Crowds throng to Great Race pit stop here

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Antique and vintage cars drew a good crowd early Thursday morning asThe Great Race held a pit stop here.

A carnival-like atmosphere filled the streets of Mountain Home on Thursday morning as America's oldest and longest running vintage motorsports competition, the Great Race, made a pit stop in the downtown area.

Local residents turned out in force to welcome the 97 cars, the drivers and their navigators as well as the race support team participating in the journey from Washington, D.C., to Tacoma, Wash.

The cars started arriving soon after 7:30 a.m. and before long had filled all of the parking spaces on the E. 2nd North Street block between N. 3rd East and N. 2nd East streets.

While the driving teams settled in for a bite of breakfast, spectators were able to get an up close view of vehicles, 'oohing and ahhing' over the vintage cars and trucks sharing their memories.

Phrases like "I used to drive a car just like this," or "My uncle (or Dad or friend) had one of these," were common.

The event regulations require that the classic vehicles participating be at least 45 years old, but many of this year's race challengers were even older.

Often called a "seat of the pants" competition, the race echoes the times/speeds/distance rallies made popular in the '30s and '40s.

Drivers explained much of the race route is along the back roads of the country, staying away from interstate highway travel when possible. The older vehicles generally travel a bit slower than the speed limits allowed, trying to hold the speedometer steady to ensure they pass the secret checkpoints along the way at precisely the right time.

The drivers and navigators seemed happy to chat about their vehicles and/or the Great Race with anyone who expressed an interest. And in downtown Mountain Home on Thursday morning, there were plenty of people who took the opportunity to listen.

All too soon however, the pit stop was over and once more the race was on as they headed out of town toward their next scheduled stop in Ontario, Ore.

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