Sauce Boss to Crew Chief


Behind every Reno Air Racer is a crew… or at least a crew chief and KITPLANES’ own Laura Starkey is Tenacity’s Crew Chief. Mark Frederickson’s sleek Lanair won the Medallion Class last time around in 2019 and has qualified in the Bronze Class this week. Mark asked Laura, who is a pilot and builder but has never worked the pits or on the ramp area of RARA, to work as his “Number One” this year and we thought it will be interesting to follow her through the week.

Tenacity quietly rests up for its next venture around the pylons. Asked why the tent seemed so empty, Laura explains that this Lancair is very low maintenance, Mark’s daily driver, and doesn’t require constant fiddling with like most of the warbirds and some other higher performance plane. “Mark just gets in and flies it,” Laura told me.

How did she come into this position? Well, Laura has cooked for Mark and his Reno crew for the past three years, earning the name “Sauce Boss.” Mark noted Laura’s very strong organizational skills, passion for flying, and reliability… all characteristics that he knew made for a good crew chief. So, when it became clear that RARA would be a “go,” Mark asked her to take on the challenge for his fourth year of racing.

Laura and her husband, Mike, dragged their 5th-wheel trailer up to Stead Airport last Friday and settled in on Saturday. Sunday through Tuesday brought the first days of briefings, practice flights, and qualifying runs. While drama was swirling around the pits at times, Laura sees it as her job to not contribute any drama to their team and to minimize and neutralize as best possible any external theater. She strives to ensure that Mark has everything he needs and no unnecessary stresses. Her other major responsibility is to ensure that Mark and Tenacity are where they need to be when they need to be there.

Laura says so far she has most enjoyed and benefited by the safety briefing where the RARA safety representative really explained the details on what they expect from crew chiefs. It is always a comfort to a newbie to have clear and helpful guidance.

As racing ramps up today, we’ll check back in the Laura and find out what she is learning behind the scenes.


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