MONTICELLO — Classic cars of all shapes and sizes made their way through downtown Monticello Thursday as the Hemmings Motor News Great Race made a lunch stop.
“It was a very good stop,” coordinator Jeff Stumb said. “We like to travel the back roads of America and I think Monticello represents that well.”
Stumb said he doubts that many of the competitors will ever to get a chance to see some of these small towns since most are from places like California, Texas, Maine, Michigan and New York.
“It is an opportunity to see what real America is,” Stumb said. “The people turned out in force. It was just a great day.
“But we see that everywhere we go.”
The race also made a stop in Paragould and he said the crowd was about the same size.
“Somewhere near 1,000,” Stumb said.
The race started June 22 in St. Paul, Minn., at the State Fairgrounds as part of the “Back to the 50s” car show and weaves its way down the Mississippi River toward the Gulf of Mexico through 10 states and crossing the river a dozen times before finishing in Mobile, Ala. on Sunday.
The Great Race is a time, speed and endurance rally, open to cars built before 1969. The oldest car on the roster was a 1915 Hudson 6-40 driven by Frank Buonanno and Chris Clark.
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 they are either early or late.
Last year’s winners, Barry and Irene Jason of Keller, Texas, drove a 1935 Ford coupe. This year, winners will receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse, based on 100 entries.
They are also the overall leaders as of right now. Stump said their reason for success is credited to their years of experience.
“They practice a lot and have been competing for years,” Stump said. “It is no different than NASCAR. They have more than 10 years of experience and having the same partner helps as well.”
Using the same car every year is also an advantage.
“Otherwise it might take the navigator some time to get used to,” Stumb said.
In last year’s race, a 1907 Renault and a 1914 Ford Model T were the two oldest vehicles. After leaving Monticello, the cars headed south to Vicksburg, Miss., for the the sixth of nine overnight stops.
The other overnight stops along the route were in La Crosse, Wis., on June 22; in Davenport, Iowa, on June 23; in Hannibal, Mo., on Monday; in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Tuesday; in Baton Rouge, La., today; in Covington, La., on Saturday; and in Mobile on Sunday.
“Each day is an own individual race,” Stumb said. “Much like NASCAR. Then we take the points earned at the end of the day and combine them.”
After Wednesday’s check-in at Tennessee, G.R. Pike and Bobby Hadskey won the day with a score of 0:06.60. They are driving a 1916 Hudson Speedster.
The competitors are also given 20-minute breaks at certain points for fuel.
“They get off the clock for a brief time,” Stumb said. “That’s why they got in staggered and left staggered.”