With all the questions surrounding the races this year, like the controversies with Hydro-Prop, and the surprises like Anheuser-Busch's extension of sponsorship for the Columbia Cup, there is one certainty: This is the last year that the Miss Budweiser will race in the Columbia Cup.
For nearly half a century, it's been Miss Bud's world, and we've just been living in it.
“It's been fun. We've won more races than anybody ever has. We set the world speed record, set course records and straight-away records, and all of that, so we've done it all, and enjoyed it all,” said Dave Villwock, driver of the Miss Budweiser.
But this year is the end of an era. Budweiser will no longer sponsor the team after this season. When such a dominant boat leaves the sport, it's sure to leave a number of questions in its wake.
“It's kind of like when you graduate from high school. It's scary because you're not quite sure what's going to happen, but you're pretty sure you can do something cool with it,” Villwock said.
If this year is the last, it won't be for lack of fan support.
“The big red boat's been around for 40 years. The last three races we've been to, all the fans are like one more year, one more year,” said Dave Williams, a hydros fan.
But for a weekend, it'll be about the history, the legacy of Bernie Little, his trailer, his tree, and the 23 National and World titles. It was a dominance that some say scared competitors away, and above all that, a devotion to the fans.
“I think our focus is the fans. There have been a lot of beer drinkers in the Tri-Cities area and we want to reach out and say thank you. Really, this Bud's for you this year,” said Joe Little, owner of the Miss Budweiser.