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Air Races end on a Sunday, a special day for pilots and crews as its time to let it all hang out.

STEAD (Sept. 20) – Sunday is the golden day for the six air racing classes as that when their respective national championships are on the line. So for the pilots and the teams it’s a golden day, one that ends about a year’s worth of preparation and effort that gives the winners bragging rights for a full year.

The stars of the show are the Unlimiteds, piston powered, propeller driven and usually war birds. And the Breitling Gold is the highlight of the week, the one many fans come to see.

And this year the winner has a long-term dream come true.

“This has been the dream of 25-years or so and I can’t believe we got here. But Bill “Tiger,” Destefani and the Strega team put together a racer that Bill likes to call, “The Red Rocket,” Robert “Hoot,” Gibson said after winning the race. “I’ve been racing here since 1998 and never saw myself winning. Been dreaming about this since I was a little kid and I’m really happy for the team so I have to thank them.”

After the pace jet released the field Rare Bear, piloted by Stewart Dawson, briefly took the lead. Then Gibson used the high line to sweep Strega into the lead.

National Championship Air Races - Stewart Dawson takes off in the Bear.

Stewart Dawson and the Bear head for the Unlimited Gold race.

After that the Bear and Voodo, piloted by defending champion Steven Hinton began a several lap duel. Up front Gibson extended his lead.

Unfortunately Voodo was suffering from oil coming out of the breather and that looked like smoke. Still both the Bear and Voodo swapped positions several times.

On the sixth lap Hinton called a mayday and headed for the field where he made a successful landing.

Rare Bear is one of the most popular air racers and when Dawson would get past Hinton in Voodo the crowd erupted into cheers. Strega was also getting its share of cheers as the sped toward victory at an average speed of 488.983 mph.

National Championship Air Races - Hoot Gibson in Strega wins the Unlimited Gold race.

Robert “Hoot,” Gibson heads for the award ceremony after winning the Unlimited Gold race with Strega.

During the victory ceremony owner and previous champion Tiger Destefani was asked how it feels to be on the sidelines.

National Championship Air Races - Hoot Gibsone and owner Tiger Destefani with the winner's trophy.

Pilot Hoot Gibson, in the champion’s jacket, and owner Tiger Destefani with the Unlimited Gold winner’s trophy.

“You know he (Hoot) does a hell of a job but standing on the sidelines was a heart stopper. Only because I’m not there and you don’t have control when you’re not there,” he said.

For Bear fans that have endured several years of watching the aircraft having to drop out of the races the week was one of redemption.

Even though he finished a distant second, Dawson was very upbeat and said, “We were top qualifier and everything but we’re a little shy on horsepower but we’re going to fix that. It’s running better than it has in the last five years and it’s still standing. He (Steven Hinton) had a trail but I think he was bleeding as he was having problems with staying cool I think. But we’ll be back next year with more horsepower.”

As the Unlimited count was down this year only two races were run and the Silver victor was Sal Rubino flying a P-51 named “Grim Reaper.”

Fastest of all were the Jets racing in their Gold race and that field has one of the oldest aircraft, a Vampire built the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

The first announced lap speed was 485+ while the second was 518+ mph. There was also one at 509+ and 512+ but the race average was listed as 502.370 mph.

Several times Zaccaginino and Cushing swapped places during the race. But on the last lap, with Cushing in the lead, they caught two slower planes.

Zaccaginino apparently had the better line as he swept into the lead and raced off to claim the victory while Cushing wasn’t able to catch him.

National Championship Air Races - Pete Zaccagnino in his winning Vampire jet.

Pete Zaccagnino brings his Vampire back to the pits after winning the Jet Gold. The aircraft was the oldest in the field.

David Culier Jr., was the Jet Silver winner while the Bronze winner was Larry Lee.

Although the T-6 racers use an air start, line abreast off a pace plane, they come in from the north and are released for a charge along the main runway.

National Championship Air Races - Dennis Buehn (43) leads the T-6 charge with Nick Macy (6) on his right.

Dennis Buehn ( Red 43) leads the T-6 Gold charge with Nick Macy (60 on his right and the others close by.

From the get go defending champion Dennis Buehn grabbed the lead by the Home Pylon and was off. Behind him Chris Rushing was beginning his charge from deep in the field while Nick Macy and John Lohmar were chasing the leader.

Buehn then started to extend his lead and would score the win with a huge lead.

Behind him Macy seemed to have a solid second place until the final charge toward the home pylon. The charging Rushing had enough speed to take second just before the pair reached the finish line.

