The Great Race won’t be rolling into town on June 24 with 120 vintage cars from Japan, England, Germany, Canada and all over the United States after all.
But, so far at least, it’s only been postponed to Aug. 26.
“I’m pleased to announce that all of our grand champions, as well as a majority of the race teams, volunteers and staff, have agreed to the new schedule and we look forward to having a full field for the start of the 2020 Great Race in front of the Alamo on Aug. 22,” Jeff Stumb, event director, said in a news release.
The 2,300-mile race, which features $158,750 in prize money, ends in Greenville, South Carolina, on Aug. 30.
Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said if things have returned to near normal by Aug. 26, the event will be a big boost for the local economy.
When the event was expected in June and no one had heard of coronavirus, Stumb said in a news release, “When the Great Race pulls into a city, it becomes an instant festival. Last year, we had a couple of overnight stops with more than 10,000 spectators on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during the event.”
This week, he said, “The Great Race will follow all CDC, state and local guidelines, and officials have been working closely with cities to have spectators line the streets on the way into the venue to ensure social distancing rather than in large groups.
“As the entire United States is opening up again, we will continue to monitor the situation for any changes we may be able to make in either direction,” Stumb said.
He said the race committee and sponsors have set July 1 as the official “go” date — as long as conditions are favorable.
Calitri said, “We are thankful The Great Race organizers are putting the health and safety of their drivers and spectators first. The new date allows us to better prepare for the event in terms of keeping everyone safe while still enjoying the event.”
He said local hotels have been able to rebook rooms for Aug. 26.
“The Great Race is a phenomenal event that has sold out our downtown properties and stretches to some of our other hotels,” Calitri said.
He said the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum is planning outdoor music that evening to welcome the racers.
“It will look a little different and we do not have all the details yet,” Calitri said. “How different will be determined by both our state and local governments. We plan to release more details as we get closer to the event and have a better understanding about what regulations will need to be followed to have a safe and successful event.”
He said, “This highlights that the return to travel is not going to instantaneous, but a slow methodical process, until the consumer has confidence of their safety. Travelers are looking for safety and cleanliness, which have always been part of the foundation of the hospitality business, but now with COVID, it’s under a microscope. Owensboro has always been a resilient community and I think we are well-positioned for the best possible outcome as travel restarts.”
In Kentucky, the race will stop in Paducah, Owensboro, Bardstown and Georgetown.
All vehicles have to be manufactured before 1975.
The race, which shares its name with a 1965 movie about another race, ran for the first time in 1983.
Older cars frequently complete the event.
In 2011, it was a 1911 Velie that won.
The following year, a 1907 Renault and a 1914 Ford Model T both ran the entire course.
And last year, a 1909 Buick completed the journey.
Each car has a driver and a navigator and they can change places as often as they want.
The Great Race is not as speed race.
It’s a time/speed/distance race.
Dave Kirk, the CVB’s destination management director, said earlier that the drivers and navigators “are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. They are scored at secret checkpoints along the way and are penalized one second for each second either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.”
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, firstname.lastname@example.org