BENNINGTON - After two years away, the Hemmings Motor News Great Race will be returning to Bennington in 2014, race promoters have announced.
Bennington served as the finish line for the annual event in 2011, when it ran 1,575 miles from Chattanooga, Tenn. to Bennington over seven days. This year, the race will begin on June 21 in Ogunquit, Maine, and end nine days and 2,100 miles later in the Villages, Fla., on June 29. On Sunday, June 22, the racers will stop in Bennington for lunch and fuel at Hemmings Motor News -- one of the primary sponsors of the event.
More than 100 antique automobiles will arrive at Hemmings starting at 12:20 p.m. that day in roughly one-minute intervals, and will stay parked for an hour to allow spectators to visit with the participants and look at their cars. Many drivers allow children to climb into the cars for a closer look. All Great Race stops are free to the public.
The first Great Race was organized in 1983 by Tom McRae and Norman Miller, as an opportunity for car enthusiasts to race pre-World War II cars across America for a large purse. Today, any car manufactured before 1972 is eligible, but many of the entrants still use cars manufactured before World War II. In the 2013 race, which ran from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the oldest cars were a 1913 Premier and a 1916 Hudson, with a 1916 Packard, a 1917 Peerless, and a 1920 Model T also competing. Several of these cars are expected to compete again this year.
The race is not a speed race, but uses a complicated scoring system based on extremely specific timing at secret checkpoints along the race. Each car has a driver and a navigator and is given specific instructions that detail their every move, down to the second. At hidden checkpoints along the route, evaluators mark the vehicle's progress and assess penalties of one second per each second they are either early or late to the checkpoint. The car with the lowest time will take home $50,000, out of the total $150,000 purse.
The day the cars will be appearing in Bennington will begin for the drivers in Lowell, Mass. and end in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
"When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival," said race director Jeff Stumb, "Last year we had 30,000 spectators at the start in St. Paul."
In 2011, when Bennington was the finish line for the race, the town saw many closures and detours put into place. It has not been announced what Bennington residents can expect this year. The event also saw appearances by Caroline Bright, Miss Vermont 2010, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, and Megan Smith, commissioner of tourism and marketing. Judy Pennock of Evan's News said the store did three times as well as it does on typical Fridays in June, and other businesses echoed that sentiment.
The Great Race takes its name from the 1965 movie of the same name, which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, and Peter Falk. The comedy is based on the real life 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris. In the 2004 edition of the race, Curtis participated in his car from the movie, the Leslie Special.
Hemmings Motor News' own Jim Menneto will be particating in the race, in the Hemmings 1932 Ford Speedster.
Registration for the 2014 race is still open, and costs $5,000 for private entries and $6,500 for corporate entries. Forms can be filled out at the race's website, greatrace.com.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB