Casper Loses Out On Being Home For $100 Million National Championship Air Races

Casper made a huge push to be the new home to the world-famous National Championship Air Races, but learned Thursday it lost out to Roswell, New Mexico. The lucrative event could have a $100 million impact for Roswell.

Renée Jean

May 23, 20245 min read

The National Championship Air Races are looking for a new home, and Casper is on the short list. It could mean a $100 million economic jolt for the area and Wyoming.
The National Championship Air Races are looking for a new home, and Casper is on the short list. It could mean a $100 million economic jolt for the area and Wyoming. (Reno Air Racing Association via Facebook)

Casper was on the short list to host the famous National Championship Air Races after a 60-year run in Reno, but did not make the final cut, Cowboy State Daily has learned.

“It would have been great to end National Travel and Tourism Week with an announcement that we were selected to host the National Championship Air Races, but unfortunately, that was not the case,” Casper Airport Glenn Januska told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday in an email. “Unfortunately, that was not the case.”

Instead, the popular aerial event and competition was awarded to Roswell, New Mexico. The air races could have been a $100 million boost for Wyoming.

“I was told that the gap between us and Roswell, New Mexico, was like the finish of the Kentucky Derby — not just a nose, but the nostrils of a nose,” Januska said.

Januska said he’s disappointed in the decision, but that it was always about the Reno Air Races choosing the best fit for the iconic event.

“We were, and are, capable of hosting this, but this was not a popularity contest or which community was the most excited,” he said. “It was based on who best fit their needs, and in the end that was not us.”

Januska said making the finalist list was still noteworthy and he thanked the many people who supported Casper’s effort.

“We have a community and state that works great together, and I”m proud of our efforts,” he said. “We can attract and support large events like the National Championship Air Races.”

The Reno Air Racing Association thanked Casper and Pueblo, Colorado, for their participation in the effort, but that in the end, Roswell’s enthusiasm won the day.

“We’re thrilled to bring our honored tradition of racing to Roswell, and are confident that they have both the enthusiasm and the resources to expand the future of our races for many generations to come,” Reno Air Racing Association CEO Fred Telling said in a statement. “We are truly grateful for the overwhelming support, dedication, and enthusiasm shown by all the communities who submitted their bids to host our event. It was incredibly difficult to select a final location as each venue had their own unique strengths and challenges.”

Huge Economic Impact

Winning the bid to host the National Championship Air Races would have meant a huge shot in the economic arm, not just for Casper, but Wyoming in general, Januska has told Cowboy State Daily previously.

“It’s not just something that would be $100 million impact to Casper and Natrona County,” he said then. “It’s significant for the state. This gets national and international attention.”

Air Races in Reno have hosted upward of 69,000 people for the event, which is typically broadcast on television as well.

The event would have filled hotels from Douglas to Buffalo to Casper and at all points between, Januska said, and would likely have also kept airports busy from Riverton to Casper.

Januska had hoped the extensive infrastructure at the Casper Airport, which used to be a World War II base, would give Casper the edge in the effort.

“We have 5,150 acres of land,” Januska said. “We are probably more fortunate than a lot of airports in the fact we can, you know, if we need to park 5,000 vehicles, we can do those types of things. As we’ve grown and developed, we have a lot of infrastructure that could support this.”

Wrecks Not Unheard Of

The Reno-Stead Airport had announced it was evicting the National Championship Air Races last year, citing airport expansion and significant growth in the region, which officials said made the races incompatible with the airport continuing to host the races.

The decision also followed highly publicized crashes over the years that had raised safety concerns about the sport. The Reno Air Races are one of the last remaining air motorsports events.

In 2022, a Czech jet crashed, killing its pilot, and in 2011, a World War II-era modified P-51 Mustang fighter, the Galloping Ghost, veered into the grandstands at 400 mph.

Three people were instantly killed, including pilot Jimmy Leeward, and 50 others were hurt, several with life-threatening injuries that killed seven more.

As a result of the crash, NTSB made recommendations to improve the safety of the races, including moving the race course further from spectator stands and more rigorous pre-race inspections.

All the pilots flying in the air races have to attend a flight school a few months prior to the event to ensure all the competitors have the requisite skill level for the competition.

The races also include practices and preliminary qualifiers to further ensure the safety of the race.

Januska had said Casper would have to schedule the races around its regular air traffic, a downside — but all of the locations had similar issues to work around, so Januska doesn’t believe that was a major impediment to Casper’s bid.

Renée Jean can be reached at

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter