Billy and Jane Schumacher didn’t have to beg or fork over a large check to attract their newest consultant. No, it was Dave Villwock, the hydroplane racing legend, who came knocking on the Schumacher’s door.
The Schumachers, co-owners of the Beacon Plumbing team, marveled at the thought of Villwock working in their pits. Within moments, possibly the most effortless acquisition in the history of the sport was done.
Villwock closed out the most successful career in unlimited racing history on May 19, when he officially announced his retirement.
While the Schumacher ownership played a slight role in Villwock’s decision, the 10-time Gold Cup winner was attracted by the potential of Beacon Plumbing’s driver, 34-year-old J. Michael Kelly.
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“He had showed up in Moses Lake for a smaller boat race and asked J. Michael if he intended on sticking with us,” Jane Schumacher said.
Kelly, who flipped the U-37 boat last weekend at the Columbia Cup in Tri-Cities, was a raw driver who needed just a bit of seasoning, as far as Villwock was concerned.
“I saw J. Michael as somebody who could be helped and, along with the Schumachers, they had a lot of heart,” Villwock said. “They’ve been up to the top level… The talent base of the people who have won championships is getting smaller, so I thought it’s another way to pay it forward a little bit.”
Villwock goes by the title “champion consultant,” at the Seattle-based Beacon Plumbing team. He wears many hats, critiquing Kelly’s every move on Lake Washington and spending the week leading up to the race with his arms caked in fiberglass dust working on the bright orange boat.
Billy Schumacher has relished the chance to have Villwock in the Beacon Plumbing pit as opposed to the Spirit of Qatar pit he occupied for eight years prior, winning 22 races and two national championships with Ellstrom Racing.
“We were trying to keep up the best way we could, and it wasn’t easy,” Schumacher said. “There’s no question Dave has a book of knowledge that nobody else has, and with his help we’re gaining on it a lot faster than I would’ve without him.”
The Beacon Plumbing team has followed Villwock’s lead. Yet the man who has 67 hydroplane victories, the most by any driver, points to the “never-say-die” mantra of one of Seattle’s other sports icons as a theme for his team.
“What did we see more than anything than we’ve had in the past with (Russell) Wilson? He just would not quit,” Villwock said. “It’s just that attitude of refusing to lose. If we can get that attitude in this team — and unfortunately it takes adversity to teach it.”
If Villwock and the Beacon Plumbing team can mirror the success that Wilson and the Seahawks have had, Kelly and the Schumachers will be just fine, it seems.
Theo Lawson: firstname.lastname@example.org.