Senior staff writer
American pilot Michael Goulian of Massachusetts fought back tears twice Sunday after an emotional triumph in the third annual Red Bull Air Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Goulian not only won his second air race of the season but vaulted from third place to take a slim lead in the world championship with one event remaining at Texas World Speedway Nov. 17 and 18.
The 50-year-old pilot began tearing up during the winner’s interview and when he stood on the podium during the national anthem. He becomes the first American in 10 years to win a Red Bull Air Race in the United States.
“Right now, the season (championship) doesn’t even mean anything – to win at Indy is amazing,” Goulian said before kissing the bricks. “Sometimes the day just works out for you and today did.”
He said he grew up watching the Indianapolis 500 on TV with his dad and began flying at 15 years. The pilot recalled that many 500 drivers were his idols.
“It still feels like a dream,” Goulian said. “I kept wondering how I ever got to this point in my life, doing something that I never dreamed of when I started flying and to win here.”
Goulian was edged by Canadian Pete McLeod in the first heat but advanced by posting the fastest time among the seven pilots who lost heat races. He was faster than Cristian Bolton in the Fast Eight. Flying an Edge 540 V2 aerobatic airplane, Goulian (1 minute, 6.208 seconds) then edged McLeod (1:06.736) in the final four by a halfsecond.
A crowd of 40,000 watched pilots reach speeds of 230 mph, endure 10G forces and fly between 80-foot-high air-filled pylons. The point chase tightened dramatically in the first round when slowest qualifier Kirby Chambliss of Texas outed points leader Martin Sonka of Czechoslovakia by 1.32 seconds.
Chambliss, the last American pilot to win in the United States in 2008 over Detroit, erred in his second run.
“Winning is any pilot’s most difficult maneuver anywhere,” Chambliss said. “I love racing here because of the history of the track. For me, being here to race is always significant.” Retired four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt served as grand marshal.