And It Was Only Thursday!

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Andrew Findlay congratulates heat winner Jim Rust after one of the most exciting, closest Sport Gold races in years.

Diehard air racing fans know it can take years to put together a great race, one where the leaders are running close together, where the new guy is stepping up to the front, where the established leader is still on his throne and yet it’s all sort of in flux. Yesterday we had that heat race in the headlining Sport Gold class at Reno.

The story is short and sweet. New(er) guy Jim Rust moved into the lead going down the chute with established leaders Jeff LaVelle and Andrew Findlay close astern. The threesome had qualified right on top of each other between 390 and 396 mph—with Rust taking the pole—and it was anyone’s guess on who was going to show their hand so soon in race week. And yet, there was a heat race to win…

The race unwound without any change in the order for the first five and a half laps, but everyone on site was riveted to the show. By lap four LaVelle and Findlay closed the short distance to Rust and everyone knew the big moves were coming just before the checkered. And so it was, with Findlay visibly putting the spurs to his Stihl-sponsored Super Legacy just soon enough to motor by LaVelle but not quite in time to catch Rust. It was the tightest finish we’ve seen in Sport Gold racing in years.

Exactly who was doing what to whom is the racer’s secret and we’ll have to wait awhile—such as Sunday afternoon—to find out just who was pushing how much power Thursday, but the anticipation of another great race on Sunday is very much in play now.

Amazingly, it could have been even better as Karl Grove got his water-cooled AC Aero powered Glasair put together with an all-hands, late-night thrash last night, but missed qualifying. Thus, he’s spectating for the moment, waiting for someone to break so he can take a racing slot.

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Also a definite contender when running is Kevin Eldredge. He was set to move up the ranks by running the Silver heat yesterday, but had the wiring in his fuel injection go arwy (again), forcing a safe mayday out of that heat. The Sport class is pitching in to find the wiring gremlin so standby.

In the meantime, it was the Sport Gold heat race we’ve been waiting to see for years now. LaVelle is back, Rust is looking very sporty indeed and Findlay has horsepower up his sleeve. Sunday could be great.

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Pumping avgas and waxing flight school airplanes got Tom into general aviation in 1973, but the lure of racing cars and motorcycles sent him down a motor journalism career heavy on engines and racing. Today he still writes for peanuts and flies for fun.

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