HPROP: Tri-Cities preview

TRI-CITIES, Wash., July 22, 2003 -- Tri-Cities has proven to be a challenging venue for the Miss Budweiser team over the years, but as the team has proven this season with Joe Little in the ownership role, this year is anything but typical. Not ...

TRI-CITIES, Wash., July 22, 2003 -- Tri-Cities has proven to be a challenging venue for the Miss Budweiser team over the years, but as the team has proven this season with Joe Little in the ownership role, this year is anything but typical. Not since 1999 has the Miss Budweiser team won the Budweiser Columbia Cup on the Columbia River and that fact alone has made the team confident about a victory in Tri-Cities this year.

"The Columbia River is a tough and challenging course. It's a river that has claimed a number of our boats and injured a few of our drivers during our quest for victory over the years," said Joe Little, president of Hydroplanes, Inc., owner of the Miss Budweiser. "Out of all the venues we race in 2003, we've won here in Tri-Cities the least amount of times. It had been a few years since we won in Madison and after our mechanical problem in Evansville the team had a renewed drive. Dave (Villwock) was able to win all the heats and the final thanks to the efforts of Mark Smith and the rest of the crew. I know we can expect that same professionalism from them this weekend."

Although 11 wins in Tri-Cities is nothing to scoff at, nobody wants a win more in Tri-Cities than Dave Villwock.

"This year we're coming to Tri-Cities with a clean slate," said Miss Budweiser Driver and Team Manager Dave Villwock. "What happened in the past here, good and bad, is history. We're looking to write some new history this weekend and the goal is points, points, points and a Budweiser Columbia Cup."

Coming into the weekend, only one heat victory and one point separates Dave Villwock and the Miss Budweiser Team from the closest competitor, Mike Weber in the U-10 Miss Emcor. It's the smallest lead that the Miss Budweiser has had going to Tri-Cities in the last few years.

"Tri-Cities is a location rich with hydroplane racing history and one of our favorite stops on our journey westward. It's always great to be back in Tri-Cities where the unlimited fan base is so great and I'd have to say this season so far has been interesting to the fans," said Little. "A lot of teams have stepped up to the challenge this year with new boats, new equipment and a renewed intensity to beat the Miss Budweiser team. It's not just one team that has us looking around the pits, there are a lot of good competitors out there, and that makes us work harder as a team. I think it's a great thing for the sport, the fans and the sponsors."

Joe Little, Up Front -- "When I think of Tri-Cities, I always think of Bernie's Tree," said Joe Little, referring to the large, aging shade tree along the banks of the Columbia River that his father Bernie Little had saved in the 1980s.

Every year, the Miss Budweiser team sets up camp underneath the drooping branches of the tree. It provides shade and comfort during the hot July months in Tri-Cities.

"I can't even tell you how much dad spent on that tree," Little said. "I know it was diseased and there was talk about removing the tree and that dad said no way, and anyone who knew Bernie knew there was no saying no to him. That's when he brought in a tree surgeon and they went to work saving that tree. Sure enough, it still stands there today and I'm looking forward to standing under that special tree and watching the Miss Budweiser team race to victory."

Speed Channel --Hydro fans who can't make it to Tri-Cities for this weekend's Tri-Cities Water Follies and the Budweiser Columbia Race can enjoy all the action on the Speed Channel on August 17 at 2 p.m. ET. For a complete television schedule visit www.hydroprop.com or www.speedtv.com for subscription and local broadcast information.

Statistically Speaking -- Tri-Cities was the scene of the Miss Budweiser's first victory; the year was 1966. The team over the years has racked up an impressive 11 victories on the Columbia River (1966, '73, '78, '87, '88, '90, '92, '93, '94, '98, '99). The Miss Budweiser team has a record in unlimited hydroplane racing that is unrivaled with 135 victories, 22 world championships and 14 APBA Gold Cups. The team has entered a record 356 races and finished in the top-three a total of 231 times in 40 years of competition. The crew of the Miss Budweiser has a combined 286 years of experience. Dave Villwock who has been racing unlimited hydroplanes since 1992, has 40 wins, six series championships and five APBA Gold Cups to his credit.

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