For Buehn it was a Miss Midnight III Threepeat as he scored his third victory in as many years.

National Championship Air Races - Dennis Buehn the 2015 T-6 champion.

Dennis Buehn celebrates his third T-6 victory in as many years.

After being welcomed by his wife Tami and sprayed with champagne by his delighted crew he said, “We’re tied in with Six Cat so next year it’ll be a real battle for seven wins. We might have some good times on the clock today as we had good air, being out there in front with the line all to your self is a good thing. I was worried 14 was coming fast and furious, he moved up like 4 spots so he was knocking at Nick’s backdoor and my closest competitor.”

For Rushing it was quite a day as earlier he won the Silver race then transferred into the gold. The Bronze winner was Chris LeFaye.

Each class, depending on how many aircraft are competing, is broken into Bronze, Silver and Gold races. With gold being the fastest.

The largest class and one that continues to grow is the Sport Class, these are light aircraft that are still being built and flown by many people In fact the class is so large it has four races, Medallion, Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Depending on the speeds at least two different courses are used and as it was explained by an announcer everybody starts by doing a lap around the Unlimited course then the slower planes switch to a shorter course which the T-6 racers use.

But the fastest are turning from around 300 mph to almost 400 mph and they use the Unlimited course. Due to their speed they have a pace jet, while the other groups are paced by a turboprop.

At the start of the Sport Gold John Parker immediately jumped into the lead and took off. But in the final laps he was concerned as runner up Lynn Farnsworth was starting to close the gap but it was too little too late.

National Championship Air Races - John Parker the Sport Gold champion.

Sport Gold champion John Parker at speed in his Thunder Mustang, “Blue Thunder II.”

“We were able to hold the competition at bay,” Parker said later. “Broke on top but toward end of race the second person started to close but had enough of lead he couldn’t catch us by the finish.”

David Robinson was the Silver winner while the Bronze winner was Dave Moras and Scott Farnsworth topped the Medallion race.

The Formula 1, IF1, racers have a direct heritage back to the Golden Age of Air Racing in the 1930’s. These aircraft are specially built for racing and aren’t modified to be racers.

Both they and the Biplanes used a standing start while lined up in rows along the runway.

For four of the past five years Steve Senegal has been the man to beat and on this day it would be more of the same.

National Championship Air Races - Steven Senegal is the IF1 champion.

Seven Senegal climbs into his IF1 racer and would capture another Gold championship.

On the green former champion Vito Wypraechtiger got the jump and led the pack around Pylon 1. By the time the group completed one lap Senegal was in the lead and pulling away, especially since he posted a 239.432 mph lap speed, which would drop to around 224 by race’s end.

Even though Wypraechtiger was doing his best he was running about a mile an hour slower and could not close the gap so he had to settle for the runner-up spot.

National Championship Air Races - Thom Richard wins the F-1 World Cup.

Thom Richard finishing fourth in the F-1 Gold event earned him the very first Airrace1 World Cup.

Coming fourth was Thom Richard and while he wanted to do better it was enough to win the first Airrace1 Formula 1 World Cup. When the checkered flag waved on the Formula 1 Silver race the winner was Jay Jones.

After his win Senegal said, “That makes it five championships. The wind conditions are perfect today, we had calm winds out there, just a little breeze to blow off some of the turbulence but it was pretty bumpy out there because of the turbulence the airplanes make of themselves. It wasn’t easy as I had to fight for it as we had eight fabulous pilots out there I was flying with and they just kept a real tight line and I was able to get around them.”

Then he thanked his wife Rita, Lycom, his crew chief Cash, and the rest of the crew, Nancy, Eric and Von.

National Championship Air Races - Jay Jones, F1 Silver winner.

Jay Jones climbs into his F1 Air Racer and would win the Silver race.

The Silver winner was Jay Jones, who said, “It was a good race, we were in the pole but they snuck in front us but we patiently chewed them up, dispatched them and we got in the front. We flew very aggressively until lap 6 until we swept wide and didn’t cut pylons.”

Then he thanked his brothers, Ted Lemmon and Mark for their support and help.

For Biplane racer Tom Aberle it was a record-breaking week. Things started when he smashed his record in qualifying. Then he won both of his heats with speeds of 256.423 and 264.656 mph, which are new records.

He would have set another but there was a problem in the Gold race and he suffered a time penalty that decreased his average speed. However this didn’t matter as he cruised to victory.

