Big Crowds Expected At Reno Air Races

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More than 200,000 people are expected to attend this week's Reno National Championship Air Races.

Qualifying runs will be held Monday through Wednesday, with races to follow Thursday through Sunday at Reno Stead Airport, 10 miles north of downtown Reno.

Mike Houghton, president and CEO of the Air Race Executive Committee, said the crowd might not match last year's record of 223,000.

"Last year we had a rollover from the 2001 cancellation (after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks), so we might be a few people down. We plan to beat 210,000," he said.

This year features the first $1 million purse of the annual event. Fifty races in six classes are planned.

The buzz among pilots is about who might break the 500 mph speed barrier at the races.

Last year, Skip Holm of Calabasas, Calif., and his World War II Mustang fighter, Dago Red, flirted with the mark in a qualifying heat, but missed by just two mph.

Holm is favored to reach the magic number, but three other racers also might make a bid this week.

The Thunderbirds will perform Thursday through Saturday in their F-16C Fighting Falcons. The six-man team from Nellis Air Force Base in Southern Nevada plans 40-minute shows at 12:20 p.m. daily.