Driver creeps closer to Muncey, Hanauer on sport's all-time victory list
Dave Villwock passed the legendary Bill Muncey as the winningest driver in Seafair unlimited hydroplane history with his 10th victory on Lake Washington on Sunday and cemented his place as one of the top drivers in the sport.
“There’s Muncey and [Chip] Hanauer and hopefully someday myself as sort of the Mount Rushmore of this sport,” Villwock said. “Anytime I can eclipse one of those records set by one of those guys who are already etched in granite up on that wall, it’s a special win.”
Villwock selected the inside lane after accumulating the most points in qualifying and heat races and his Miss Ellstrom Elam Plus boat led all five laps of the championship final in Seattle’s 60th annual race in front of a crowd estimated at 100,000 — 60,000 paid.
It was also the 59th win in Villwock’s career. The late Muncey had 62 wins, nine at Seafair, while Hanauer won 61 times.
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“In a perfect world, we’d all three have 62 and just call it a game,” Villwock said.
Villwock, who has won four of the five races this season, can tie Hanauer with wins in Evansville, Ind., on Aug. 23 and in the season-ending Qatar event Nov. 14.
Jimmy King, in the last piston-powered unlimited still racing, finished second, with JW Myers of Burien third in the U-37.
National points champion Steve David suffered engine problems and finished sixth, ahead of only the U-7 trailer boat driven by J. Michael Kelly of Puyallup. He retained the points lead this season with 5,815, but Villwock pulled closer with 5,566.
“I got super light in the north turn and went up in lane 2 and came down in lane 6,” David said. “When I got back into it, it started stalling real bad. I just had to baby it back in. If we would have kept running we would have destroyed everything. If I hadn’t got light it might have been interesting.”
King, who grew up watching Muncey and Hanauer, was consistently fast throughout the day.
“We were consistent for a change,” King said. “Everything is in good shape, and I shut the motor off myself. That’s always nice. We had a good weekend, and we’ve had a lot of bad ones.”
King said Villwock is deserving to be mentioned in the same sentence when talking about the best boat racers who ever lived.
“He’s good, he’s really good,” King said. “He’s right at the top. I’ve run against him at 200 mph, and I’m as comfortable as driving down the street. People say a lot of things about him, but he’s a smart guy who drives the hell out of a race boat.”
Villwock, who said all week he preferred lane 2, chose the inside lane when he had the choice after earning the most points in the race heading into the final.
“It wasn’t easy,” Villwock said. “Steve had me pinned in there pretty good for about a lap and a half. It wasn’t fun, but he must have hit a wave at the wrong time, and I was able to get ahead of him. It was bumpy, and we were all over the place. That’s what makes Seafair special. It’s just so difficult.”
Myers, who grew up in Kenmore and got the ride in the Hoss Mortgage Investors when Jean Theoret wasn’t physically strong enough to compete after a blowover accident July 5.
Myers won Heat 2B and said he especially enjoyed having success at Seafair.
“I used to sneak under the ropes at Seafair when I was a kid, and Chip Hanauer is my hero,” Myers said. “I just wish I was the driver for another reason.”
Kelly, who flipped his Graham Trucking boat in the Tri-Cities last weekend, ran fourth in 2A but it felt almost as good as a win.
“That’s a heat that I needed to get back in the game,” Kelly said. “Yesterday I just was not comfortable. Everyone raced me clean and gave me plenty of room and I couldn’t have asked for a better boat race. It’s like a victory for me.”
The team spent more than 600 man-hours to get it repaired after the Tri-Cities flip and didn’t get onto the water until Saturday.
“A week ago we were upside down and now we’re in the final,” Kelly said after making it into the final by winning the provisional heat. “This is what we love to do.”