For the second race in a row, a Squire Shop boat led its pilot to a first-first in the ERCU classic class.
Just three weeks after Brandon Sano posted his first-first with the 1985 Squire Shop at the President's Cup in Marysville, Paxton Reunanen, who had just purchased the brand new 1979 Squire Shop - built by John Earnest and modified by David Newton - from Nelson Holmberg, drove the craft to his first ever ERCU win, winning the classic final at the Detroit Memorial Regatta.
Newton won his fifth consecutive race on the 2021 circuit, driving Kerry Kjos’ 1960 Miss Thriftway to the vintage win, and Paul Dunlap continued the Dalton Industries’ string of wins earning that boat’s fourth consecutive win. Holmberg won the 1/7-scale modern final, capping a perfect day in Gary Hansen’s 1972 Notre Dame, and Craig Mullen won the 1/7-scale vintage final driving Mike McIntosh’s 1976 Vagabond.
Minus the sweltering heat and sticky humidity often experienced in the Motor City, conditions for the Detroit Memorial Regatta were similar to those experienced by the real racers on the rough-and-tumble Detroit River. With winds out of the west, then the east. And sometimes out of the south, the normally serene Lake Sacajawea race course was very bumpy. The race was even put on a brief wind hold after the lunch break.
The day started with an extended drivers meeting, recognizing three members of ERCU who were influential in the club and helped make it what it is today. Marti Newton was remembered in all of the vintage class heats, Howard Price in all of the classic class heats, and Harry Gatjens in the modern class heats throughout the day.
And there were times during the day when some felt the presence of each of them.
For David Newton, the day was special because his mom was recognized and his whole family was at the race with him. That included in-laws Larry and Denise Goldman who prepared one of their famous grilled hot dog lunches for all who were present at the event.
On the water, there was a lot of great racing. Included in that was vintage heat 2C where Paul Dunlap, driving Rick Evans' 1968 Miss Bardahl, snapped a season-long win streak, upsetting the 1960 Miss Thriftway. Kerry Kjos' Miss Thriftway, driven all year long by Newton, hadn't been beaten in a heat all season, until the Detroit Memorial.
The finals were just as exciting, as we finally had the opportunity to responsibly put six drivers and spotters in the driving area, so that we could have half-a-dozen boats on the water. In the 1/10 scale modern final, Paul Dunlap shrugged off competition from Chuck Murray's 2000 Miss E-Lam Plus to take the win. Murray finished second while Jim Latimer's 1994 Miss E-Lam Plus (four-point) was third. Those who were unable to finish the 1/10 modern final included Ron Daum and the 2009 Grandview on the Lake "Turbinator", David Heilbrunn's 2019 J&D's (which had two heat wins earlier in the day, and Newton's 1985 Miss Budweiser "Bubble Bud".
The classic final was also affected by rough water, wind and attrition. Nevertheless, three boats managed to finish, with Reunanen's 1979 Squire Shop winning right out of the box. Reunanen managed to take control of the race from Gerry Bordon's 1974 Miss U.S., and held on for victory. Third place went to Kelly Gruol, driving Brad Lewis's 1982 Oh Boy! Oberto. DNFs went to Heilbrunn's 1984 Executone, Murray's 1983 Miss Houston and Jerry Dunlap's 1986 Boat. Murray won the classic first connie and was allowed to start on the front line, while Gruol was second in the connie and started as a trailer, before taking third place.
In 1/10 scale vintage, Kjos and Newton were more than ready for the challenge, though Holmberg briefly stuck within a roostertail driving Newton's 1964 Miss Exide. The Exide rolled in the first turn of lap three while challenging for the leadand didn't finish. Second in the vintage final went to Jay Fonville with his new-to-him 1975 Sunny Jim and third was another Portlander, John Howell, who brought home the 1965 Savair's Mist. Other DNFs went to Reunanen with the 1952 Such Crust IV, Dunlap with the Miss Bardahl (after winning the connie and earning a front line start), and Kelly Gruol driving Lewis's 1962 Miss Supertest.
In the 1/7 scale modern, it was a little bit more of the same as it's been most of the season. Holmberg dominated the field with Gary Hansen's 1972 Notre Dame. Second place went to John Sjostrom's 1982 Captran Resorts and a DNF to Denise Sjostrom with the 1974 Miss U.S. Mullen's 1975 Pay 'n Pak and Rob Edwards' 1982 Gilmore Special both scratched prior to the final.
Mullen grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat driving a great race with Mike McIntosh's 1976 Vagabond. John Sjostrom and Mullen connected in quite a battle before the 1960 Miss Thriftway missed a buoy and the Vagabond took the lead. Sjostrom took second and Terry Harmer, with the 1986 Miss Bahia, was third. A DNF went to Jim McKeon, who's 1958 Maverick was strong all day and ran strong in the final before blowing over in the backstretch. Denise Sjostrom was unable to start the final with the 1980 Evergreen Roofing when her rudder hit bottom on the launch and was kicked up. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to repair and relaunch before the 30-second mark.
The Detroit Memorial was the first of three special events this season, which the club is investing in. The others are the Roger Newton Memorial (July 10 in Lacey) and the Gold Cup (September 11 in Lacey). Stay tuned for more information about these great events as they get closer.
Kudos and many thanks to both Lewis and Newton for all of the hard work they put into making the inaugural Detroit Memorial Regatta a great event. The bar has certainly been set very high for future ERCU special events. Great job guys! Thank you so much!