The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, has a new addition: Nemesis NXT, a record-breaking Sport-class air racer. It is the second aircraft designed, built, and raced by one of the most successful organizations in air racing history, Nemesis Air Racing, led by Jon Sharp and Patricia Sharp. They hold most of the significant records in air racing, including an unsurpassed 15 national championships at the Reno Air Races.
The team’s DR 90 Nemesis is already in the Museum’s collection and is on display in the Commercial Aviation exhibition at the Udvar-Hazy Center. It is the most successful aircraft in air racing history. From 1991 to 1999, Jon flew it to victory in 47 of its 50 contests, including nine consecutive Formula I Gold championships at the National Championship Air Races at Reno and 16 world speed records for its class. The Sharps donated Nemesis to the Museum during a special ceremony at the International Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In Convention, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Nemesis was one of the first aircraft to go on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center and is a centerpiece of the Museum’s air racing collection.
After retiring Nemesis, the Sharps and their team began work on a new two-seat racer, Nemesis NXT, for competition in the newly created Sport Class sanctioned by the National Championship Air Races. The Sport Class debuted in 1998 and is intended for high performance kit or amateur built aircraft.
“NXT” is the acronym for Neoteric eXperimental Technology and everything about the racer was new and modern (i.e., “neoteric”). NXT was the first kit-built airplane designed by a computer and tested using a wind tunnel, computational fluid dynamics, and flow visualization. The advanced aerodynamic design includes a NASA natural laminar flow (NLF) wing airfoil. The team also used computer-aided design (CAD) and computer numeric control (CNC) machinery to improve fabrication and assembly. A simulation program let them “fly” the new airplane before it was built. NXT incorporates the same molded carbon-fiber technology as in the earlier DR 980 Nemesis. Jon’s wife and partner Patricia took the lead on fabricating the components with crew chief Steve Hill. Nemesis Air Racing worked alongside Lycoming engineers to custom design the six-cylinder 350 horsepower twin-turbocharged and -intercooled Thunderbolt TSIO-540-NXT engine.
After a period of fine-tuning that included a landing gear collapse in 2004, Sharp and NXT embarked upon a remarkable flying career. Nemesis Air Racing earned four consecutive Sport Class national championships between 2006 and 2009. In 2008, NXT became the first kit-built airplane to fly faster than 400 mph. At the 2009 National Championship Air Races, they grabbed five new speed records and a fourth consecutive national title, which is known as the “record a day and two on Sunday” performance.
Let’s put one of those speed records into context: Sharp and NXT set a new qualifying speed of 412 mph, which was faster than 16 of the 25 Bearcats, Sea Furies, Mustangs, and other warbird racers that qualified for the Unlimited Class on the same course. Sharp concluded NXT’s competition career with five world speed records during the autumn of 2015.
For the time being, NXT will be on display near Nemesis in the air racing section at the Udvar-Hazy Center. NXT will be a central artifact in Nation of Speed, a new exhibition exploring the intersections between technology, business, culture, people, and excellence in America’s quest for speed, that will open at our Museum in Washington, DC in 2021. As part of this exhibition, we will share the story of the Sharps and Nemesis Air Racing with our visitors.
Having both aircraft at the Museum highlights how the racers built by Team Nemesis document a late twentieth and early twenty-first century air racing team that exemplified engineering creativity, innovation, and competition at the highest levels of motorsports.
We offer our thanks to Nemesis Air Racing, the US Southwest Soaring Museum, Flightline FBO Services, Engine and Airframe Solutions Worldwide, the FAA, and Air Boss Jim “Cookie” Crum for their help in bringing NXT to the Museum.