National Championship Air Races - Tom Aberle, Biplane champion.

Tom Aberle landing after winning the Biplane Gold.

Commenting on the difference between the weather Monday and on Sunday he said, “Actually I think the cold was better but the air was smoother today. I think I lapped the field one and a half times today. So it looks to me like it’s four wins in one event.”

Then he thanked his wife Sheri as well as the people that were involved in the construction and upkeep of his airplane.

By the end of today, Monday, the airport has calmed down again. Most or all of the competitors and heritage aircraft have left.

Now the Reno Air Race Association will see how well they did for this event and begin to plan for next year’s PRS and the races themselves, which run from September 14 to 18 in 2016. Then once again the pilots will gather and race in this unique event.


  • NASCAR’S chase for the championship began at Chicagoland this weekend. In Sunday’s Sprint Cup event Nevada native Kurt Busch started ninth and finished third while young brother Kyle started seventh and finished ninth.

In Saturday’s Xfiinity event Kyle Busch started on the pole, won the race but his car failed post-race inspection so the team will probably lose driver and owner’s points. Other Nevadans were Brendan Gaughan, who ended up 10th and T.J. Bell, who finished 38th.

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52ND Reno National Championship Air Races

Stead Airport – Sept. 19/20


Silver: 1. Sal Rubino, “Grim Reaper”, 341.961 mph, 2. Doug Matthews, “The      Rebel,” 3. John “Dusty,” Dowd Jr., “Lylla,” 4. Dan Vance, “Seedball Alice,” 5. Brant Seghetti, “Sparky,” 6. Rob Gordon, “Lady Jo”

Breitling Gold: 1. Robert “Hoot,” Gibson, “Strega”, 488.983 mph, 2. Stewart  Dawson, “Rare Bear”, 3. Dennis Sanders, “Dreadnought”, 4. Curt Brown, “Sawbones”, 5. Korey Wells,”TMK 20 Sea Fury”, 6.  Mark Watt, “Argonaut”,

DNF Steven Hinton, “Voodoo”


Bronze (Saturday, 9/19): 1. Larry Lee, “Triple 7,” 412.825, 2. Lachlan,  “Hot Section,” 3. Mike Mangold, “Blue Merlin,” 4. Larry Labriola, “Sarance,” 5. Zachary McNeill, “Flipper,” 6. Charlie Camilleri, “Miss      Independence,” 7. Jon Socolof, “Sluggo”

Silver: 1. David Culler Jr., “Riff Raff,” 431.916, 2. Doug Matthews, “Blue Streak,” 3. Mike Mangold, “Blue Merlin,” 4. Bob Mills, “Reality Czech,” 5. Jeff Turney, “Robin 1,” 6. Lachian Onslow, “Hot Section,” 7. Joe Gano, “Sluggo,”

DQ, Charlie Camilleri, “Miss Independence”

Gold: 1. Pete Zaccagnino, “Vampire,” 502.370, 2. Sean Cushing, “Fast Company,” 3. Rick Vandam, “American Spirit,” 4. Mark Pracy, “True Blue,” 5. Vicky Benzing, “Darkstar,” 6. Mike Steiger, “Czech 6,” 7. Bob Mills, “Reality Czech,” 8. Jeff Turney, “Robi 1″


Medallion: 1. Scott Farnsworth, “Xtremely Naughty,” 218.309, 2. Tim Cone, RV-8, 3. Leland “Dan” West, “Whisky Tango,” 4. George Ford,, “Ice Hawk,” 5.      Benjamin Fouts, “Naughty Angel,” 6. Matthew Beaubien, RV-4, 7. Charlie      Greer, “Miss B Haven IV,” 8. Seth Baker, “Little Miscreant,” 9. Scott Prewitt, RV-4

Bronze: 1. Dave Morss, “Beautiful Doll,” 229.865, 2.      Louis Gabriel, “Blind Luck,” 3. Chris Schalch, Harmon Rocket II, 4. Chiwami Takagi-Read, “Plastic Piglet,” 5. Kirk Murphy, “Papa’s Ride,” 6. Stan Sutterfield, “Eight for Papa,” 7. Skylor Piper, “Miss Ruby S.”, 8. James F. Wilson Jr., “Bulldog,” 9. Stephen Christopher, “Margarita”

