Saturday, August 31, 2013

50th Anniversary of the National Championship Air Races

It’s that time again. The crews are making the final touches on the race planes and the pilots are testing and growing more focused every day. The drama that is Air Racing is ready to play out in front of our incredibly loyal fans. Let’s take a look at who will be there and what to expect.


At this point, we have 16 aircraft on the roster. While not the largest number of entries, the fans should be pleased with the caliber of racers. 

Voodoo is back. Yes, after a year off, Bob Button is coming back in a big way. He decided to put together his dream team and go for that elusive win. Stevo Hinton will be flying Voodoo this year. And Kerch is back as the team adviser, in what we are affectionately calling, “Yoda and the Kid”. They are having fun, they are focused on winning and they are the team to beat right now.

Button's Voodoo - with Yoda and The Kid

Rare Bear has made the trip to Texas and back for a tweaking by Nelson Ezell and his crew of Warbird Whisperers. A wave of their magic wand and maybe the Rare Bear will be back to her winning form? With Stewart Dawson in the seat and a hungry owner in Rod Lewis, is this their year?

Rare Bear - the most colorful racer

Strega has been a giant question mark in the off-season. First Tiger was retiring her, and then coming back. The flip-flops keep happening and all I can say is Matt Jackson will be the pilot. Allegedly Matt has sponsorship funding from his student, Tom Cruise. Yes, that Tom Cruise. Matt taught Tom to fly his P-51 Mustang, Kiss me Kate. Tom has always been a fan of the Air Races – so keep your eyes peeled and you just might see him in the Strega Pit (or maybe visiting Ruby?).

And then we have Rare Bear’s little sister, 232 – previously known as September Fury. This Sea Fury will be piloted by everyone’s favorite astronaut, Hoot Gibson. While Rare Bear has been spending her free time in Texas, 232 has been getting her attention from the team in Chino. Will she still sport her Rare Bear kill stickers from last year? Will she surprise everyone this year? We’ll have to wait and see.

Czech Mate is BACK.. yes, after a revamping of the wing and a few years of sitting on the sidelines, Sherman Smoot will be back in the Giant Killer. Czech is the meanest little Yak in the world. Fast, stealthy and small – she will likely be finishing near the top. Kudos to John Moore and Sherman (and the guys from Shafter Skunk Works) for persevering and coming back! Will this be their year?

Dreadnaught will be there, waiting for someone to blink so she can sneak by. The Buick will do more Buicking (hat tip Bruce Croft for the term). In other words, flying steady, every day and without wavering, will she be her faithful self and bring the Sanders family a win this year?

And then there is Precious Metal. Thom Richards and his team in Florida have been doing their magic to make the Griffon Powered Mustang sing. I know that Thom wants this win. He is very competitive and has his eye on the prize. Let’s see if he can bring it home.

The Giant Killer – Czech Mate

And then we have other very capable racers including Sawbones, Miss America and Argonaut. All of them are capable of getting into the Gold race. And of course, La Patrona, Rod Lewis’ beautiful Tigercat will be there. John Bagley is bringing back Ole Yeller. Doug Matthew will bring two of his Warbirds, including The Rebel and the Corsair. Sparky and the Sanders’ Bristol Powered Sea Fury, 924 will round out the entries.

All in all, this is a great group of racers to entertain us for the 50th Anniversary edition.


The Sport Class has so many entries; they will be running four races, instead of just the usual three. A Race Class which only appeared on the scene in 1998, they are the largest class and are quickly becoming the fan favorite (after the Unlimiteds and Biplanes – right?) With 14 Lancairs, 7 Glasairs and a smattering of several different makes and models, this group has something for everyone.  A Radial Rocket, Kevin’s NXT, a few RVs, Thunder Mustangs – and Shane Margraves is even bringing a Zlin 50! But, I still believe Jeff LaVelle will be our winner. John Parker in Blue Thunder, Lee Behel in his GP-5 and Craig Sherman in his Glasair may be the spoilers.


Aberle’s Phantom is the one to beat. He has been on the top of the leaderboard nearly every year since he unveiled his slick racer. The one year he had a hiccup, Jeff Lo was there to grab the trophy.

This year, the Bipes have several rookies with new and interesting aircraft. All I can say is wake up early and come out and watch the dawn racers.  

I will be flying my darling Pitts Special, Ruby. I’d like to give a big thank you to my crew for their loyal and tireless work again this year. You guys ROCK!

Ruby is ready – Thanks Crew!


Steve Senegal in Endeavor is the man to beat again this year. He will have some competition in the front from several of the newer racers. Justin Phillipson will be there in Outrageous. Elliot Seguin will be on hand with his new racer, Wasabi 2. Vito Wypraechtiger may have a trick up his sleeve with the Scarlet Screamer. Kevin Anderson and Lowell Slatter may be the ones – or will it be Steve Temple’s year?


Another healthy showing by the T6s – the field of 19 will have their characteristically close racing again. Returning veterans Dennis Buehn, John Zayac and Nick Macy will all be battling for the top spot. Let’s see what happens with this loud and proud group.


Twelve Jets are entered to race this year with all but one being L-29s and L-39s. The one that doesn’t look like the other ones is Lachie Onslow’s Iskra. Smart money is on Rick Vandam’s ride, #5 American Spirit. But, who knows – this could be Pete Zaccagnino’s year, or maybe Joe Gano or Phil Fogg will be on top. 

We’ll have to wait and see.

Wrap up…

That’s a quick look at what we have coming up this year. I hope this has increased your interest and we’ll all see you at the 50th. I know that the Reno Air Race Association (RARA) has put together a great show to commemorate a half century of Air Racing.

I wanted to give a special thanks to all my fellow Air Racers, Pilots, Owners, Crew Members for putting in the time and making this event so special every year. And to the people of RARA, thank you for not losing faith when the “going got tough”; to the volunteers for giving your time and working with all of us to make it happen; and to the fans who come out each year in heat, cold, rain, snow, and this year – smoke – to watch us do what we love. Thank you all – My September Family.

Our September Family

See you there,

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

All Photos used this month are from Anthony Taylor of – Thank you, Hopper!