by Fred Farley
Danny Foster was to the 1940s and 1950s what Bill Muncey was to the 1960s and 1970s and what Chip Hanauer was to the 1980s and 1990s. Foster was unlimited hydroplane racing's first superstar in the years following World War II.
He is the 2005 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America powerboat inductee.
Foster's first taste of boat racing came as a riding mechanic with driver Dan Area in the Hispano-powered Miss Golden Gate in the California Gold Cup class in the 1930s.
Foster's unlimited driving career began in 1946, behind the wheel of Albin Fallon's Miss Great Lakes at the President's Cup in Washington, D.C. Foster won all three heats and decisively outperformed the favored Guy Lombardo in Tempo VI. It was the first victory by an Allison-powered boat and the first of many competitive triumphs by Foster, who quickly established himself as the top driver of his day.
He was national champion in 1947 with Miss Peps V, winning his first Golf Cup on the extremely rough water of Jamaica Bay, New York. Although sponsored by Pepsi Cola, Miss Peps V didn't carry her product's full name into competition because commercial sponsorships were frowned upon at that time.
Foster made it back-to-back Gold Cups in 1948, steering Miss Great Lakes around Detroit River wrecks in a race recalled as one of the most destructive in history. Boats crashed, burned and sank on a day when all that could possibly go wrong seemingly did. Foster was the only entrant out of 22 that could go the full 90-mile distance. Even Miss Great Lakes sank at dockside while Foster was receiving the trophy.
Foster continued to make his presence felt with the likes of Such Crust, Delphine X, Hornet, Gale II, Wha Hoppen Too and Miss Great Lakes II. Foster managed to finish first or second at one time or another with almost every boat that he drove between 1946 and 1955.
When Lee Schoenith left for Korea in 1952, Foster replaced his friend in the cockpit of Gale II and won the Silver Cup on the Detroit River.
Foster had the kind of season in 1955 that most drivers only dream about. That was the year that he teamed with bandleader Lombardo as pilot of Tempo VII, an Allison-powered craft that the press labeled as "The Sweetest Boat This Side of Heaven."
After being forced out of the 1955 Gold Cup at Seattle due to an on-board fire in the first heat, Tempo VII could do no wrong. Foster won the Copper Cup at Polson, Mont., the Silver Cup at Detroit, the President's Cup in Washington, the International Cup at Elizabeth City, N.C., and the Governor's Cup at Madison, Ind.
After 1955, Foster had few worlds left to conquer. From then on, he was mainly a relief driver or a shore mechanic. Over the next decade, he saw occasional action with Miss U.S., Miss Supertest II, Gale VII and Miss Smirnoff.
His last victory was in a secondary race for the Ponderosa Trophy at the 1965 Lake Tahoe World Championship Regatta with Miss Smirnoff.
Long retired from the competitive arena, Danny Foster -- "The Old Pro" -- is remembered as being one of the better of the best in the water sport of kings.
His election to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is a fitting tribute to one of racing's all-time greats.