Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

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Dean Chenoweth Remembered

By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian

Dean Chenoweth drove Unlimited hydroplanes from 1968 until his death in 1982. Like few drivers before or since, Dean could guarantee results. And in so doing, he raised boat driving to the level of an art form.

Known primarily for his championship exploits with Bernie Little's MISS BUDWEISER team, Chenoweth won 25 Unlimited races. He captured the Crown Jewel of APBA competition, the Gold Cup, four times in 1970, 1973, 1980, and 1981. He also won four National High Point Championships and, in 1980, set a world lap speed record of 138.249 miles per hour on the Columbia River at the Tri-Cities, Washington.

Dean established a record of 20 consecutive heat victories at the first five races of 1980, driving the famed Rolls-Royce Griffon-powered MISS BUDWEISER.

Chenoweth won two races and finished second in National High Points in 1969 with Joe Schoenith's MYR'S SPECIAL, but felt that he could have--and should have--finished first. When Dean handed in his resignation at the end of 1969, he had not yet been offered the MISS BUDWEISER ride.

Chenoweth had one of his best seasons in 1973. His chief rival was PAY 'n PAK, piloted by Mickey Remund. Dean's boat was three years older and a thousand pounds heavier than PAY 'n PAK, but Chenoweth was nevertheless able to achieve parity with the PAK. This was due to Dean consistently securing the inside lane in heat confrontations between the two boats.

Beyond doubt, Dean Chenoweth's finest hour as a race driver occurred on a cold, rainy, misty day on Seattle's Lake Washington in 1973. Visibility was terrible but water conditions were ideal. During the first heat of the World Championship, MISS BUDWEISER and PAY 'n PAK shared the same roostertail for five laps on a 3-mile course to become the first boats to average better than 120 miles per hour in a heat of competition.

MISS BUDWEISER did 122.504, while PAY 'n PAK checked in at 120.697. The raw power and the competitive finesse of the two boats were positively awesome. This was what hydroplane racing was all about.

Despite being retired from the sport between 1974 and 1979, Chenoweth proved himself to be as competitive as ever in his later years.

Even in the last year of his life, Dean was nothing short of sensational. At season's end in 1981, Chenoweth had won six of eight races, including the Gold Cup in Seattle and the World Cup in Acapulco, Mexico.

Between 1980 and 1982, Chenoweth won more races than any other Unlimited driver and was Gold Cup and High Points Champion in 1980 and 1981. Dean was leading in National Points when he suffered fatal injuries in a "blow-over" accident at the Tri-Cities in 1982.

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