General Motors Cup at Seafair Final Heat Results

U-1 Miss Budweiser, Dave Villwock 133.266
U-9 Miss Go Bowling, Mike Hanson 128.585
U-16 Miss E-Lam Plus, N. Mark Evans 127.315
U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, Nate Brown 123.586
U-100 Znetix, Greg Hopp 121.642
U-99 Znetix/Llumar, Terry Troxell 111.938
U-25 Miss Freei, Ken Muscatel 109.747

by Danny O'Neil
Seattle Times staff reporter

This time Dave Villwock emerged from the cockpit of the Miss Budweiser with a smile and a shout of celebration. Winning the General Motors Cup final on Lake Washington changed his mood yesterday afternoon. Four hours earlier, Villwock had entered the pit area of the U-2 Freddie's Club and triggered a confrontation that resulted in Villwock being fined by the unlimited-hydroplane racing series. But at the awards ceremony, Villwock was all smiles after a victory he said was as improbable as his win in 1994 with Fred Leland's American Dream. The '94 win was the first of Villwock's five career victories in Seattle. Yesterday's win came despite fuel-flow restrictions and boat damage in his first heat of the day. "We came here knowing we had to have a miracle final to win it," Villwock said. Not quite a miracle. Just an afternoon of work by the crew to repair a broken front wing, and then a perfect start by Villwock and a near-flip by Greg Hopp in the Znetix, who was deck-to-deck with Villwock in the first turn of the final. Hopp hit Villwock's roostertail when the boats almost collided and went airborne. "We were right there, close to each other and then I just saw airplanes," Hopp said. Hopp landed right-side up, but the race was over as Villwock had an insurmountable lead on his way to a third consecutive victory in the Seafair unlimited-hydroplane regatta. Bill Muncey won four straight beginning in 1977, and is the only driver in history with more consecutive victories in Seattle. Mike Hanson finished second in the Skyway Park Casino & Bowl, best-ever finish for owners Mike and Lori Jones. Villwock also clinched the series points title after winning Heat 2B. It is the team's third straight national championship and its 13th in the past 15 seasons. But the day started out badly for Villwock and for Mark Weber, who was in second place in the point standings entering the race. Weber, driver of the U-10 York presents Lowrey's, flipped in the first lap of the first heat of the day. He suffered an injury to his left foot, but was otherwise OK. The boat was damaged so badly the team withdrew. Villwock's boat also suffered damage in the first heat when he drove through the roostertail of Mark Tate's Freddie's Club. Villwock said Tate cut him off, but Tate said there was more than the five-boat-length overlap required to move into Villwock's lane. Tate's contention was supported by race officials, who did not penalize Tate for encroachment. After finishing third in the heat, Villwock walked down the Freddie's Club dock and confronted Tate and boat owner Jim Harvey. Harvey said Villwock demanded the return of two bolts the Bud team lent Harvey last week in the Tri-Cities, "or I'll cut 'em out with an ax." As Villwock left the dock, he and Dave Bemis exchanged shoves. Bemis is the general manager of Freddie's Club Casino and one of the boat's sponsors. He said Villwock shoved first, almost knocking him off the dock into the water. "I shoved him back and then said some things I probably wished I didn't, but that happens in the heat of competition," Bemis said. Villwock said Bemis initiated the contact and almost knocked Villwock off the dock. "I was just trying to get out of there," Villwock said. Series officials thought differently, and disciplined Villwock "severely," said assistant referee Mike Noonan. The amount of the fine wasn't disclosed. "Dave's actions on the dock were inappropriate," Noonan said. Harvey had borrowed the parts and agreed to return them on Monday. After Harvey's boat was wrecked in the Tri-Cities, he didn't return the part because there were too many other things to fix. He didn't return the part yesterday because he knew the Bud team had spares. Harvey said Villwock was angry at Tate over the damage to his boat and was using the part as an excuse. "His conduct was extremely inappropriate," Harvey said. "Unprofessional. He knew what he was doing. He was trying to leverage a part because he was mad about something else." Villwock said he was disappointed by Tate's driving, especially because Tate had started early and incurred a one-lap penalty. Tate was not told of the infraction until later in the race and said he thought his start had been legal. Villwock clinched the national championship in the next heat when he finished third. He ended up with 1,150 points after winning the final on a perfect start from Lane 2. He didn't expect to win the final because of fuel-flow restrictions that left him with three-tenths of a gallon per minute less than the maximum after winning four of the first five races. Before the race, he talked with owner Bernie Little, who encouraged him to be more aggressive. "I told him we haven't got a shot so you've got to do something," Little said, "stick your nose up there." Villwock told Little he was going to stay outside because he thought taking an inside lane would result in an accident. "I told him it looked like a boat crash," Villwock said. But after that conversation, Villwock decided to try for a victory. One of his crew members told him to cut the light and go home, racer's speak for taking a chance to try and win. "Because we had clinched the championship early, I could take a swing at it," Villwock said. "If (the points title) didn't happen, I probably couldn't take the chance." Little expected Villwock to start in one of the outside lanes because of their earlier conversation. "When I saw him come around in Lane 2, I was so happy I could have kissed him," Little said.

