Scott Pierce said he has never known the Miller American camp to not try to win every race and he doesn’t expect anything to change today.
Well, Pierce may be in for a surprise in the final race of today’s thunderboat regatta on Mission Bay.
“If we have not sewed up the championship by the final heat,” said point leader Chip Hanauer of Miller American, “I will be very conservative and forsake winning the race for the national championship.”
Going into today’s final race of the season, Miller American has a 731-point lead over Pierce’s Executone Telephones and a 1,200-point edge over Steve Reynolds of Miss 7-11.
Points are awarded to all boats that finish all five laps of a heat within 15 minutes of the start.
Six boats qualify for the third and final heat which determines the winner of the overall race. The winner in each heat earns 400 points. Second place is worth 300 points, third place 225, fourth 169, fifth 127 and sixth 95.
Hanauer has won the last four races on the circuit and five of the last six, and he appears to have a substantial lead in the quest for his third national championship.
But in a sport where a blown engine is always a realistic possibility, it is understandable why Hanauer is still concerned.
He remembers 1983.
That is the year Hanauer and his Atlas Van Lines boat came to San Diego with two races to go and only a slim mathematical chance of winning the championship.
“We had to win all three heats in San Diego and hope that Miss Budweiser broke,” Hanauer said.
That is exactly what happened. Hanauer left San Diego trailing Miss Budweiser by just 100 points. In the final race of the season in Houston, Hanauer earned enough points to claim the title.
“In most of the races throughout the last half of the season, I’ve had to be the front-runner,” Pierce said. “On Sunday, I will have to try and get in front of Chip. I have to make him go harder than he wants, and hopefully for us he’ll break.”
Said Hanauer: “I don’t let other drivers influence my game plan. I know what I want to do. Going into the heats, I want to finish them, but not necessarily win.”
What makes Hanauer’s strategic decisions even tougher is the financial factor of winning the championship and losing the race.
“My team will get around $25,000 to $30,000 to win the race,” Hanauer said. “The national champion gets nothing, but the sponsor can really use the win. It gives them bragging rights for a year.”
Said Jim Kropfeld of Miss Budweiser, the 1984 national champion and winner of the San Diego race last year: “Winning the title didn’t do anything for me. Recognition is about all I got.”
But you can be sure Budweiser was very happy. Make of it what you will, but this is the first year Hanauer is being sponsored by Miller.
Does that put additional presure on Hanauer?
“In reality,” Hanauer said, “the championship is worth a lot more than the $25,000 we could win for this race.”
Hydroplane Notes Final qualifying begins at 9:30 this morning at the Mission Bay course, between East Vacation Isle and Fiesta Island. The first heat gets under way at noon. The Thunderboat Trophy race begins at 4:10. . . . Miller American, the top qualifier with a time of 137.531 m.p.h. Saturday, broke a propeller during one of its qualifying heats. Driver Chip Hanauer termed it as “nothing major.” . . . U-100 Coors Light and U-22 Pride Air both blew engines Saturday, but the engines were replaced and the boats are scheduled to compete today. . . . Eight boats made the 105 m.p.h. qualifying time for today’s heats. The only boat which did not qualify was U-33 Handyman’s Home Center, which had a best time of 90.168 m.p.h.