LaVelle Leads, Findlay Follows


It’s Saturday, when a race pilot’s thoughts bank toward victory.

You could see it in today’s 400 mph Sport Gold heat. Very interestingly, just like yesterday Jeff LaVelle got a scorching start, rocketing away from the entire field as if pulled by the coyote’s Acme Super Magnet. But, like yesterday, Andrew Findlay says he was left jockeying knobs and levers at the wrong time, but after two such performances it’s feeling like advantage LaVelle.

Findlay was up to LaVelle’s speed by the time they entered the north turn, but it was too late by then and LaVelle lead start-to-finish with about a pylon spacing in front of Findlay. Trying different settings and sneaking into higher than normal temperatures Findlay closed the gap slightly at mid-race only to have it open again by the finish. For sure he’s looking for some speed but the real issue is getting his starts quicker. That’s a tall order with these complex, finicky engines.

At 400 mph no one’s leaving too much power on the table at this point, but we’ll still just have to see who’s been hiding what tomorrow afternoon. As LaVelle said post race today, “Make no mistake, the heat is coming on tomorrow.” But as of today, the speeds were LaVelle at 399.905—that’s 400 mph among friends—and Findlay at 393 mph.

Sean Van Hatten in Mojo and Tom McNerney in Too Much ran a repeat of their tight 390 mph parade until the end. For sure these two are trying each other out in preparation for tomorrow’s money race and listening to these two pilots post-race there was plenty more jockeying going on than was visible from the stands. When Van Hatten ran wide on the last lap McNerney saw his chance, bumped up the wick and just about did the deed by the home pylon but ultimately it was Van Hatten taking third at 393 mph and McNerney fourth at 390 mph.

A mile back Mathias Haid ran his, “usual lonely race” as he puts it. Comfortably ahead of Matt Ramsey in the other Thunder Mustang, Haid took fifth place at 326 mph and Ramsey sixth at 324 mph.

The best racing action was at the very back of the field where Conrad Huffstutler worked the world’s fastest naturally-aspirated Lancair Legacy Breathless around Vicky Benzing’s Legacy in a 314 mph to 312 mph finish. Huffstutler clearly had to work at this one but made it happen.

So, tomorrow looms. The final Reno. Unless hit by an asteroid Stevo Hinton and the Bardhal P-51 will take the win in Unlimited with the Sander’s family providing the Sea Fury round motor rumble in the background. In Sport we’ll get to the bottom of the LaVelle and Findlay battle, the Van Hatten and McNerney contest and in Formula 1 an epic three-way battle among Watson, Meaders and Phillipson is in the works. Part of us can’t wait, another part is sad to see the end.


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