The 2024 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Coker Tire will start in Owensboro, Ky., on Saturday, June 22, race organizers have announced. The Great Race, the world’s premiere old car rally, will bring 120 of the world’s finest antique automobiles to town for the $160,000 event. The start will be on Veterans Boulevard along the river with the cars lining up at 8 a.m. and the first car leaving at 10:30 a.m. The finish will be in Gardiner, Maine, on June 30.
“What an unbelievable honor to be the starting point for the most famous car race across America,” said Dave Kirk from Visit Owensboro. “This large-scale event will deliver a huge economic impact for our community not just in terms of the days leading up to the race and the start, but you can’t put a price on the international marketing this provides our community,”
The 9-day, 2,300-mile adventure will travel to 19 cities in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.
“We are excited to start the 2024 Great Race in Owensboro,” Great Race Director Jeff Stumb said. “The overnight stop there in 2021 was one of the best we have ever seen. We wanted to make sure we got back as soon as possible, and what better way to do that than to make Owensboro the start of the Great Race.”
Teams and cars from Japan, England, Australia, Canada, and every corner of the United States, will converge in Kentucky in mid-June with vintage automobiles dating back as far as 1916. “There are more than 500 people just in our entourage from all around the world,” Stumb said.
The Great Race, which began 41 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.
Each stop on the Great Race is free to the public and spectators will be able to visit with the participants and to look at the cars for several hours. It is common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look.
Cars built in 1974 and earlier are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. In the 2022 Great Race a 1932 Ford Dirt Track Racer won the event from Warwick, R.I., to Fargo, N.D. The 2024 winners will again receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse.
A 1916 Hudson Pikes Peak Hillclimber, a 1916 Chevrolet and a 1918 American LaFrance are the oldest cars scheduled to be in the 2024 Great Race.
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,” Stumb said. “Last year we had several overnight stops with more than 10,000 spectators on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during the event.”
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.