Nice weather - for seemingly the first time in the history of our Centralia race - a great turnout and exciting racing highlighted the 2021 season-opening Champion Spark Plug Regatta, Saturday, April 3 at Fort Borst Park.
And it was David Newton and Jerry Dunlap who came away as the day's big winners.
Newton paired up with 1960 Miss Thriftway owner Kerry Kjos for a perfect day, driving the persimmon and white beauty to a win in the vintage class after sweeping all four preliminary heats in the vintage class. Newton also won the modern class final with the 1985 Miss Budweiser. It was Newton's fourth consecutive win with the Miss Bud, dating back to the 2020 season.
Second place in the vintage final was ERCU rookie Jay Fonville with the 1963 Tahoe Miss. Third went to Brad Lewis with the 1962 Miss Supertest and fourth to John Earnest with the 1962 Gale V. Lewis had previously won the vintage connie and started the final as a trailer where he quickly jumped from the trailer spot to as high as second during the final heat. While pressing the Thriftway, the Supertest missed the entrance pin to the north turn and despite the lap penalty, Lewis was able to unwind the disadvantage and still finish on the podium.
With just four classic boats in the pits for the season-opener, contest directors Jerry and Paul Dunlap decided to make the classic class a points race, and it was a close one between Jerry's 1986 Boat and Brandon Sano's 1985 Squire Shop. In the end, Boat eaked out a win with 1,094 points. Sano's Squire was second with 1,050 points. Third went to Lewis in the 1982 Oh Boy! Oberto and fourth was David Heilbrunn with the 1984 Executone.
The modern final was another exciting one where the trailer made some serious noise. David Heilbrunn, who won the modern connie with his 2019 J&D's, started legally as the trailer and patiently made his way up the field. His second place finish behind Newton's Miss Budweiser prompted him to fist pump as his boat crossed the finish line and the chief referee announced the second place finish. Third went to Paul Dunlap with Rick Evans' 2015 Dalton Industries and fourth was defending Champion Spark Plug Regatta champ Ron Daum with the 2009 Grandview on the Lake.
Heading into the modern final, Dunlap had a perfect day going but battery frustrations in the final slowed the boat significantly.
The Dalton, however, was the victor in won of the day's most exciting heat races. In modern heat 4A, the Dalton and Nelson Holmberg's 2018 Oberto Beef Jerky had a deck-to-deck battle for all five laps. Dunlap had better top end, and Holmberg had the inside lane and the ability to control the course. Mixed into it, the J&D's was a lap down in front of the two leaders, so the excitement was electrifying. In the end, Dalton used took the lead in the north turn on the last lap and held on for the heat win.
The club also took a longer than normal lunch break to do an in-person presentation of the 2020 ERCU awards, and the club provided box lunches for those in attendance.
All-in-all, it was a pretty great day for everyone involved.
Many thanks go out not only to everyone who attended, but also those who helped put on the race. It was a great event with a lot of fun had by all. ERCU is grateful for a fantastic start to the season!
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