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Reprinted from Skid Fin Magazine, 2003, Volume 1 Number 2.
The newest member of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum’s fleet is the 1968 Miss Budweiser. The ’68 Bud (the sixth Miss Budweiser) was designed and built by Seattle’s Ed Karelsen and is an exact copy of the 1967/1968 National Champion Miss Bardahl. The 1968 Budweiser was first driven by Bill Sterett Sr., who won the Gold Cup and National Championship in 1969.
The ’68 Budweiser is the only surviving Karelsen round-bowed unlimited. Five boats of this design were built in the late 1960s, and they dominated unlimited racing from 1967 to 1971, wining four Gold Cups and five National Championships.
In 1970, Dean Chenoweth took over the cockpit, drove the boat to a victory in the 1970 Gold Cup and claimed the National Championship. That same year boat builder Ed Karelsen, the Budweiser team and Chenoweth took part in one of the most amazing accomplishments in the history of boat racing. On July 19 in the first heat of the 1970 Atomic Cup in Tri-Cities, Washington, the Miss Budweiser dove nose-first in rough water on the second lap. The accident tore away 10 feet of the Budweiser’s bow and ripped the deck all the way back to the model well. It also sent the boat tot he bottom of the Columbia River and driver Dean Chenoweth to the hospital.
After the race the boat was salvaged and taken back to Seattle. Starting on the morning of July 20, 1970, the Budweiser crew, let by crew chief George McKernan, worked around the clock with builder “Fast” Eddie Karelsen to repair the boat. By Friday, July 31, the damaged boat was repaired, repainted, and back in the pits. Chenoweth, nursing a sprained left arm, qualified the boat, and on Sunday, August 2, 1970, he won the race. Local newspapers heralded the achievement with headlines that read, “From Columbia’s Bottom to Seafair’s Top” and “Miss Bud Resurfaces to Win!”
Chenoweth won the National Championship with the Miss Budweiser team again in 1971. In 1972, Chenoweth moved to the Notre Dame, and Terry Sterett, Bill Sterett’s son, became the first driver to compete in a hull previously driven by his father.
The boat was retired in 1973 and eventually sold. She appeared briefly in 1974 as the Country Boy and then n 1975 as the first Miss Vernor’s. The boat was later bought back by Anheuser-Busch, repainted as the Miss Budweiser, and given to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation. It was displayed at the Indy Museum of Speed for a short time but was moved into long-term storage. This winter, the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum acquired the boat, and she will not be on display at the Hydroplane Museum in Seattle.
The ’68 Bud is cosmetically in beautiful shape and makes a wonderful display. No decision has been make about restoring the boat to running condition, but it’s fun to imagine this beautiful gold and red boat streaking across Lake Washington.