Millsboro will host a lunch stop on the 2014 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty, on Tuesday, June 24, race promoters announced this week. The Great Race, an old car rally, will bring more than 100 antique automobiles to Millsboro’s town hall for the $150,000 event.
The race will start June 21 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. They will start on the morning of June 24 in Valley Forge, Pa.
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 checkpoints 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, they hope, 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 said.
The cars will arrive after 11:15 a.m. at one-minute intervals for more than an hour and a half and stay parked for an hour each, 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, organizers said. All Great Race stops are free to the public. The Town of Millsboro 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 and is 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 year’s 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.
The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae and 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 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 event’s main sponsors are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty, Coker Tire, Reliable Carriers and Best Western.