“I can’t believe it’s all over and it hasn’t sunk in yet and I can’t wait until next year. When my dad pulled up after the race and we gave each other high fives and smiles, it was great.” Steven Hinton said in the victory celebration. “Airplane is running perfect, Mike Nixon, Jose Flores from Vintage V12s did a great job and I have a lot of guys to thank as we couldn’t do it without them.”
Due to a penalty in Saturday’s heat Hinton started second with Will Whiteside on pole. After being turned loose in a dive, Hinton put the throttle to Strega (Italian for Witch) and pushed his P-51 into the lead.
After an initial lap at over 505 mph the pace dropped into the high 490’s. Several laps into the eight-lap race Whiteside, flying the P-51 Voodoo, had to mayday out with mechanical problems.
After that it was all Hinton as he rode Strega to victory and became the youngest Unlimited Gold champion at age 22. Behind him former many time champion John Penney rode Rare Bear to second despite only having a fairly stock engine in the aircraft.
“We just didn’t have the thrust,” Penney said. “Our racing engine wasn’t finished in time for this race.”
Hinton may have set a new race record with an average of 491.822 mph and the difference between Strega and the Bear was 13 seconds at the checkered flag.
Back on the ground his owner, last year’s champion Bill “Tiger” Destefani said, “It was very tough, just knowing what he’s going through in that cockpit. But then when he crossed the finish line, it was all worth.
Hinton is a second-generation champion now as his father Steve, who pilots the pace jet, is a former winner himself.
Before he greeted his son the elder Hinton said, “It was very exciting, I watched him out there and he did just like we briefed. He’s flying it like a machine and I’m really proud of him and have only positive good things to say so it’s a good day for him.”
Then both men exchanged handshakes and to the cheers of the throng, they hugged each other.
One of the closest races of the day was in the T-6 Gold event. Right from the start the battle was between two championship pilots, Nick Macy and Al Goss.
Lap after lap they were very close but in the end Macy, who is a UNR graduate and Wolf Pack fan, cla imed the victory.
“The race was awesome because I won,” Macy said. “I could see number 75 (Goss) was pretty close to me and I didn’t know if he was going to catch me or not. So I just kept the power on, tried to fly in a clean line and was hoping it would work out in my favor and it did.”
For one pilot the day was a double victory in two classes, which made for a very busy morning.
Thom Richard flew to victory in both the Formula One Silver and Gold races. At the end of the gold race he said, “I was in the pole position, I out accelerated Endeavor on takeoff as expected, Gary David came up on my right side and I beat him to the first pylon and that’s where we sat the rest of the race. And we’re delighted to win both the Silver and the Gold.”
Another runaway victor was in the Biplane Gold even though the winner had a poor start. One he got going Tom Aberle rocketed past the field and flew away to the win.
“The race was fast and fun,” he said. “We fouled the lower spark plug in the line up and it took about a half a lap to start firing all cylinders.”
Another runaway winner was Jon Sharp, who flew his Super Sport to a record 405.400 mph. In the sport class the gold winner was David Sterling.
One highlight to Sunday’s program was one of the last rocket assisted take offs by the C-130 “Fat Albert” that supports the Navy’s Flying Blue Angels. Due to the shortage of the rockets used, this was one of the very last displays of this kind by the airplane.
Now Stead airport goes back to the quiet life it is normally, that is until the sound and fury of the Air Races returns next September.
•This week the big race will be a two-day show at the Lovelock Speedway. It’s IMCA Maddness with racing beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
The MRANN series also hosts another two-day show at the north end of Winnemucca Dry Lake. The Pee Wees begin Saturday’s racing at 10 a.m. followed by the Mini Bikes and Women.
Then on Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. the big bikes take to the long course, two 46-mile loops.
Closer to home the Northern Nevada Kart Club ends its season at Desert Park Raceway with an 11 a.m. start to the action. And those that race in the Sierra MX series will be in Gardnerville for motocross racing.
OTHER RACING NEWS
•Three Nevadans competed at New Hampshire this week end with Kyle Bush winning Saturday’s truck race while T.J. Bell came from 25th to finish 12th. In Sunday’s Sprint Cup event Kyle and his brother Kurt ended up fifth and sixth.