Skip to main content

Race 70 Report by Karen Morss

By November 16, 2015News

This year would mark the debut of a Stewart Mustang racing in the Sport Class at Reno. Her name is Beautiful Doll and Dave would be her pilot but first she needed to get to Reno. No easy task coming all the way from Pensacola, FL with a rather new engine. Dave met Bill Hudgens at Oshkosh and flew Beautiful Doll. He gave Bill a list of items to make Doll race-ready. Bill did an admirable job of getting her to her first race, on time and in great shape. This preparation resulted in a week of trouble-free operation. All that was left was to see how she did on the course.

So began our annual ten days at Stead, Nevada for the 52nd National Championship Air Races. We had a new plane, new crew members, and lots of unknowns but we’ve been here before. This would be Dave’s 35th year racing at Reno and my 21st with him. I drove up on Sunday in smoke so thick I wondered how they could possibly race. Bill and Dave had arrived Friday and got the race numbers on the plane. Saturday she passed Tech Inspection and was ready for her first practice. David Jackson set up a telemetry system so Bill could monitor the engine and communicate any issues directly to Dave. Rod Dill, who works with Bill in Florida, and Kyle Roh got to work polishing and pretty soon we were looking like a race team.

At the hotel I asked Dave how she flew on the course. ‘Just like a real Mustang, heavy like a tractor.’ ‘How fast is she?’ ‘I’m not sure. I think there’s probably 18 planes faster than me and 18 slower. We’ll see.’

Monday morning the wind blew so hard, Biplane and Formula One racing was cancelled. The wind blew more smoke into the valley so not only was it blowing, it was really smoky (see takeoff photo on the right). Tears were streaming down everyone’s faces. I asked Dave if he was worried about the wind as we drove out to the field around 7am. ‘I’m not worried about the wind flying Doll. She’s got a wing-loading like a full size and she’s not going to be bothered by a little wind’ (wife report: gusts at the top of Peavine were 70 kts) As it turned out, that cold windy day was a pretty good one to qualify and Doll and Dave did a very respectable 246.552 mph on the Sport Gold course qualifying 18th. Dave’s best quote of the week followed that flight, ‘I never worked so hard, to go so slow.’ I think I’ll make him a shirt with that one.

Kent Rhodes, our crew chief, and Madeleine Kenny arrived Monday night after a marathon 12 hour drive, so now we were all there. Tuesday and Wednesday were practice sessions and polishing sessions. Kyle did a magnificent job making Doll gleam! Thursday and Friday we raced in the Silver heats on the regular Sport course. We were tail-end Charlie, not enough speed to catch Shane Margraves and slow enough to get lapped by plenty of airplanes. But she sounded great and sure looked pretty on the course! You could see her shine as she flew along the far side of the course.

Saturday’s pairings moved us to second place in the Bronze class – on the T6 course. In all his years at Reno, Dave has never flown the T6 course. He wasn’t really sure where it was but some great advice from his fellow racers (thank you Kirk Murphy) put him on the right track. He was able to get Louis Gabriel at the start, find the course and never looked back. He won that race with a speed of 228.221. (Congratulations to Louis on winning the Rookie of the Year!!!) Our crew got to ride the Fire Truck in front of the grandstands which is as much fun as winning the race. Well almost!

We got ready for Sunday. More polishing. More lemonade. More sandwiches. Sunday was gorgeous, a perfect day for racing. The crowds had been great all week and they would be treated to a magnificent Sunday of racing in all classes. I am happy to report that Dave held his position from the start and won the Bronze Race on Sunday with a speed of 229.865 mph. Another Fire Truck Ride for the crew! Thank you Bill Hudgens. Thanks for bringing Beautiful Doll to the race. It was a great week for all of us.

NBC is doing a documentary about the race to air February. We had their camera in Doll all week so we hope they will use some of our footage. The best part of Reno is seeing our crew and our September family. This year was no different. A big giant Thank You. And Thanks to everyone who comes out to cheer us on!

See you next September.

Karen Morss

PS Bill Hudgens was so enthusiastic about his first week at Reno, we expect to see him registered at PRS in June. He’s also encouraging other S51 owners to come out and play!