After 10 States, 2,100 Miles, 2013 Great Race’s Long Trip Ends at Mobile International Speedway on June 29
By Chuck Corder
Forgive Great Race director Jeff Stumb if he’s endured a few Maalox moments the last few weeks.
Getting all the details together for one of the most daunting road trips can wear one down. Physically and mentally.
When festivities get underway Saturday afternoon at Mobile International Speedway for the Great Race 125
Presented by Five Star Bodies, its namesake — which just so happens to be Stumb’s labor of love — will be just a
few hours into its nine-day journey to Mobile.
Harkening back to another era when cross-country automobile races were the norm, the Hemmings Motor
News Great Race presented by Hagerty is a 10-state, 2,100-mile jaunt that begins Saturday in St. Paul, Minn., and
weaves along the muddy banks of the Mississippi River into Louisiana before arriving next Saturday afternoon at
MIS. They’ll enjoy lunch as the final scores are being tabulated, before the field’s 99 cars will parade to Downtown
Mobile for a post-race celebration at Bienville Square at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“One team is going to win $50,000,” Stumb said via phone Monday night in St. Paul where he was dotting
the race’s final “I’s.” “It’s competitive, but it’s friendly competition. If some guy is doing poorly, it doesn’t necessarily
help you. It’s you vs. the clock. If the other guy does a better job, more power to ’em.”
The Great Race, which first began in 1983, is easily the Daytona 500 for classic car enthusiasts. Nearly 100
teams will navigate America’s backroads on their way to Mobile in vehicles that must be manufactured in 1969 or
earlier. Each team consists of a driver and navigator with support folks available to assist along the way. Stumb and
his team measure out the long, serpentine course to the inch. Along the way will be signs instructing the teams
what speed to travel.
“You don’t know where the next sign will be — 100 feet, 10 miles down the road,” Stumb said. “It makes it
challenging to stay on time. It’s super challenging when you throw the old car aspect into it.” There are also four to
seven checkpoints along the course to keep the competitors on track. “They don’t know where the checkpoints
are,” Stumb said. “They are penalized for every second that they’re early or late. The whole idea is to get there
exactly on time down to the second and get a zero or an ‘Ace.’ “The goal is to have a perfect score on each one. It’s
never happened before. You have to be on time all the time.”
Even before he became race director, Stumb was well versed on the nooks and crannies of the Great Race.
He competed for nearly 20 years before Coker Tire, Stumb’s employer, assumed control of the event in 2011. “My first race was in 1994. We had a 1936 Ford convertible,” he recalled. “We had the single-lowest day score of the event
that year. “The good thing about the Great Race is, like the NASCAR season, you don’t have to win every day to be
the overall winner.”
And like NASCAR, the Great Race has a special history. It has been through different leadership teams in 30
years, including one group that included Sprint Cup Series car owner Jack Roush for a brief time. The inaugural
event went from Los Angeles to Indianapolis. Every year since, the Great Race intends to map out courses that carry
themes to promote a family-oriented environment so competitors can enjoy the experience with their kids and
“It’s a very family-friendly event,” Stumb said. “The competitors, for the most part, are husband-wife
teams, father-son, grandfathers-grandsons — all combinations.”
The 1987 route traversed America from Disneyland in Anaheim, Cali., to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Once Coker took the reins in 2011, the cars traveled 1,700 miles from the Coker Tire Company’s headquarters in
Chattanooga, Tenn., to the Hemmings Motor News headquarters in Bennington, Vt
“We’re already working on the 2014 event, which we’ll announce in Mobile,” Stumb said. “A lot of teams
start preparing right away.” Last year, they prepared for a 2,400-mile trek around the Great Lakes that took them into Canada, back through Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio before finishing in Dearborn, Mich., at the
Henry Ford Museum.
“There are stories through the years, competitors helping other competitors,” Stumb said. “A guy breaks down, gets help and finishes ahead of the guy who helped him in the standings.” Stumb just wishes some that help would’ve been afforded to him when planning the Great Race. Because, for as much assistance as Stumb
receives in making preparations for this yearlong event, it never seems enough.
“I kept a migraine,” Stumb joked. “But once it starts rolling, I get pretty mellow. It’s organized chaos.”
For more information, contact Tim Bryant at MIS at 251-957-2063