Reno Diaries 2022 – Ep. 2

Our Sport Class ramp boss, Armando Carrion, going over ramp rules with us this morning. He looks aggressive here, but I promise you he’s very nice!

Hello and happy Monday! Yesterday Robbie Grove and I got Jeff and Jim Rust to their 8:30 A.M. mandatory brief, then headed to our respective Crew Chief brief, where they go over race rules and regulations. He and I sat in the back and giggled before silencing our cellphones and listening to the familiar spiel. We then headed to a sandwich shop and got our crews some lunch. Our morning started the same today, except our briefs began even earlier, at 7:45 A.M.

Jim owns and operates Whirlwind Propeller. He has a 75” custom composite prop on his racer. He makes these metal leading edges in house, which are nickel-plated onto a tool.

I’ve known Robbie longer than anyone else here. I’d buy wheels and brakes from his company, Grove Aircraft, when I worked at Glasair and he’d buy hydraulic actuator rebuild kits and the like for his race plane from us. He was the first person to explain to me what TSO’d parts were, back when I thought words like “knee board” and “wind screen” were silly.

Nowadays we bond as crew chiefs and laugh over the similarities between Jeff and Jim. The way they think, speak and fly—it’s hard to explain, but they are two peas. Robbie and I have to make sure we keep cookies in our pits for those two, who both have a sweet tooth. I wouldn’t be lying if I said we’ve caught them sitting together, munching on mini chocolate donuts when they were supposed to be on the ramp with us. Perhaps sugar is the most overlooked race secret.

Robbie Grove (left) and Jim Rust taking a break from wrenching.

In one of my YouTube videos of last year’s races I compare Jim Rust and Robbie Grove to Statler and Waldorf, the Muppets who sit high, seemingly untouchable, in their balcony seats and heckle people. When things are quiet Jim and Robbie can be found sitting side by side in their golf cart cracking jokes and laughing (Jeff doesn’t rent me a golf cart—I have a bicycle. I’m not jealous or anything…). You can tell Robbie and Jim have been friends a long time, because they have. They met when Jim was seven and Robbie was fourteen and have been friends ever since.

Jeff LaVelle getting ready to lead a group of five Sport pilots for a quick four laps to get their G cards.

Sport class went up yesterday for a quick four laps to get their “G card.” I asked my dear friend Sean VanHatten (another Sport racer) why the G card is necessary and he explained that it gives pilots the opportunity to practice flying on the pylons prior to qualifying (Most pilots haven’t flown the course since the Pylon Racing Seminar in June). It also allows pilots to demonstrate they have the ability to manage the G-loads imposed on them during racing.

Jeff didn’t fly the Glasair today, just his Mustang, Sweet and Lovely. He got his G card for that as well and called the clock to get qualifying out of the way. Jeff still needs to qualify in Race 39. I’m sure I’ll have more to report here soon. More crowds are rolling in and more engines are firing up. Bye for now!

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Ariana Rayment
Ariana Rayment is an instrument-rated private pilot from Tacoma, Washington. She discovered her love of flying through her former purchasing role at Glasair Aviation. She loves the Reno Air Races, where she stands alongside Jeff LaVelle as his crew chief and pals around with her friends in Sport Class.


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