The Great Texas Balloon Race held its final day in the chase for a national championship. With a rain shortened competition, the chance at a trip to a world championship was riding on just a few flights over Gregg County. Every target, every point, separated just an average score from a possible national title.
"The community has embraced this event for 36 years now. This is our Super Bowl, its like qualifying for the Olympics," says longtime race announcer Glen Moyer.
"This is probably one of the premier events in the country. The Great Texas Balloon Race is attended by the most skilled pilots in America," says Houston pilot Steve Lombardi.
Canceled flights meant every target every maneuver , could mean finishing at the top.
"This year we had the number one and number 2 pilots in the world," Moyer says.
Pilots like Guy Gauthier, who had long chased a national title , saw their chance to finally win it.
"I started in 1976 , been doing it ever since. Everybody's got a shot , but we all know the young guns are the guys to beat. And I keep telling them , they've got to have a field or they wouldn't have a champion," says Gauthier.
After it was all said and done, Michigan pilot Paul Petrehn won 1st place, Rhet Hartsill 2nd, and Pat Cannon 3rd.
"By far the best nationals that we've ever had," Lombardi says.
The top 6 finishers from last years final and the top 6 from this year , will represent the U-S in the world championships in Brazil next year.