HUNTINGTON — One hundred and twenty of the finest antique cars in the world are expected to stop in Huntington at 11:30 a.m. Friday as part of the Great Race.
Participants of the Great Race will stop for lunch in Huntington on Friday, June 25, at Heritage Station. The first cars are expected to begin arriving at 11:30 a.m., with an arrival ceremony featuring color guard and the playing of the national anthem occurring at 11:25 a.m.
Each car will arrive within a minute of one another, and all cars are expected to have left Huntington by 3:15 p.m.
An annual event that began in 1983, the Great Race lasts nine days and spans a cross-country route that covers over 2,300 miles. The route followed by attendees crosses through the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
The event was started 38 years ago by Tom McRae and was inspired by the 1965 comedy, “The Great Race.” One of the stars of the film, actor Tony Curtis, was a guest in the 2004 Great Race.
The 2021 race began Saturday at San Antonio, Texas, and the cars are expected to roll over the finish line of Greenville, South Carolina, on Sunday, June 27. The grand champion of the event will win $50,000.
The cars, each with a driver and navigator, are given precise directions at all times and are expected to remain consistently one minute apart from one another, barring unforeseen circumstances.
There are several secret checkpoints along the route, which the cars are expected to pass through at an exact time. Should they pass by the point before or after that time, they are marked for every second early or late.
The event is played by golf rules, with the contestant with the least amount of recorded seconds at the finish line being crowned the winner.
The length and conditions of the race are just a few of the unique things about the competition, with another being the type of automobiles allowed to compete. To be eligible, a car must have been built by 1974 or earlier.
Many of the entries in the race were manufactured before World War II. The winner of the 2019 Great Race was a 1916 Hudson; the oldest cars competing this year are a 1916 Hudson Pikes Peak Hillclimber and a 1917 Peerless Racer.
Huntington is one of 16 stops made during the race, with their next expected destination being Beckley, West Virginia, at 5:30 p.m. During the stops, it’s free to visit the competitors and view their vehicles. It’s common for children to be given the chance to climb inside and get a closer look.
Huntington was originally planned as a lunch stop during 2020’s Great Race, which was shut down due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Seeing how the event had stopped in southern West Virginia several times, the city reached out and offered to host the participants.
Sponsors of this year’s lunch stop in Huntington include the Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Huntington Regional Antique Automobile Club of America, Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District, Shops at Heritage Station and HoneyBaked Ham-Barboursville.