Chip and the The Squire Shop get the checker

26 Jul

Chip Hanauer – 31 years ago today on July 26, 1981 – won his first race on the Columbia River.

It was one of the greatest races ever in Eastern Washington as it matched the up-and-comer Hanauer against the big bad Budweiser team (driver Dean Chenoweth) and the King Bill Muncey in the Blue Blaster.

Hanauer and Chenoweth each won their two heat races that Sunday afternoon and Muncey had a 1st and a 2nd setting up a battle royale in the Winner-Take-All Final Heat.

The Final was an absolute dandy as Hanauer finished 4/10ths of a second ahead of the Bud when the checkered flag was waved. Chenoweth was the defending national champion.

The lead in the final lap changed hands three times.

But two things happened prior to that final lap.

Bill Muncey (in his final Tri-Cities race) had built a 16-second lead heading into the final lap, but his Atlas Van Lines broke and went dead in the water.

Chenoweth before the race hit a wake ripping a two-foot gap in the Bud’s windshield and also shattered the face shield on Chenoweth’s helmet.

“I had to run about half throttle after that because the wind was about to tear my head off,” said Chenoweth. “I couldn’t see at all.”

“I had given up on catching Muncey, but thought I might be able to reel in the Budweiser,” Hanauer said after the race. “I sort of hid in his roostertail and snuck up on him coming out of the last turn. I cut inside and was able to get past him.”

It was the final time those three legendary drivers battled on the Columbia. Muncey would die later in the year in a blow-over accident in Mexico and Chenoweth died the following year in qualifying for the Columbia Cup when his boat did a reverse flip and crashed to the surface.

It was Hanauer’s third career victory and first one in Washington.

Some information from the Tri-City Herald archives has been included.

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