Over the Edge
(from Sports Illustrated, August 9, 1982, pp.22-3)
|The 18th annual Columbia Cup for unlimited hydroplanes was in its second day of competition last Saturday when four-time national champion Dean Chenoweth and his Miss Budweiser roared down the Columbia River course near Pasco, Wash., in a qualifying run. Traveling at 175 mph, Miss Bud's bow began to lift off the water, higher and higher, until "the boat seemed for a few seconds to be sitting on its tail, "according to Coast Guard Lt. Commander Dennis Godfrey. "Then the boat seemed to lean over and we knew it was bad."|
|The 6,300-pound Miss Budweiser slammed upside down in the water, crushing Chenoweth and throwing up a wall of spray. The 44-year-old driver was pronounced dead half an hour later.|
|The accident was a classic "blow over." Last October the same thing had happened to Bill Muncey, the most successful driver in unlimited history. " After Bill died, everyone said it would be tough for the sport to survive," said Pay 'n Pak driver John Walters. "Now Dean's gone and its going to make things that much tougher. It's obvious that boats are being run on the ragged edge."|
Photos by Kenneth M. Padilla
Jenny Chenoweth Always Walked With Dean
By Wanda Briggs
Jenny Chenoweth kissed her husband goodbye Saturday morning and told him to have a good run when he took the Miss Budweiser out for a qualifying test on the Columbia River.
An hour later, the 39-year-old former airline stewardess leaned over her husband's lifeless body in the Kennewick General Hospital emergency room and kissed him goodbye for the last time.
She thanked the people who had fought to save Chenoweth's life and returned to the Red Lion Motor Inn in Pasco to pack the suitcases just unpacked Thursday.
The Chenoweths married last November in Chenoweth's adopted hometown of Tallahassee, Fla.
Their love of hydroplane racing brought them together and it was Chenoweth's love of the sport that kept him racing long after he'd talked of retiring as the winningest driver since the death last season of his friend Bill Muncey in a hydroplane crash in Mexico.
Chenoweth had 25 victories in 15 unlimited hydroplane seasons and while Mrs. Chenoweth worried about her husband's safety, her attitude was, "what made Dean happy made her happy and she would never have asked him to quit," said Bonnie Anderson, spokeswoman for Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser and a close friend of the Chenoweth family.
After the crash, Miss Anderson shielded Mrs. Chenoweth from symphathetic Tri-Citians, many of whom flocked to Kennewick General Hospital when they heard about the morning crash.
Mrs. Chenoweth tried to talk to a reporter, but just couldn't. "I just can't now," she asked Miss Anderson to say. "There just isn't anything to say."
Mrs. Chenoweth's brother, Jeff Neff, is one of the six crew members for the Miss Budweiser and it was through her brother that she met Chenoweth, who first joined the Miss Bud racing team in 1970.
Mrs. Chenoweth never missed a race, said Miss Anderson, and it was "Jenny's practice to help Dean put on his equipment, to walk arm-in-arm with him down to the Bud. He always gave her a little pat and she always gave him a kiss and told him to have a good run.
"That's what she did Saturday morning."
Mrs. Chenoweth was in the pit area with the Bud crew and didn't see the crash.
"But somebody who works for Bernie (Bernie Little, owner of the Miss Budweiser) saw a wall of water and he screamed that Dean had flipped. We all ran out to the dock, but we couldn't see a lot.
"Jenny was relatively calm, quiet and intense. She knew it was bad; she prayed that it really wasn't."
Mrs. Chenoweth was a senior stewardess for United Airlines, but after their marriage she retired and worked for her husband in his Anheuser-Busch distributorship in Tallahassee.
"She went into the office every day and Dean used to tease that even though she didn't get paid, he'd put her on the payroll," Miss Anderson said.
They looked forward to their trip to the Tri-Cities.
"It was like a second honeymoon for them and they were as excited as kids.
