By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
More than 130 classic, vintage cars participating in the 2015 Great Race — from Kirkwood, Missouri, to Santa Monica, California — gathered Tuesday at the Tucumcari Convention as part of their scheduled stops along Route 66.
The cars began arriving at 11:30 a.m., and gathered at the Tucumcari Convention Center, where a welcoming ceremony was emceed by Brian “MotorMouth” Goudge.
Goudge said this year there is more than $6 million in classic and antique cars participating in the event. He said the teams are competing in different divisions to complete the 2,400-mile journey where the drivers and navigators receive and complete their daily driving routine.
“Nobody knows what they will encounter at the start of the day,” Goudge said. “There is no way to prepare for a certain route or plan a strategy as the route and requirements are only revealed 30 minutes before the start of each day’s stage.”
The racers were making their way from Amarillo to Albuquerque, the next scheduled overnight stop for the race. The parking lot was filled with different makes and models of cars that covered roadsters, muscle cars, classics and even a produce truck.
“This is such a cool event,” said Amber Rivera, of Tucumcari. “There are so many great cars out here for everyone to enjoy.”
Rivera, 13, said Tuesday’s event was something everyone of all ages could enjoy. She said her personal favorite are the Ford Mustangs. “Muscle cars aren’t just for boys,” Rivera added.
“I want to thank you all for making Tucumcari a part of this event,” said City Manager Jared Langenegger, who added that regardless of the amount of time the racers spend in Tucumcari, they have made a huge impact on the community. He said having Tucumcari be an official stop for an event like this gives residents an opportunity to view the wonderful cars, meet the drivers and be part of an amazing event.
This event not only brings joy to the residents of Tucumcari but to all those who are traveling along Interstate 40 to see the many different classic and vintage cars traveling on the road, said Mayor Robert Lumpkin.
“I want to say thank you for bringing this event to our community,” Lumpkin said.
Lumpkin said while the eyes are all on the cars and drivers, he wants to send a special thanks to the organizers who set up today’s event. He said those staff, mechanics and personnel who keep the vehicles going and events running smooth deserve a lot of thanks.
“It is amazing to be a part of this event,” said Bob Sellernrick, of Jonesburg, Missouri.
Sellenrick said while driving in the race he and his navigator — Joe Davis, also of Jonesburg — have had the chance to meet wonderful people. He said just recently, he and Davis were assisted with a blown-out tire on I-40.
Sellenrick and Davis are driving a 1964 Ford Galaxy that has been restored and painted to resemble the patrol car driven by the characters Andy Taylor and Barney Fife in the TV series, “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Sellenrick said he restored the car, which included a Mayberry sheriff’s emblem and siren, because of his wife’s love for the vehicle. He said, “My wife thought it would be funny to have a car like that so I built one.”
Brett Stahl and his son, William, spent some down time waxing the 1941 Packard that Brett and brother Dan Stahl are driving in their third Great Race.
Brett said he and his brother are part of a four-team rally that is raising money for autism as they compete in the Great Race.
Also part of the rally are Stahl’s parents, Mary and Ted Stahl, driving a 1967 Pontiac GTO; brother Trevor Stahl and friend Josh Hull in a 1932 Ford Dirt Track Racer; and Thomas and Benjamin Karss, a father and son team from Berlin Germany in a 1934 Ford Deluxe Phaeton.
Brett Stahl said each day they receive their instruction on the route and stops they must make during the day’s race. He said they can be detailed instructions that must be followed and throughout the check point there are timekeeper who tell contestants if they are late or on time.
“Its not just a get-up-and-go race,” Brett said. “You’ve got to follow the instructions of the rally master.”
Brett is being followed for the second year by his wife, Sarah, and children as they make the cross-country trip.
“We do the sight-seeing for him,” Sarah said. “He spends his time looking at the speedometer while we take in the sights take pictures and show them to him after the race.”
The Great Race is a timed, controlled-speed, endurance race — not a top-speed race. Each vehicle entry must have been manufactured in 1972 or earlier and must follow a prescribed common route while attempting to maintain assigned average speeds.
The event runs from June 20-28 and the Grand Champion of the event will win $50,000, while the purse for the entire event is $150,000.