Reno Diaries 2023 – Ep. 2

Darryl Lowell, one of Jeff’s mechanics, partaking in some margarita drinking with me at Alan Crawford’s tent.

Our team tends to get ourselves into late night projects so we don’t always get to hangout with the rest of the class in the evenings. This year we’re making more of an effort to, but it really depends on what Race 39 demands of us.


Jeff qualified in his Mustang, Sweet and Lovely, on Monday at 323.375. I don’t always have time to stand on the ramp during his Unlimited flights, but my schedule was light so I happily jumped on the opportunity to watch him qual. I had every intention of just taking pics, but before I knew it I was pestering Robbie Grove and Jim Rust for their fire extinguisher. I noticed we didn’t have one on site and RARA requires the Unlimited Class have one with their airplanes on the flight line.

Jeff getting ready to qualify in his P-51.

Robbie and Jim sold their Glasair III to Kevin Eldridge, so Jim’s racing their Mustang, Miss Marvel, which is named after his daughter. After flipping me s***, they gladly loaned me their fire bottle and I walked it out to Jeff’s mechanic friend who’s responsible for towing and fueling the Mustang. I resumed my invisible stance, but Jeff saw me and started handing me crap—phone, wallet and an empty Red Bull can. Feels good to be needed, I’m glad my role crosses classes.

Andy qualified at 406.107 Tuesday morning, a new personal record for him! I wore my One Moment shirt the day of, so I take full responsibility for his good run. Jeff headed up later in the afternoon to try and qualify in Race 39, but unfortunately his engine started running rough so he called it and landed early. Turns out it was a failed insulator on one of the spark plugs, which take a beating from high octane fuel. All good (for) now!

LaVelle getting ready to qualify in 39. We’re glad the chilly morning didn’t hurt performance too bad

Qualifying, For Real

Faced with an early Wednesday qual time, I started to worry the 160 octane truck wouldn’t arrive early enough to fuel Race 39 before the remaining qualifiers were scheduled to take off. I poked around Sport Class until I realized I could just call my friends in Unlimited. I will leave you with this—it’s all about who you know! They made some calls and confirmed the truck would be there at 7:30 before we went up.

Neil Wisher’s cylinder inspection. A bit of a leak in the exhaust valve.

Among us were Neil Wisher, Sean VanHatten, Pete Zaccagnino and Vince Walker. Neil found the limitations on nitrous for a stock IO-390 and went over it in his very fast RV-8 on Sunday. He burnt an exhaust valve. Jeff had some goodies overnighted to the house and was able to get Neil a new cylinder. Jeff qualified at 410.635, a new record! He has the pole and we couldn’t be happier.

I’m not looking forward to the crowds of people who will be arriving here shortly. Someone said it’s going to be “Woodstock with propellers.” I predict it’s going to be very hard to take the Raptor truck off airport, let alone out of the pits, for anything. 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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