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Miss Budweiser retires after four decades

It looks like it’s the last season for the iconic Miss Budweiser, the red-and-white unlimited hydroplane that has been on the racing and boat show circuits for more than 40 years.

Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch announced it would no longer sponsor hydroplane racing after this season. The St. Louis beer conglomerate sponsors the Miss Budweiser team, the Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series, and the O’Doul’s National High Points Championship.

Entering the 2004 season, Miss Budweiser had run in 360 races — with nearly 140 victories — and earned 14 American Power Boat Association Gold Cups and 23 season championship titles. She has been competing since 1963.

This year, Miss Budweiser and driver Dave Villwock set a kilometer straightaway record of more than 220 mph and added several race victories to her total, including the APBA/Union Internationale Motonautique World Championship in Madison, Ind.

The team may continue in some manner after this season, either running exhibitions or racing under new sponsorship, according to published reports.

The future of the Budweiser racing program had been in flux since team owner Bernie Little died in April 2003 at age 77. Joe Little, who has been in charge of the team since his father’s death, says it was a long and tough decision for Anheuser-Busch.

Bernie Little owned a Budweiser distributorship in Florida in which his family remains involved, according to reports.