Silver: 1. David Robinson, “Desert Lightning,” 287.484, 2. Ernie Sutter, “Jus Pass’n Thru,” 3. Jessy Panzer, “Cruse Missile,”, 4. Bill Beaton, “Griffin Rocket,” 5. Tom Mc Nerney, “Unleashed,” 6. John Ryan Moran, “Breaking Wind,” 7. Klaus Savier, “Determinator,” 8. Shane Margraves,, “Rocket Six,” 9. Jason Rovey, RV-8

Gold: 1. John Parker, “Blue Thunder II,” 377.403, 2. Lynn Farnsworth, “Miss Karen II,” 3. Andrew Findlay, “One Moment,” 4. Gary Mead, “Lucky Mojo, 5. Kevin Eldredge, “Relentiess,” 6, Vince Walker, “Modo Mio,” 7. Vicky      Benzing, “Lucky Girl,” 8. Coleen Keller, “Poncho,”

DNF David Sterling, Lancair Legacy L2X


Bronze: 1. Chris LeFave, “Midnight Express,” 220.828, 2. Chad Morgan, “Miss  Evelyn Rose,” 3. Eric Woelbing, “Bare Essentials,” 4. Michael Pfleger, “Midlife Madness,” 5. Lee Oman, “Eros,” DNS Kevin Sutterfield, “Honest Entry”

Silver: 1. Chris Rushing, “Baron’s Revenge,” 233.372,” 2. Greg McNeely, “Undecided,” 3. Vic McMann, “Gunslinger,” 4. Rob Sandberg, “Abracadabra”

Gold: 1. Dennis Beuhn, “Midnight Miss III,” 238.073, 2. Chris Rushing, “Baron’s Revenge,” 3. Nick Macy, “Six Cat,” 4. John Lohmar, “Radial Velocity,” 5. John Zayac, “McDonald Racer,” 6. Gene McNeely, “Baby Boomer,” 7. Joey “Gordo,” Sanders, “Big Red”

Formula 1:

Silver: 1. Jay Jones, “Quadnickel Racer,” 224. 138,” 2. Justin Gillen, Cassutt, 3. Michael Mundell, “Second Wind,” 4. Kent Cassels, “Margaret June,” 5. Stephen      Partridge-Hicks, “Miss USA,” 6. Jerry Marshall,”Aero Magic,” 7. David Holmgren, “Last Lap Player,” 8. Robert Michie, “Sassy Sangoma”

Gold: 1. Steve Senegal, “Endeavor,” 239.432, 2. Vito Wypraechtiger, “Scarlet Screamer,” 3. Elliot Seguin, “Wasabi Siren,” 4. Thom Richard*, “Hot Stuff,” 5. Justin Phillipson, “No Strings Attached,” 6. Phillip Goforth, “Knotty Girl,” 7. Steve Temple, “Madness,” 8. Chet Harris “Miss U”

Airrace1 World Cup: 1. Thom Richard, “Hot Stuff,” 2. Jay Jones, “Quadnickel Racer, 3. Steve Temple, “Panther Madness,” 4. Michael Mundell, “Second Wind,” 5. Kent Cassels, “Margaret June,” 6. Dave Holmgren, “Lap Player,”      7. Justin Phillipson, “No Strings,” 8. Des Hart, “Hart Attack,” 9. Christian Guille, “Arletty II,” ( 10th Place Pilots tied in points.) 10. Guy Chereau, “L Herrengrie,” 10. Stephen Partridge-Hicks, “Miss USA,” 11. Trevor Jarvid, “Silver Bullte,” 12. Bernard Marichy, “Concourse Racing,” 13. Tom Watkins, “Pooder,” (14th place pilots tied.) 14. Jim Jordan, “Miss    Min,” 14. Patrick Gajan, “Le Coyote, 14. Terry Gardner, “Kermit,” 14. Vincent Martinez, “Aqullon”


Silver: 1. Brich Entriken, “Joey,” 199.288, 2. Anthony Oshinuga, “Black Hawk,” 3. Brian Hoover, “The      Whip,” 4. Marilyn Dash, Ruby,” 5. Carl      Robinson, “Meus Tempus,” 6. Richard Anderson, MB-360 Climax

Gold: 1. Tom Aberle, “Phantom,” 245.109, 2. Jake Stewart, “Bad Moto,” 3. Jeff Rose, “Reno Rabbit,” 4. Casey Erickson, “She Wants Revenge,” 5. Jeffrey Lo, “Miss Diane,” 6. Alan Hoover, “Panther,” 7. Phillip Ensley, “Gone batty,” DQ Tony Higa, “Tango-Tango


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