Lowell, Mass., will host an overnight stop on the 2014 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty Saturday, June 21, race promoters have announced. The Great Race, the worlds premiere old car rally, will bring more than 100 antique automobiles downtown to Middle Street for the $150,000 event.
The race will start earlier that day in Ogunquit, Maine, and weave its way 2,100 miles over nine days down the Atlantic Coast through 13 states before the finish in The Villages, Fla., on June 29.
The Great Race, which began 31 years ago, is not a speed race, but a time/speed/distance rally. The vehicles, each with a driver and navigator, are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. They are scored at secret check points along the way and are penalized one second for each second either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.
Cars start and hopefully finish one minute apart if all goes according to plan. The biggest part of the challenge other than staying on time and following the instructions is getting an old car to the finish line each day, organizers say.
The cars will arrive after 4:45 p.m. at one-minute intervals for more than an hour and a half and stay parked for several hours to allow spectators to visit with the participants and to look at the cars. It is common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look. All Great Race stops are free to the public. The Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau is helping with the plans locally.
Cars built prior to 1972 are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. In the 2013 Great Race down the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, a 1913 Premiere and a 1916 Hudson were the two oldest vehicles. There was also a 1917 Peerless and a 1920 Model T in the event and many of those cars are expected back again in 2014.
Humpy Wheeler of Concord, N.C., will be participating with his grandson in a Fabulous Hudson Hornet decked out to look like Doc Hudson from the Pixar movie Cars. Wheeler is the former president and GM of Charlotte Motor Speedway was considered one of the best promoters in NASCAR history.
Frank Buonanno and Chris Clark from Newtown, Conn., will be participating in their 1915 Hudson 6-40 speedway racer; Chad and Jennie Caldwell of Newnan, Ga., will be racing their 1931 Auburn; and Buddy and Bill Green of Wilmington, N.C., will compete in their 1969 General Lee Charger just to name a few.
Last years winners, Barry and Irene Jason of Keller, Texas, drove a 1935 Ford coupe and won $50,000. It was the second straight year for the couple to win the event.
The 2014 winners will again receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse.
Over the decades, the Great Race has stopped in hundreds of cities big and small, from tiny Austin, Nev., to New York City.
When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival, race director Jeff Stumb said. Last year we had 30,000 spectators at the start in St. Paul at Back to the 50s, and another 10,000 people at the overnight stop in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and at the lunch stop in Crowley, La., on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during our stops.
After leaving Lowell the following morning the cars will head west for a lunch stop in Bennington, Vt.
The other overnight stops are Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Valley Forge, Pa.; Norfolk, Va.; New Bern, N.C.; Wilmington, N.C.; Mount Pleasant, S.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla. The finish will be at Lake Sumter Landing in The Villages, Fla.
Lunch stops, in order, are Bennington, Vt.; Long Pond, Pa.; Millsboro, Del.; Elizabeth City, N.C.; Clinton, N.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Ocala, Fla.
The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae and it takes its name from the 1965 movie, The Great Race, which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The movie is a comedy based on the real life 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris. In 2004, Tony Curtis was the guest of the Great Race and rode in his car from the movie, the Leslie Special.
The Great Race gained a huge following from late night showings on ESPN when the network was just starting out in the early 1980s. The first entrant, Curtis Graf of Irving, Texas, is still a participant today and will be racing a 1916 Packard again this year.
The events main sponsors are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty, Coker Tire, Reliable Carriers and Best Western.
For more information, go to www.greatrace.com or contact Jeff Stumb at [email protected] or by calling him at 423-648-8542.