After several fun-filled days in Jacksonville, Florida the Great Race will get underway Saturday morning at 10:30 on Main Street as part of the Historic Main Street Springfield Cruise. During the 2014 Great Race from Maine to Florida the participants got a taste of the Cruise on the way to the day’s finish at the Jacksonville Landing. Racers will trek through low-lying northeast Florida and rural southeast Georgia on the first stage of the event after leaving Jacksonville.
The first overnight stop on the 2017 event will be in Tifton, Georgia, which calls itself “the Friendly City.” And racers will find out exactly why when they pull into the historic downtown on Main Street at the end of Day 1. Tifton and Tift County have a population of 40,000, making it one of the smallest overnight stops on the Great Race. But folks will fill the streets for the event and all of the other activities the community has planned.
Racers will head north Sunday morning out of southern Georgia for a lunch stop in Newnan, Georgia hometown to several current and former Great Race teams. Downtown Newnan is a small Southern city full of charm right out of the movies; and in fact several movies and TV shows are filmed in the county on a regular basis. Longtime Great Race teams Beth Gentry and Jody Knowles and Chad and Jennie Caldwell are from Newnan, as are rookie racers Olivia and Genna Gentry. Olivia and Genna have worked on the event selling programs for the last five years, as have Newnan residents Ashley and Cole Caldwell. The late Joe Knowles was head of the “Newnan Gang.”
Participants will get a quick look at Great Racer Wayne Vick’s private collection of cars in his hometown of Armuchee, Georgia at a Pit Stop at The Warehouse – what he calls his hangout. Racers will see everything from an early Model T firetruck to Model As to Flathead Fords.
Racers will be welcomed to the hometown of the Great Race and sponsor Coker Tire Sunday evening on the banks of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. Duck boat rides in the river will be available for those daring enough and the Tennessee Aquarium and a local car show will be the highlights of the stop. Chattanooga was the host city for the start of the 2011 Great Race. Downtown Chattanooga also hosted an overnight stop on the opposite side of the Tennessee River in 2003 as well as overnight stops in 1999 and 2007.
The day will begin in the Coker Tire Museum for a breakfast before heading out to the beautiful backroads of eastern Tennessee. The day will be spent in Central Time Zone (the rest of the event will be completely in Eastern Time Zone) and will be highlighted by the visit to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, hometown to the newest X-Cup team from Central High School. Cannonsburgh Village, an 1800’s historical site, will be the venue for the racers for lunch.
There are not many towns that understand today’s car culture better than Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the Great Race will stop there at the end of Day 3 for the first time since a Pit Stop there more than 20 years ago. Racers will make their way into town and take laps around the 3.5-mile National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park before heading downtown to the venue on the square. Bowling Green is home to the Corvette Assembly Plant and the National Corvette Museum, but it is best known as the hometown of Holley Carburetors, which will sponsor the evening meal.
In 2016, the Great Race finished by crossing the Mississippi River into Moline, Illinois. The great river the event will cross in 2017 will be the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana after the racers leave Bowling Green. After entering the Hoosier State on the Great Race for the first time in more than a decade, participants will rally in the Hoosier National Forest in the southern part of the state before hitting French Lick, Indiana for lunch. Known by many as the hometown of NBA great Larry Bird, French Lick is also home to the French Lick Resort and the French Lick Scenic Railway.
Indiana is the essence of rural America. Small towns like the one native son John Cougar Mellencamp sings about dot the landscape from one end of the state to the other and are as big a part of Americana as Mom, baseball and apple pie. And no town on the race in 2017 exemplifies that more than Franklin, Indiana. While only 25 miles south of Indianapolis, it feels like it is hundreds of miles from the fast pace of the capital city. One look at the historic courthouse and the smiling faces of the locals makes Franklin the perfect overnight promotion stop.
The Dixie Highway had several variations through the years, and one route went right through Wapakoneta, Ohio. And the Great Race will veer off it’s northern trek on this day to dip into the Buckeye state for just a few miles for a lunch stop in the hometown of the first man to step foot on the moon – Neil Armstrong. Racers will not be able to leave town without noticing the incredible late 1800’s architecture on the buildings downtown.