Heat 1A - 1, Oh Boy! Oberto, U-6, Nate Brown, 134.938 mph, 400 points; 2, Skyway Park Bowl & Casino, U-9, Mike Hanson, 134.22, 300; 3, Miss E-Lam Plus, U-16, N.Mark Evans, 132.534, 225; 4, Vacationville.com, U-3, Mitch Evans, N/A, 169; York presents Lowrey's, U-10, Mark Weber, DNS; Znetix II presents Llumar, U-99, Terry Troxell, DQ. Fast lap - Skyway Park Bowl & Casino, 137.242.

Heat 1B - 1, Znetix, U-100, Greg Hopp, 138.656, 400; 2, Appian Jeronimo, U-5, George Stratton, 129.347, 300; 3, Miss Budweiser, U-1, Dave Villwock, 114.330, 225; 4, Freddie's Club, U-2, Mark Tate, N/A, 169; Miss freei, U-25, Ken Muscatel, DNS; Llumar Window Film, U-8, Jimmy King, withdrew.

Heat 2A - 1, Znetix, 134.282 mph, 800 points; 2, Miss E-Lam Plus, 130.585, 525; 3, Skyway Park Bowl & Casino, 128.952, 525; 4, Vacationville.com, 115.851, 338; 5, Miss freei, U-25, Ken Muscatel, 109.762 # ; 6, Appian Jeronimo, U-5, George Stratton, N/A, 395. # Lost points for flagrant-fuel violation. Fast lap - Znetix 134.282.

Heat 2B - 1, Freddie's Club, 135.968, 569; 2, Znetix II presents Llumar, 133.643, 300; 3, Miss Budweiser, 132.484, 450; 4, Oh Boy! Oberto, 117.943, 569; 5, York presents Lowrey's, withdrew. Fast lap - Freddie's Club 138.942.

Heat 3A - 1, Znetix II presents Llumar, 139.940, 700; 2, Freddie's Club, 134.720, 569 # ; 3, Oh Boy! Oberto, 124.275, 794; 4, Vacationville.com, N/A, 507; 5, Znetix, did not start, 800. # Lost points for flagrant-fuel violation. Fast lap - Znetix II presents Llumar 141.168.

Heat 3B - 1, Miss E-Lam Plus, 140.161, 925; 2, Miss Budweiser, 134.837, 750; 3, Skyway Bowl & Casino, 126.416, 750; 4, Miss freei, 112.633, 169; 5, Appian Jeronimo, 104.195, 522. Fast lap - Miss E-Lam Plus 142.2567.

Consolation - 1, Freddie's Club, 135.265 # ; 2, Miss freei 118.856; 3, Vacationville.com, 111.321; 4, Appian Jeronimo, N/A. # Disqualified for flagrant-fuel violation; Miss freei became trailer boat in final.