From western New York to Nova Scotia, wind gusts of 50 mph, with lots of rain and cold temperatures, 118 vintage automobiles enthusiastically competed for the 2018 Annual Hemmings Motor News Great Race. Craig County’s part-time paramedic, Josh Hull with his driving partner, Trevor Stahl, drove the ‘Stars and Stripes’ 1932 Ford Speedster with great determination.
Event Director Jeff Stumb commented that there were teams and cars from Japan, England, Germany, Canada and every corner of the United States. “Cars start and hopefully finish, one minute apart if all goes according to plan. The race started June 23 and ended July 1,” Stumb said.
Other organizers added, “The biggest part of the challenge, other than staying on time and following the instructions, is getting an old car to the finish line each day.”
Hull shared that racing began as open wheel and open cockpit.
“It is the way racing is supposed to be,” Stumb said. “There is an advantage to it. I do not know what it is, but there is one. I think it’s because the cars are bare bones, simple, and made to race.”
Hull explained that most of the people that win or do well in The Great Race are the open wheel/open cockpit vehicles. However, as all those drivers know, there are also disadvantages such as having no top for protection from the weather.
The ‘Stars and Stripes’ car is a 1932 Ford Dirt track Speedster with a 21 stud Flathead V8. It’s open wheel/open cockpit, so the car has no top. Hull shared that one of the most common questions they get is, “What happens when it rains?” He responds by saying, “Our response is always the same, ‘We get wet,’”
Josh and Jeff said they wish to experience what it was like racing the car in the time period it was from because, according to them, people today take for granted how easy it is to drive a modern day car.
“It’s hard dealing with Mother Nature or the elements she throws at you. You have to be rough, tough and relentless,” both said. “Our car looks, acts and handles like it did in 1932 which gives us a true life experience.”
And, experience they did, as they knew a storm was in the path of the race. “We encountered rain on this journey, almost every other day,” Hull said. “The worst day was when we were racing near Bar Harbor Maine, racing all day through a Nor’easter torrential down pouring with winds of 50-70 mph.”
Daily, Hull and Stahl kept their fans connected on their Facebook page as to how they were doing and what the end of the day’s tally was.
Some included a video of another driver who lost his brakes going down Mount Washington. One particular driver risked his life to help them from driving over the cliff. All three mentioned that there were always surprises that no one could imagine that could pop up at any time.
The Great Race is free to the public and allows participants to look at the cars. “It is very common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look,” they all said.
The ‘Stars and Stripes’ was looking good the first several days, but on June 30, with a half-a-day to go in the race, they broke five spokes, had a flat tire before lunch and a dead battery for their speedo before their calibration run.
“We worked on the wheel all evening welding and grinding,” they said. “We are thankful to The Maine Boyz, Some Future Great Racers from Huston and Competitors Mechanics for helping us out in a pinch and get us going again.”
Jim Cady, Craig County’s Emergency Management, and Services Coordinator spoke for the crew that kept up with Hull and Stahl during the race. “It’s fun to follow, and such joy to see a little old country boy from Botetourt County not only run with the big dogs but also see him kick some butt,” Cady said.
Hull and Stahl finished fifth overall out of 118 cars, which was only 12 seconds from first place. Both gentlemen also placed third in Expert Division. (To obtain the level of expert, they had to finish the day in the first place or be in the top-five overall for four days, which they accomplished in their second year of driving.)
Hull and Stahl both said, “Finishing in the top-five overall and third in Expert is definitely exciting, but it is also frustrating because we are so close to winning the whole thing.” They also noted that the score they got could have easily won the whole race two or three years ago.
“The scores in the top-five overall are super close day today, which means you could have won the race yesterday, but today could be fifth,” Hull said. “We are all outstanding racers and fellow competitors, and in turn, we truly have become a huge family.”
They added that they follow each other on social media, visit each other while traveling on vacation and during the race, hang out every night together.
“If someone is working on his or her car, other racers or their mechanics chip in and help,” Hull said before adding, “It really is something you have to experience, and if you are a car person, consider this is a bucket list must do.”