In the early days of the automotive industry, it was Indiana and not Detroit or Michigan that led the way. There were more car companies in Indiana than any other. And no town was better known than Auburn for turning out those cars. The Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg automobiles were built there and the Great Race will stop in Auburn, Indiana at the ACD Museum, which houses the finest collection of those marques in the world. They also highlight other automobiles manufactured in the state. It has been more than 20 years since the Great Race stopped at the ACD Museum, so it will be a special treat for all involved. Auburn has also become home to one of the greatest auctions in the country – Auctions America. One happens around Labor Day and during the ACD Festival. The other auction happens in May. The folks at Auctions America have a special treat in store for the racers, and more details will be available soon.
The small town of Shipshewana, Indiana is home to the most incredible collection of Hudson automobiles in the world. Eldon Hostetler started the museum just a few years before his death at age 93 earlier this year. Racers, including several in Hudsons, will make a quick pit stop at the museum during the morning.
The theme of great car museums on the 2017 Great Race continues as the event rolls into the state of Michigan with a lunch stop at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. The Gilmore also has a youth program and they will have an X-Cup team in the race for the first time. Racers will have some extra time to stroll the grounds of the Gilmore to see the varied collections from Model As to Cadillacs to Lincolns.
Known in automotive circles as the town with the last Hudson dealership, Ypsilanti, Michigan has been a huge part of the industry for a century. It was home to Willow Run, the World War II production plant that produced the B-24 bomber. Willow Run later was where Corvairs were built. The last Hudson dealership is now the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum and it will be the site of the hosted dinner for racers. The last lunch stop on the 2012 Great Race was also hosted there.
Stahls Automotive Foundation is a world class car collection but it is what Ted Stahl likes to call a “complete automotive experience” and it is. The musical instrument collection is as impressive as the automobile collection at his Chesterfield, Michigan facility. And then there are the gas pumps and signs. The automobile collection consists of just about every top marque ever made, including Duesenberg, Auburn, Packard, Stutz, Mercedes, Tucker and Marmon just to name a few. Racers will get extra time for lunch on this day to be able to take in the incredible facility.
One of the most unique city stops ever on the Great Race will be in Frankenmuth, Michigan on Day 7. With a population of less than 5,000, Frankenmuth is not the typical Great Race overnight stop. But that is because Frankenmuth is not your typical town. Called “Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth is a tourist community and all of the structures in town resemble Old Bavaria. It is also home to Christmas Wonderland, the largest store of its kind in the world. The host hotel for all racers is the Bavarian Inn, which sits on the Cass River and you have to cross a wooden covered bridge to get to it. Every year Frankenmuth is host to Auto Fest, one of the largest collector car shows in the world.
No trip to northern Michigan would be complete without a stop in a city on the Great Lakes. And Alpena, Michigan is paradise for those who love the outdoors. Situated on Lake Huron, Alpena is home to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary protects an estimated 116 historically significant shipwrecks ranging from nineteenth century wooden side-wheelers to twentieth century steel-hulled steamers. Glass bottom boat tours to see the wrecks are popular with tourists.
It will be Canada Day on Saturday, July 1, as the Great Race pulls into border town Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, just an hour north of the majestic Mackinac Bridge. Fireworks from just across the St. Marys River in Canada will be visible after dark. Sault Ste. Marie is the northern most point the Dixie Highway traveled, and the racers will make their way into the city on that road, which is still called the Dixie Highway to this day. Sault Ste. Marie was the first overnight host on the 2012 Great Race and in 2017 they will be the host on the last overnight stop on the event.
Traverse City, Michigan was the start city for the 2012 Great Race, and it was so spectacular that racers still talk about it. Hometown to “presented by” sponsor Hagerty, Traverse City is also home to the annual Cherry Festival, and the Great Race finish will be one of the highlights of the event (along with the Thunderbirds air show). Racers will not only get to experience Traverse City during the Cherry Festival, but they will also get to visit McKeel Hagerty’s automobile collection for lunch while waiting for scores to be tabulated just before rolling down Front Street for the Grand Finish.