Reno Diaries 2023 – Ep. 1

Me and Andy’s dad, Scott Findlay. I look forward to seeing Scott every year.
Jeff getting ready to burn some holes on the sky so we can start adding higher octane fuel.

When I think about growing up there are traditions that stand out to me like annual camping trips and the like—something to look forward to each year and maybe even each season. Boating in the summer, skiing in the winter. These practices tend to disintegrate as you get older and more busy, or at least for me they did. When I hit college I and my family got busy and of course at that age you’re living alone for the first time and would rather hangout with your new friends, so who cares, right? But while independence felt great, I started to miss having a vacation or activity approach me around the same time each year.

It wasn’t until I started going to Reno in 2017 that I had a yearly tradition again. This vacation checks all the boxes—I get to go on a road trip to an event, work hard, stay in fancy hotels, get up early, watch cool airplanes go really fast, eat (mostly) good food, all while hanging out with my friends. It’s been the epitome of adventure. It isn’t as wholesome as the family fishing trips I loved as a kid, but there’s a glimmer of that feeling. And there’s beer and our toys have more horsepower, which is nice! Growing up ain’t so bad.

Tommy was smart to have these made!

Getting Ready

This year I did the usual song and dance to get ready—I went through all of the important Sport Class emails and marked Jeff’s brief and debrief times in my iPhone calendar, as well as my Crew Chief meetings and other fun evening events with Sport Class. I bought about ten gallons of distilled water to haul with us. I always fear stores will run out—we’ve seen it happen. I packed all my race themed tees and tried to get a good night sleep, which was hard to do since I was so excited.

Now that I live in Oregon I didn’t have to leave from Paine Field in Washington, which was nice but also a little sad. I like being there to help pack and watch Jeff take off in Race 39. Jeff’s mechanic friend Colin Hover picked me up in the Raptor on Saturday around 8:30 A.M. and we took turns driving the remaining 9 or so hours, no issues. We got in at 6:30 P.M., perfect timing. I was greeted by lots of hugs and Sport racer Tommy Ishii handed me one of his new signature Millennial Falcon hazy beers. Very good!

Crew Chief mandatory brief.

Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings

On Sunday the Race 39 crew left the house around 7:00 to start our day of meetings for both Jeff and myself. Whenever I catch a break I like to go to Walmart early in the week and stock up on supplies for the pit. By now I know what flavor Red Bull Jeff likes as well as which cookies he’ll want. I also keep a list in my phone with things my teammates tell me they need.

Not much to report thus far. On Sunday the Sport racers went up to do their 4 laps to get their G cards. Qual started today, but Jeff had trick gas to burn in his right wing before we start using 160, so he just went up in the queue and flew around while others called the clock.

Sport Class Crew Chief brief with Armando Carrion

We’re all well aware it’s the last time we’ll be doing this in Reno, Nevada, but for now it doesn’t feel sad. Feels like we’re doing what we’ve always done. I’m sure reality will set in soon. More to come!

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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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