As we go to press, we have 15 Unlimited Racers on the list – that is one more than we had last year.
Who is missing? Well, 232 is still sitting at Stead with a bad engine. As we all remember last year, Hoot Gibson showed off his deadstick skills one more time to bring 232 down safely before he even had a chance to qualify. I was so excited to see Hoot in 232 – I expected great things -- never happened.
Now, 232 is for sale. People have kicked the tires with their checkbook in hand, but nothing has been finalized. I look forward to seeing 232 with another owner/pilot combo next year. But for now – she sits.
Credit Tim Adams
Jim Tobul in Korean War Hero is not on the list this year. He has said that an Airshow commitment took him off the roster, but he has been talking about coming back in 2016. Let me say, Jim was a wonderful addition to the group and I certainly hope we have not seen the last of this great pilot and team.
Czech Mate is also MIA this year. Rumors abound – but I don’t like rumors. So let’s stay with the facts. Czech won’t be there. Sherman Smoot is the new President of the Unlimited Class – so he’ll be there. If he is interested in sharing why they are taking the year off, I’ll share. Otherwise, let’s hope they are back in 2016.
Who is back!? Dan Martin is back! Lots of Dan Fans out there who still remember his amazing races with Dago Red and Ridge Runner III. Dan sold RRIII and is returning with Sal Rubino’s Grim Reaper. Grim is a beautiful polished P-51. Not sure how fast she’ll be, but she sure is pretty. Sal went through PRS and is listed as the Primary Pilot – but I bet Dan will get a moment in the sun also. Sal will be there and is listed as the Primary. We know we'll get to see him in the air.
Speaking of Dans.. Dan Vance is also back in Speedball Alice. Dan has been a fixture on the ramp at Reno and does double duty as the Safety Pilot during Practice and Qualifying. We are happy to see him back for the whole week.
And Daryl Bond’s Lady Jo is back on the roster also with Rob Gordon flying her again. It’s very exciting to have the Santa Rosa crowd back on the ramp.
Credit Anthony Taylor WarbirdFotos.com
One more new Racer/Pilot Combo is Dusty Dowd in his Yak 11, Lylia. Dusty bought her from Bill Shepherd, who will be his alternate pilot. It is very exciting to have a whole new team join us in September. My only concern – with a top speed listed as 286mph – will she make the 300 mph cut?
Let’s see what happens.
The fast guys are back – except Czech – and that is a good thing. The Gold will probably include Voodoo with Steven Hinton piloting. He’s earned that seat by working on Voodoo nearly full time during the off season.
Also destined for Gold will be Hoot Gibson in Strega. Yes, these rumors are true. Let’s see what Hoot can do now that he finally has a full functioning champ to fly.
And Rare Bear’s team has been very quiet and busy this year. Stewart Dawson has been very serious during the off-season and I believe we may see a very positive showing from our Texas Team.
Credit Ken Linde
Thom Richard will be racing in two classes this year; Formula 1 with Hot Stuff and Unlimited with Precious Metal. What changes has his team made this year? Very little specifics are out there about what has been done, but time will tell.
The Sanders are bringing all three of their Sea Furys again this year. Dreadnaught – always a Gold Contender will have Dennis as the Primary and Brian as the Alternate. They will also have Argonaut with Mark Watt returning as Primary and 924 with Korey Wells. Brian and Dennis are Alternates on Argo and 924. What we do is look at the helmet colors to figure out who is flying!
Best guess has Curt Brown in Sawbones – another 3350 powered Sea Fury – rounding out the Gold contenders. I remember when the Sawbones team first showed up – they are now veterans and are really enjoying their rise to fame.
This is going to be a great year!
At last count, 41 racers are on the list for Sport Class! Last year we had 34 – and that was a LOT!
There are plenty of fast ones – including the Thunder Mustangs – being raced by John Parker in Blue Thunder and Class President Bob Mills in Clas Thunder. Dave Morss will be racing a gorgeous Stewart S-51D – named, “Big Beautiful Doll” after the unbelievable P-51D that was lost when the pilot jumped during an airshow at Duxford a few years ago. I have no idea how fast Dave's S-51D will be – but she is adorable!
Only one NXT on the roster – Kevin Eldredge - but 10 Lancair Legacys. WOW! Time will tell how fast they are. There are a smattering of other aircraft, including Glasairs and Lansairs 360s and every flavor of RV with two EZs.
One name that is missing is Jeff LaVelle – the winner for the last few years. Jeff has raced since 2007 and is taking the year off to deal with some personal issues. We hope to see him back when he’s ready. A great guy with a ton of talent. He'll be missed.
But, his absence allows someone else to win the Gold. Who will it be? Kevin Eldredge? John Parker? Bob Mills? Lynn Farnsworth? Gary Mead? Or maybe Dave Morss? Let’s see what happens.
We have 17 jets on the list – Joe Gano is back – and so is Larry Lee. Many will remember Joe owned the black L-29 called Viper. He shared the racing duties with Curt Brown until the oversized engines were outlawed. He’s back in a white and red L-29 named Sluggo, sharing the racing with Jon Socolof.
And many will remember Larry Lee from the PRS incident where he collided with another L-39 and beyond all reason and logic, was able to land safely. Well, he’s back!
The fans love to see new aircraft on the field and this year we have a few. Pete Zaccagnino, who won in the past, is bringing a Vampire. And Vicky Benzing is bringing the world’s only L-139. The big difference between an L-39 and an L-139 is the engine. I’ll let you head down to the Jet Pit to learn more about this one and only machine and their unique pilot.
Biplanes have 14 Racers including three Rookies! Carl Robinson, Richard Anderson and Anthony Oshinuga will be joining us for the first time in September.
Returning Champion, Jake Stewart will be there to go head to head against Tom Aberle in Phantom. I’ll probably have a great seat in the back of the Gold to watch the action and to stay out of the way when they pass me.
Credit Ken Linde
There are 17 F1’s on the list currently, including several of the guys who flew during the Air Race 1 Series in Tunisia and Spain earlier this year. The final leg in the Air Race 1 Tour will be at Reno. Thom Richard won the last two races, and the real action will be between him and Steve Senegal.
Maybe Vito Wypaechtiger may be there to throw a monkey wrench in their plans – or will it be Justin Phillipson in his new Racer.
Again, wake up early and watch the fun when the Biplanes and the Formula 1s take the course! You won't regret it!
Will it be between Dennis Buehn and John Lohmar again this year? Or will Nick Macy and Six Cat be back in fighting form and take the win? Or will Chris Rushing or Gene McNeely – or maybe one of the new racers, take the lead?
There is a lot of talent in the T6 Class and anyone could be the winner this year. Let’s see what happens.
This is another pivotal year for the National Championship Air Races. The new President has been baptized by fire – with everyone wanting to be heard. We know that we all need to work together if this is going to continue to happen.
So, fans – please do your part. Support your favorite teams by buying T-shirts and other swag. Support the Races by buying a ticket and being there to cheer us on every day.
Spread the word – bring a friend – introduce someone to the races by sharing this column or a video or a few pictures from the past years. We need you there!
I’ll be there. The whole Ruby Crew will be together again – racing and spectating and having a blast!
This is my favorite week of the year – I bet it’s yours too!
Until we see you at Stead – remember to fly low, fly fast and turn left!
Ruby Red Racing
The Pylon Place