Finals, Finally

Smokin Hot took new owner Sam Swift to the Biplane Gold this morning.

Sunday has dawned cool and darkly overcast which is just fine with the racers at Stihl National Championship Air Races at Reno, Nevada. For what seems ages there is no wildfire smoke. Better yet there is plenty of ceiling under the clouds and over-heating is less of a concern given the mid-60’s temperatures.

Furthermore, we’ve got good racing on tap. Already delivering a superb contest were the Formula One’s. Essentially three races in one, we knew Justin Meaders in Limitless and Steve Temple in Fraed Naught were going to be at each other like bugs at a light. A tick behind Justin Phillipson in No Strings Attached and Tim Cone in What Airplane Honey? were sure to continue their friendly feud. Behind them Jake Speidel has been picking up the pace in Quadnickel, followed by the fastest of the Hershey bar wing Cassutts: Kent Jackson, Josh Watson and Carl Robinson. The later, you may recall was moved up from the Silver where he was so fast he was sort of scaring the kids.

Kevin Quinn parts the taxi and runways while the FAA watches.

And we got a great race from the Gold F1 group. Meaders and Temple flew an aggressive, tight rip around the pylons. Temple, especially, had Fraed Naught down and inside in an impressive display of pylon skills (which, ahem, included one pylon cut), but it was Meaders who had just enough speed to make it stick flag-to-flag. You’ve got to hand it to the Fraed Naught crew who had their challenges, changing at least one cylinder and sort of chasing the combination all week. But big admiration to Meaders and the Limitless crew who have consistently come to Reno fully sorted and ran a trouble-free, winning, race week.

Behind the lead duo Cone got around Phillipson and definitely made it stick. This was different from earlier in the week when Phillipson was the quicker of the pair, but Cone was just barely opening the distance to Phillipson during the Gold race. Funny, as Cone said he was “a couple hundred rpm down but I have all year to figure out why.” Probably just the weather.

Quadnickel was staying with the Cone-Phillipson contest, if not gaining some in the last couple of laps. Ah, if these were half hour long races… Behind him the slab-wing Cassutts finished as listed above.

Biplane Gold was something of a processional, with Scott Thompson in Second Hand looking lackluster and well back from the expected leader Sam Swift in Smokin Hot which was running like its namesake. Afterwards Thompson—who leads an interesting life racing in Reno, flying for United part time, living in England full time and working on U-2 operations for Uncle Sam the rest of the time because he used to fly ‘em—admitted he initially had Second Hand’s fuel mixture far too lean. When he finally dialed in more go juice (again, the air density is notably higher today thanks to the cool weather) Thompson could feel Second Hand surge forward, but by then it was half a lap too far to battle Swift. Thus, Swift ran away and hid, Patrick McGarry was second, Thompson third.

While we can’t follow all the racing at Reno, we did note the Sport Bronze crowd put up a generally tight and interesting race. The lead was closely contested the entire time by winner
Jason Rovy and very close second Dan West in a Vortech supercharged RV-8. At about 250 mph these are some seriously fast RV’s.

Steve Henry puts his screaming yellow Highlander hot rod down in front of Hal Stockman’s everyman’s Lawn Mower III. This pair bookends the range of efforts in STOLDrag racing.

We were also finally able to make the early morning hike to the other end of Stead Field to catch up with Kevin Quinn and has band of dirt-stirring STOLDrag jockeys. They were just kicking up exhibition grit today as they got their competition completed yesterday. As always the STOLDrags were breeze to watch as the head-to-head action runs like water so there’s always something fun going on.

And now the wait for the Sport Gold final.

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Tom Wilson
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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