Bob Button has Retired from Air Racing
story and photos by Curtis Fowles
More than once we have seen the banner over the Voodoo pits that reads
"Family Sacrifice Ends - For Sale or Trade"
Air racing is a tough business (if you can call it a business). It is donation of time and money to the sport and the fans. Sure the pilots and owners catch the bug of racing and want to compete at the highest levels. Rest assured it is a huge sacrifice in time and money to be at Reno with an unlimited racer.
Button's first year at Reno with then named "Voodoo Chile" was 1997. Previously #55 had a strange paint job, purple/white with a weird head painted on the side. Button stripped the racer, put a turtle-deck on it with a low-profile canopy and new scoop. Bob Hannah flew "Voodoo" for Bob Button. Hannah had been flying Voodoo Chile since 1995. In 1998 Button renamed, renumbered and repainted the racer to #5 all white "Voodoo". They qualified 1st at 452 mph. Hannah piloted again in 1999 finishing first in the Silver, then bumped up to Gold and finished 8th at 350 mph. Voodoo was painted in the cool-looking purple/yellow/green scheme for 2000. Matt Jackson raced Voodoo in 2000, 2002, 2003. Curt Brown took over in 2004. By this time the stock canopy had been re-installed and the turtle-deck removed.
In 2005 Bob Button decided it was his turn to fly his Voodoo. Bob raced into 2008 where he turned over his racer to Will Whiteside. Whiteside has been the pilot since. When Bob turned over all flying duties to Will for 2009, they put the low-profile canopy and turtle-deck back on.
Over the years there have been numerous disappointments. Many years they did not get to the end of the week without breaking and withdrawing from the races. But recently their program has taken a turn with 1st place ever closer. Button hired legendary crew chief Bill Kerchenfaut "Kerch" to take his racer to the Gold Final and win. That was the goal, not 2nd, 3rd or anything else.
In 2009 they had speeds up to 485 mph in the Saturday Gold Heat but did not finish on Sunday. 2010 saw the fastest qualifying time ever for Voodoo at 479 but on Saturday they pulled out and the Sunday final was cancelled due to high winds. 2011 was their year. Whiteside had experience in the machine, Kerch and crew had the purple monster racing fast. Finally, this was Button's year! They were running hard and had the 2nd fastest machine in the pits. They needed a perfect run and a not-so-perfect run by Strega. The crash of Jimmy Leeward stopped the races on Friday in 2011.
Button had already decided before the week started that this would be the last year. Voodoo is for sale and is primed for winning. Take a look at their website Voodoo Air Racing
Bob is a great guy. He is bold, funny and a hard worker. All of us fans thank him for his dedication to air racing for many years and wish him the best.
Thank You Bob!