The Race to the Championship

The final chapter of the 2023 season is fast approaching: Lonestar STOL, presented by American Legend Aircraft, doubles as this year’s National Championship. Competitors have one last chance to earn points towards the Annual Titles in each Standard and Unlimited class. With Lonestar STOL just six weeks away, let’s take a closer look at how points are awarded, as well as the current class rankings:

How Are Points Awarded?

Points are awarded to the top 10 finishers in each class at each event, with the Most Consistent pilot earning one additional point. Competitors do not have to be present at Lonestar to win, but any points earned at the competition will be added to the existing standings.

Should the season standings end with any ties in the top three, the head-to-head record of the pilots in question will be used to determine final placement. If a tie still remains, the highest average number of points earned per event will be evaluated. Ties in 4th place or lower will stand as is.

Prizes will be awarded to the top 3 finishers in each class, including trophies and gifts from some of our incredible sponsors. They will also each earn an entry in a raffle for a set of shocks from our friends at Acme Aero. Finally, the Annual Champion in each class will win a helmet from our partners at Lift Aviation USA.

Current Class Standings

Touring Class

Not only is Brandon Corn the only competitor to attend every 2023 National STOL event, he has also locked up the Touring Class Championship by finishing in the top 3 at every competition as well. With 4 first place wins, 2 second place, and 1 third place, the only question for Corn is how many more points he can earn at Lonestar.

It’s a race for second and third place, with Kurt Leaders holding a significant lead over Jeff Abrams and Warren Grobbelaar. A top 3 finish at Lonestar would all but guarantee Leaders second place in the 2023 Championship Series, but he faces significant competition from Grobbelaar, who has won the class at each of the two events he has attended. Abrams in the mighty Piperzilla may not have the shortest distances on the year, but his consistency keeps him in the conversation.

While their chances of creeping into the top 3 in 2023 is almost mathematically impossible, keep an eye on newcomers Luke Strandlund and John McCardle during the offseason. Both have shown massive gains throughout the year and are becoming regulars on the circuit, with the potential to make a strong push in 2024.

Backcountry Class

It’s the battle of the Cessna 170Bs with the bonus Husky–the fight for supremacy in the Backcountry Class has been THE story to follow in 2023. While Jeff Pohl has dominated the class over the past two years, young Micah Lindstrom is poised to take the crown this year. Any top 5 finish at Lonestar will clinch the win for Lindstrom. Pohl is guaranteed at least second place.

While Austin Clemens in the Husky currently sits in the third position, surprise challenger Shawn Johnson rose to the top of the class at Music City STOL and remains in the fight. Another first place finish for Johnson would require Clemens to place 4th or higher to maintain his current season ranking. Should Johnson place first and Clemens 5th, a tie in season points would result. Per the tie-breaker rules, and as Lonestar would be the only time the two compete head-to-head, Johnson would then be awarded 3rd place in the Backcountry Class.

Bear in mind that the Most Consistent pilot at any event receives one extra point in the season standings. This award has gone to a pilot in the Backcountry Class at 5 out of 7 competitions this season, and may also affect the potential tie.

Adventure Class

First place in the Adventure may be the most open title remaining in the 2023 season, with three competitors still mathematically able to take home first place. In this class, it’s the Battle of the MOACs vs the certified Piper Super Cub. Keith Lange in the Super Cub holds a narrow 5 point edge over Brian Steck in the season standings entering Lonestar STOL. If Steck does not finish first, Lange would need to finish at least two places behind him for Steck to retake the lead.

Luke Spoor certainly has the skills to win the class at Lonestar, but would need Lange to finish 9th or lower and Steck to finish 7th or lower in order to overtake them in season standings.

Beyond the top placement, Brian Shirley in yet another MOAC remains in the running for a third place season finish if he can come out significantly ahead of Spoor at Lonestar. Any of CC Pocock, Jody Card, Kyle Bushman, or Collin Caneva (should he choose to fly his MOAC in place or or in addition to his Carbon Cub in the Sport Class) could also contribute to a shake up at the top with a strong showing at Lonestar, although unlikely to impossible to sneak into the top 3 overall.

Sport Class

Rick Boardman has clinched first place in the Sport Class with Collin Caneva guaranteed second. The race for third, however, is a three way battle between Justin Tisdale, Nick Ardillo, and Joel Milloway.

Milloway and Ardillo have more recently finished second and third at Music City STOL, with Milloway a mere two feet behind Boardman. Tisdale has been the most tenacious competitor of the year, fighting back time and time again from aircraft issues to stay in the running for season standings. There are enough possible scenarios that make the final podium placement of this class an exciting one to watch.

Although unlikely, Frank Knapp or Jaden Newman could make a second appearance of the year and snatch third place away from any of the three above. However, it would require Knapp or Newman to finish in first place AND Tisdale to finish below 7th place, Ardillo to finish below 6th, and Milloway to finish below 3rd. A second place finish by Knapp of Newman would require the trio of Tisdale/Ardillo/Milloway to all finish outside of the top 10.

Unlimited Class

While the competitors in the Unlimited Class are always exciting to watch, the top three of Steve Henry, Hal Stockman, Dan Reynolds is unlikely to change. Henry has secured the top ranking, and unless Stockman or Reynolds is unable to attend, any points they earn at Lonestar should keep them in the same order. While Patrick McInteer, Jason Busat, Charles Lilly, and Jerry Fletcher all have points in the Unlimited Class as well, it would once again require one of the top competitors to miss the competition for anyone to pull ahead.

If you can’t join us in Sulphur Springs, be sure to tune in on Facebook or YouTube for a livestream of both the Lonestar STOL competition and the awards ceremony on Saturday, November 4. The competition will kick off at 10:00am with the awards ceremony tentatively scheduled for 7:00pm, following the closing dinner (all times are central). In addition to the Lonestar STOL and 2023 Series Championship awards, we’ll also be awarding the Voyager Prop from Hartzell Propeller to one lucky winner. Entries have been earned by the top 3 finishers in each class at EVERY competition this year.

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