Classic cars come to town as part of 'Great Race'

·3 min read

Jun. 24—There was a carnival atmosphere on Veterans Boulevard Wednesday evening, as hundreds of people went downtown to welcome participants in the Hemmings Motor News Great Race.

Classic cars, pickup trucks, Jeeps and souped-up hot rods cruised down the boulevard as spectators, who were lined up along both sides of the street with lawn chairs, applauded and took pictures.

When the drivers parked alongside the road, people swarmed the vehicles, for more pictures and to ask questions about the 2,300-mile event.

Kathy Harper of Jefferson, Texas, said she was not surprised by the enthusiastic turnout.

"It happens ever day at lunch and dinner," said Harper, who is driving 1965 Mercury Comet in the race, while the 102 vehicles still in the race paraded down the boulevard. "It's like Veterans Day and the Fourth of July. It's very Americana."

Owensboro was the 10th stop for the racers.

On Sunday, the classic vehicles left Alamo Plaza in San Antonio, Texas on their meandering way to the finish line Sunday in Greenville, South Carolina.

The race with historic vehicles began in 1983, focusing on endurance and accuracy than high speeds. The winning team takes home $150,000.

Before coming to Owensboro, the racers stopped in Paducah for lunch, and will head east tomorrow to Elizabethtown and Lexington.

"It's a big deal," said Angela Woosley, as she and her husband, Ken Woosley, stood in a bit of shade to watch the racers go by. "I think it's great it came to Owensboro."

"I had a '54 Chevrolet truck like the green one that just went by," Ken Woosley said. "Mine was a lot rougher than that."

Tony Campbell, support team member for the Oil Changers team, was answering questions about the race while standing with the company's 1941 Ford pickup. Like other forms of racing, the drivers have corporate sponsors, and crews ready to make repairs if a vehicle breaks down on the road.

"Everybody has a mechanic crew — unless you're that good and have everything in the vehicle," Campbell said.

Many of the parts on the vehicles are vintage, Campbell said.

When preparing for the race, Campbell said he doesn't overhaul the vehicle with a set of new parts.

"You don't put anything new on the car before you leave," Campbell said.

Instead, drivers use parts they already know are reliable, Campbell said.

"You want everything to be squared away," Campbell said.

Driver Eric Frankenberger, president of the California-based Oil Changers, said he got pulled into the event a few years ago by the company's founder.

"He made us do it and we had an absolutely great time," Frankenberger said. Later, he said, "the best part for me is seeing the little kids" when the vehicles roll into town.

"Their eyes get the size of silver dollars," Frankenberger said.

William and Sarijane Moorman had a spot on a wall near Lazy Dayz Playground.

William Moorman said he was impressed and wanted to learn more.

"That's what I want to try to figure out: How you can get into this?" he said.

"I had a '69 suicide door Lincoln Continental, and I let it get away," William Moorman said.

He added that he was in the market for another classic car to fix up.

"I'm looking for one now," William Moorman said.

"That's his idea of a good time, working on a car," Sarijane Moorman said. "I just look at them."

Lena Lednick, who had family members in the race, said she was impressed by Wednesday's turnout downtown.

"This is a beautiful city, and everybody has been great to us," Lednick said.

People have a love for vintage cars, Lednick said.

"Everybody comes and says, 'My grandmother had one like this,' " Lednick said. "It reminds them of their parents or their grandfather or when they were in school in the '50s."

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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