RACING WITH LEGENDS

Darryl Greenamyer returns to the Unlimiteds at the helm of "Voodoo."

08/11/00 AAFO.COM
Inside Air Racing Update
By: Wayne Sagar

"Racing with Legends" - the theme for this year’s Reno National Championship Air Races.

Who chose this theme? How did they arrive at this remarkable, if not wonderful title for the first air race of the new millenium?

"Visionary" might be one way to describe the title chosen for R2K. How could anyone know when this one title was picked from the thousands of potential choices, just how accurate "Racing With Legends" would be.

A quick glance at the entry roster for this year shows a field seasoned with just this... legends.

Earlier this year, we learned of the return of the late Lloyd Hamilton’s "Furias" to aviation’s bastion of low altitude speed, with the check pilot for the Unlimited Class, Art Vance, at the helm.

Then, we learned of the Unlimited Class racer Czech Mate, damaged badly in 1998, nearing readiness for a return showing at R2K.

After a brief period thinking the run for the 2000 gold would be missing another legend, we found ourselves greeted by the sensational image of Skip Holm in the drivers seat of the amazing Dago Red.

For a brief period of time, Dago Red had been listed as up for sale, not slated to return this year, and might never have raced again!

Now, one legend returns with the other.

We watched and listened as Tom Dwelle and his dedicated team, assembled a finely-tuned piece of artwork - disguised as an engine - and installed it in his race plane, "Critical Mass." We then learned of the chance that we might see the beautiful Bob Odegaard F-2G again at Reno, this time rounding the pylons in competition (possible, but doubtful at *this* time we will see the airplane raced this year...).

Surely, all of the above would clearly fit into the category of legendary.

Today, August 11, 2000; there was even more delightful news.

Darryl Greenamyer, a name remembered by anyone who has ever enjoyed the "The World's Fastest Motorsport," and the spectacle of watching this masterful pilot fly - a man who’s name is etched into the record books of both Aviation History and Air Racing for eternity - has been announced by Team Voodoo as returning to the sport of Air Racing in the Unlimited Class!

When we learned of Darryl Greenamyer coming to the Reno Air Racing Association’s Pylon Racing School early this year - for months - we simply could not believe it...it was just too much to hope for! Though I started following air racing closely in 1979...and Darryl Greenamyer even earlier...I had never had the privilege of seeing him in the cockpit of a racing plane.

In June, Darryl came to Pylon School in preparation for racing his Lancair Legacy, which he is building for entry into the Sport Class. When AAFO.COM spoke with him at Stead in June, he was uncertain that the project would be ready for September. Hopes were indeed high, that he would get his Lancair ready and we would see the return of this great man to the sport of Air Racing.

Then, a few weeks ago, even better news - actually - incredible news! Darryl Greenamyer had agreed to fly as second pilot for another racing legend...Bob Button’s venerable racing plane, Voodoo!

Bob Button has followed a long and sometimes disappointing road with this North American P-51D Mustang, during the evolutionary process of converting the aircraft from the nearly stock "Pegasus," to "Voodoo-Chile," and on to the present incarnation - one of a trio of full-bore racing Mustangs presently in competition - the purple, lime green, and checkerboard, "Voodoo" racer.

Button caught the flying bug from his father at an early age. His dad had just missed being able to fly the wonderful warbirds of his era, entering flight school late in the war, the conflict ending prior to his being able to achieve his goal... To fly the beautiful North American P-51 Mustang.

Tragedy struck the Button family in 1975, when Bob’s father was killed flying a "Mustang" - not the North American P-51 he had dreamed of flying - but rather, a Mooney Mustang. An improperly tightened fuel line worked loose during a flight after the Mooney had been serviced. Button’s father and his passenger were killed when, out of fuel, he was forced down in fog.

Still, Bob Button shared his father’s dream to fly a P-51.

Years later, after building a successful trucking business, when the opportunity arose to not only own and fly a Mustang but race one as well; Button purchased "Pegasus" from the estate of the late William Speer, and the evolution to her present incarnation began.

Button first raced his Mustang at Phoenix in 1995 with Delbert Williams at the controls. The airplane maydayed out of the event that first year.

Bob was then introduced to someone who would become a life long friend and his pilot throughout the development process for his airplane. "An amazing pilot and a born racer" is how Button describes his "driver" for that 5 year period, former motorcycle racing champion, Bob Hannah.

When Hannah decided to hang up his helmet last year, retiring from Air Racing, Button was left with an airplane finally nearing the end of the long development process towards being a Gold contender but without his good friend to fly her for him. "After we tried to kill him in it five years in a row," Button joked, "is it any wonder he quit. [laughs]"

The selection process for a new pilot then began.

Late last year, the announcement was made that Matt Jackson would get the seat in Buttons’ wild looking ride, Voodoo...

During the process of getting the airplane ready for Reno 2000 (new Jack Hovey engine and T-28 prop), Darryl Greenamyer announced his return to air racing, however - as noted above - he was unsure of having his own Lancair ready by September.

No race team likes to go to Reno with a one pilot roster - when Button heard that Greenamyer was returning to racing, a deal was made for Darryl to act as second pilot on Team Voodoo.

This brings us to today's stunning announcement: We’ve just learned that Bob Button and Matt Jackson have decided that Jackson and Greenamyer will swap roles on the team for Reno 2000. Darryl Greenamyer will now return to Air Racing as the primary pilot for one of the top contenders for the Unlimited Gold Trophy.

In honor of his late father, Bob Button has inscribed on Voodoo this message: "Dad, This ride’s for you"

Bob Buttons’ father will indeed be "Racing With Legends" this year at Reno, when Darryl Greenamyer returns to Air Racing and Unlimited Air Racing sees the return of one of its founding fathers...

I will repeat here what I said to Darryl Greenamyer at Stead in June... "Welcome back to Air Racing Darryl"

Indeed, welcome back!

Photos: Copyright 1999 D. Thirot, Copyright 1999 Mark S. Daniels, Copyright 1999 Wayne Sagar

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