By Mark Robinson
Dixon resident Bob Button saw his dream come true at last week’s Reno National Championship Air Races.
At the event’s 50th anniversary, Button’s plane Voodoo — a highly modified P-51 Mustang that is kept at the Yolo Country Airport — won a national title in convincing fashion.
In the world’s fastest motor sport, Voodoo was the speediest plane in Reno, qualifying at 492 miles per hour around the 8.1-mile course.
Piloted by Steve Hinton Jr., Button’s pride and joy topped out at 502 mph during the eight-lap championships race on Sept. 14, averaging 487 mph while flying mostly within 200 feet of the ground.
The team Button put together for this year was not new to the Reno Air Races. When Button acquired the plane in 1994 it already had a racing history as Pegasus, before Button put a team together to race it again. He renamed the plane Voodoo Chile as a nod to Jimi Hendrix. The name was later shortened to Voodoo and the exotic paint scheme was added.
Button raced for a few years but was plagued with engine trouble. In 2010, the program was coming together nicely and Voodoo was one of the favorites to win the national title, but the final race was canceled due to weather. The 2011 event also was canceled and Button parked Voodoo for 2012.
However, Button decided that the 50th anniversary of the Reno Air Races was the perfect time to get back in the game. Earlier this year, he called in his original team and brought on Hinton, who had won the past four championships.
After the group put together two race engines and did some propeller modifications, Voodoo flew from the Yolo County Airport for the first time in two years on Aug. 20.
The rest, as they say, was history. Button is relieved to finally be a national champion after many years of trying, saying that “perseverance and the courage to stand up and admit it when you are wrong” are what got his team to the win.
As for what’s next, the crew will enjoy the win for now, then wait, freshen the engines and see what the field looks like for next year’s Reno Air Races.
Notes: The championship air races are the world’s fastest motor sport. The event features five days of racing and six classes of aircraft, and the racing is interwoven with dramatic air-show action and magnificent aircraft on static display. … The Reno Air Races are held every year in September. For more information, go to www.airrace.org.