they were, for a time, the National High Point leader, a remarkable feat indeed for a team that didn’t attend the first race of the season in Miami and was thereby at a distinct disadvantage point-wise.
The “down” side of 1982 was considerable.
Dean Chenowerth, like Bill Muncey before him, was lost in a blow-over accident. While trying for a qualifying record at the Tri-Cities, MISS BUDWEISER became airborne and crashed upside down.
The rescuers found Chenoweth floating face down in the water. They promptly administered CPR. But it was too late. The world of speed had lost another immortal.
The balance of the boat had been changed for the Tri-Cities race. On the lap before the crash, MISS BUDWEISER got unusually light and was tip-toeing along much higher than usual. Still, the boat’s attitude was quite stable and gave no indication of what was to come.
It is difficult to compare the MISS BUDWEISER crash with the 1981 ATLAS VAN LINES fatality, although both accidents were “blow-overs.”
In the case of ATLAS VAN LINES, an air dam had been removed from between the sponsons at the insistence of owner/driver Muncey. The ATLAS had never before been run in competition without the air dam, which curbed the boat’s tendency to “float.”
Solemn but undaunted, MISS BUDWEISER owner Bernie Little honored a previous commitment to finish the season. Crew Chief Dave Culley had the boat ready to run a week later at Seattle where it finished an overall second with Ron Armstrong at the wheel. And at San Diego, new driver Jim Kropfeld joined the team.
Another bad accident marred the running of the Emerald Cup at Seattle. Moments after the start of Heat 1-B, George Johnson, driving EXECUTONE, experienced rudder failure. The boat dug in its right sponson and veered to the left and crashed into the right side of Tom D’Eath and THE SQUIRE SHOP. The impact sent EXECUTONE back to the right and into the path of a late-starting John Walters and PAY ‘n PAK. The PAK ran right over EXECUTONE and flipped.
EXECUTONE sank almost immediately. THE SQUIRE SHOP managed to limp back to the pits under its own power, while PAY ‘n PAK had to be towed back to the dock.
Johnson and D’Eath were unhurt. But Walters was critically injured with several broken bones and a collapsed lung. John recovered and continued in the sport for many years as a shore mechanic. But he never drove in competition again.
After the accident to his boat and the injury to his driver, PAY ‘n PAK owner Dave Heerensperger announced his retirement from Unlimited racing. Heerensperger had first joined the sport in 1963 as the sponsor of MISS EAGLE ELECTRIC. “Dynamite Dave” had left before. But this time it was for good.
As in the case of the U-95 eight years earlier, the PAY ‘n PAK team’s innovative turbine concept passed into history, but not for long. In the not too distant future, the Lycoming turbine engine would return and revolutionize the sport.
The 1982 season is remembered primarily for two things: Chip Hanauer’s sensational come-from-behind victory in the Gold Cup at Detroit and Dean Chenoweth’s death at the Tri-Cities.
Much would be said and written about “Champion Chip” in the years ahead. Hanauer would become to the 1980s and ‘90s what Bill Muncey was to the 1960s and ‘70s and what Danny Foster was to the 1940s and ‘50s. But “Dapper Dean” is largely a forgotten man. Comparatively little has been written about him.
Chenoweth was a very private person. He didn’t draw attention to himself. Dean’s record spoke for him. And his record is impressive indeed.
During his career, Chenoweth was overshadowed by team owners who were very flamboyant-- Lee Schoenith, the owner of MYR'S SPECIAL, and Bernie Little, the owner of MISS BUDWEISER.
In a boat camp, there can be only one "star." Personality-wise, Dean could not have been more opposite than Mr. Schoenith and Mr. Little. Lee and Bernie were very outgoing and extroverted, while Dean was very quiet and concentrated on the job at hand.
The same applied to a lot of the drivers that Chenoweth drove against. The driver who was clearly Dean's equal out on the race course was Bill Muncey. Dean and Bill were the top drivers of their day. But Dean couldn't hold a candle to Bill when it came to feeding the publicity machine. No one could field the reporters' questions at a press conference the way Muncey could. It's not surprising that the media tended to prefer Bill rather than Dean.
A generation of race fans has now grown up that never saw Dean Chenoweth race. They don't know what they're missing. When Dean handled the 1973 MISS BUDWEISER in those classic side-by-side duels with Mickey Remund and the PAY 'n PAK, he raised boat driving to the level of an art form.