Great Race (classic rally)
The Great Race (formerly known as the Great American Race) is a classic rally for street-legal vintage automobiles at least 45 years old. Vehicles must use original factory parts, and modern navigational aids like GPS are prohibited.
This is a precision pace race, not a high speed race. Points are awarded on the accuracy of a driver and navigator to match a time and average speed over a predetermined course. Points are also awarded on a handicap system that awards bonus points to older vehicles. Prizes are awarded in several categories, including the "X-Cup" for high school teams.
The Great Race was organized by Texans Tom McRae and Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller. It was named for, and partially inspired by, the 1965 movie of the same name. The rights to the race were purchased from Howard Williams of Oklahoma City, OK in the early 80's. Williams had earlier organized a race with two reproduction Stutz Bearcats in 1971. An inaugural race was held that year from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Indianapolis for the Memorial Day 500 race event. The first of its kind event, was sponsored by Tulsa-based Sunoco/DX, along with Goodyear Tires and Tulsa radio station KRMG. Coincidentally, the Sunoco sponsored car won the Indianapolis 500 that year.
Interstate Batteries first race was held in 1983, it is an annual event held over a 14-day period. The course usually runs from east-to-west or west-to-east on a 4000-mile journey across the continental United States. The course typically avoids large cities, instead winding along secondary highways and back roads through small towns in America's heartland. While the towns that the course will run through are publicized in advance, the actual route itself is kept secret from the drivers and navigators. Each year, race organizers give the "Great American City" award to the town along the route with the most receptive audience. The race tends to be a festive and patriotic affair, with the streets lined with flags and marching bands playing.
The 2002 race was announced as being the final race, and the event's future appeared in doubt, but the race was acquired by Rally Partners, Inc., a group consisting of past Great Race competitors. With the new ownership, the event continued to run annually with 2007 being the last year.
In 2010, the name and assets were acquired by Corky Coker of Chattanooga, TN, former competitor and member of Rally Partners, Inc., and in conjunction with the Vintage Car Rally Association the event continued in the summer of 2011 with a race from Chattanooga, TN to Bennington, VT.
The 2012 race took place June 21, 2012, leaving from Traverse City, Michigan and wrapping up with a Championship Run from Findlay Ohio, to Ypsilanti Michigan, going on to Dearborn and The Henry Ford Museum for the finish line and awards on July 1, 2012.
The 2014 race started June 21, 2014 from Ogunquit, ME to The Villages, FL.
The slow speeds of the vehicles involved, combined with the long-distance nature of auto rallying have made television coverage of the event limited. Highlights have been shown on ESPN, History Channel (which became a race sponsor in the early 1990s), and full coverage shows have aired on Speed Channel and The Outdoor Channel.
Connections to NASCAR
NASCAR Nextel Cup race cars sponsored by Interstate Batteries have also been used to promote the Great Race. Jack Roush, owner of NASCAR race teams has also participated as a competitor and is currently a co-owner of the Great Race.
Note: The event was known as the "Great American Race" up to the mid-1990s and for the 25th Anniversary race in 2007. Although the name "Great American Race" has been applied to the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500, the events are not affiliated. Both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway have served as the finish line of the Great Race.