"This year the races in Tri-Cities and Seattle were scheduled back-to-back, with the Columbia Cup Sunday and the Sea Galley Emerald Cup set for next Sunday.
"Dean had been in Seattle earlier this month and had done a lot of media touring so they were planning on a few quiet days in Seattle, visiting Jenny's family, before Dean had to start qualifying for the Seattle event."
Miss Anderson said of Little: "He's a strong man and his emotions don't always show. But if you knew him you could tell he was hurting on the inside."
Miss Anderson said Mrs. Chenoweth insisted that she be allowed to see her husband one last time at the hospital. "She wanted to say goodbye."
Afterward, she left the Tri-Cities for Seattle, en route to Tallahassee to make arrangements for Chenoweth to be buried adjacent to the grave of his 17-year-old son, Dean Jr., who died two years ago in a traffic accident.
(Reprinted from the Tri-City Herald, Sunday, Aug. 1, 1982)
* * *
Chenoweth Held Ideas of Quitting
Dean Chenoweth, killed in a hydroplane flip yesterday morning near the Tri-Cities, said he still carried thoughts of legendary Bill Muncey -- himself killed in an unlimited mishap in Acapulco, Mexico, last October -- and hinted that he wanted to retire after this season, in one of the last interviews Chenoweth gave before his death.
Chenoweth, 44, also had told Associated Press writer Bill Kaczor in April that he tried not to think about the risks of his dangerous sport.
And in an interview Tuesday with The P-I's Steve Rudman, Chenoweth called this season "the most interesting year I've seen" because of increased competition and the Bud's own mechanical problems. Chenoweth then added, "It's odd that the three worst accidents of my career have all occurred in the state of Washington -- two in Seattle and one in Tri-Cities."
Talking with AP writer Jim Cour earlier last week, Chenoweth had reflected on the life and death of Bill Muncey, who was already an established veteran when Chenoweth broke into the unlimited scene in 1968.
By then, Muncey already had captured three of the seven national championships he would win in his illustrious thunderboat career.
"You know how some things never seem to change?" Chenoweth noted. "Well . . . I thought Bill was going to be out there forever."
Through thoughts of a third straight national championship and a fifth national title, Bill Muncey still weighed heavily on his mind.
"The loss of Bill," Chenoweth had said, "left a definite void in racing as far as I'm concerned. I'm not saying it has hurt the competition, because the competition is as good or better than ever.
"It hasn't changed the way I drive. I still have to drive as hard as I can. If I don't, I know somebody is going to beat me. Some of these young guys have really stepped in and done a great job.
"But Bill . . . well, he was such a big part of racing. It's just so different not having him around the pits and the boats."
Chenoweth said he remembered on the day Muncey died that he walked up a beach with him to meet some of the Mexican race fans the race promoter wanted them to meet.
"Bill always was so willing and ready to promote the sport," said Chenoweth. "Bill and I didn't always agree with each other on the course. But we were good friends off the course."
Chenoweth, a four-time Gold Cup winner, had hinted that this could be his last season in thunderboat racing. He retired briefly in 1974, but came back to drive Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser.
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sunday, August 1, 1982)
* * *
Little Wants to Race Bud Again in '82
By Glenn Nelson
PASCO -- Bernie Little, owner of the Miss Budweiser, said yesterday he wants to continue campaigning his boat -- possibly this week in Seattle.
In the aftermath of the death of Bud driver Dean Chenoweth, Little had said he would no longer race the boat on the 1982 circuit. Little said Saturday that the Pay 'N Pak, Miss Prodelco-Mr. Auto and Tempus had offered to put the Budweiser insignia on their boats -- in memory of Chenoweth and to come to the aid of a team that led the race to defend its national high-point championship. But Little turned down the offers.
"In memory of Dean, we will not race again this year," Little had said. "We will not win the national high-point championship this year. When Dean died, he was the national champion and was leading the standings for 1982."
After yesterday's race (won by The Squire Shop), Budweiser had fallen to third place in the standings with 3,338 compared to first-place Squire Shop's 3,444 and second-place Atlas Van Lines' 3,350.
After some contemplation, Little changed his mind.
"I have talked with the president of Anheuser-Busch and I'm confident they and the Miss Budweiser want to continue racing this year," Little said. "Dean would have wanted it that way. He gave his life to the sport. He would have died in vain if the Budweiser team stopped racing."
Chenoweth was killed when the Budweiser flipped in a qualifying run early Saturday morning. The top of the Bud's right sponson was stripped, there was a hole in the left sponson, and the rear wing stabilizer was mangled. After observing the damage, many here said they thought the boat was repairable.
Little said the boat certainly should be ready for the race at San Diego on Sept. 19.
According to Budweiser spokesperson Bonnie Anderson, the Bud crew is now examining the boat in its Seattle shop. So far, Anderson said, there doesn't appear to be any extensive internal damage. The crew is now beginning repairs, she said, and is hopeful of entering the boat in Sunday's Emerald Cup race in Seattle.
Though Little refused to name any candidates, sources say top candidates including Ron Snyder, Frank Kenney Toyota-Volvo driver and a former Budweiser driver, and Ron Armstrong, who last year drove the futuristic Circus Circus.
(Reprinted from the Seattle Times, Monday, August 2, 1982)
(ED. NOTE -- Ron Armstrong took over the repaired Miss Budweiser, finishing second to Chip Hanauer and the Atlas Van Lines in the race at Seattle. Then Jim Kropfeld made his unlimited debut in the Bud at San Diego and was the team's regular driver for almost the rest of the 1980s. No unlimited driver has died as a result of accidents on the water since Chenoweth.)
[These last three articles were originally reprinted in the URC ThunderLetter]
Dean Chenoweth Career Wins
|7/6/69||Indiana Governor's Cup (Madison IN)||Myr's Special/Dean Chenoweth|
|7/20/69||Atomic Cup (Tri-Cities WA)||Myr's Special/Dean Chenoweth|
|5/31/70||Suncoast Cup (Tampa FL)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|7/5/70||Indiana Governor's Cup (Madison IN)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|8/2/70||Seafair Trophy (Seattle WA)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|9/20/70||APBA Gold Cup (San Diego CA)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|5/23/71||Champion Spark Plug Trophy (Miami FL)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|6/27/71||Horace E. Dodge Cup (Detroit MI)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|6/17/73||Kentucky Governor's Cup (Owensboro KY)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|7/1/73||Gar Wood Trophy (Detroit MI)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|7/22/73||APBA Gold Cup (Tri-Cities WA)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|9/9/73||Nat'l Championship Regetta (Detroit MI)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|10/20/74||Admiral's Cup (Jacksonville FL)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|6/8/80||Champion Spark Plug Trophy (Miami FL)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|6/22/80||Thunder on the Ohio (Evansville IN)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|6/30/80||Spirit of Detroit Trophy (Detroit MI)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|7/6/80||APBA Gold Cup (Madison IN)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|7/13/80||El Dorado Regatta (El Dorado KS)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|6/7/81||Champion Spark Plug Trophy (Miami FL)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|6/28/81||Silver Cup (Detroit MI)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|7/5/81||Indiana Governor's Cup (Madison IN)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|8/9/81||APBA Gold Cup (Seattle WA)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|9/20/81||Circus Circus Trophy (San Diego CA)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|10/18/81||UIM World's Championship (Acapulco MX)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
|6/7/82||Champion Spark Plug Trophy (Miami FL)||Miss Budweiser/Dean Chenoweth|
You might also check out these External Links at other websites:
Motorsports Hall of Fame: Dean Chenoweth
Tri-City Herald: Dean Chenoweth Remembered
History Home Page
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© Leslie Field, 1999