Photo Courtesy of The Great Race

Southeast Arkansas vintage car aficionados are in for a big treat this month when The Great Race stops for lunch in Monticello. The Great Race, the world’s premiere old car rally, is expected to bring more than 100 antique automobiles to downtown Monticello on June 27 for the $150,000 event. 

The 2013 Hemmings Motor News Great Race, presented by Hagerty, starts on June 22 in St. Paul, Minn., as part of a “Back to the 50s” car show. It will then weave its way down the Mississippi River toward the Gulf of Mexico through 10 states, crossing the river a dozen times before the finish in Mobile, Ala., on June 30.

The stop in Monticello will be the first stop on the sixth day of the 9-day race. The cars will arrive from the overnight stop in Germantown, Tenn.

During the event, the downtown area of North Main Street in Monticello will be cleared of cars and barricaded.

The following street closures will be in effect from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on June 27:  North Main Street from Trotter to Oakland streets, Trotter Street from Bailey to Church streets, and Church Street to Main.

Public concessions will be available on Trotter Street and public restrooms will be near the corner of Bailey and Trotter streets.

The Great Race, which began 30 years ago, is not a speed race but participants are measured by time, speed and distance. Vehicles each have a driver and a navigator, and they are given precise instructions each day that detail every move that is to be made. They are scored at secret checkpoints along the way, according to a Great Race news release announcing the Monticello stop.

Race officials hope the cars all start and finish within one minute of each other.

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, organizers say.

The cars will arrive after noon at one-minute intervals for more than an hour and a half and stay for an hour each to allow spectators to visit with the participants and to look at the cars. It is common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look.

“When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival,” said race director Jeff Stumb. “Last year we had 25,000 spectators at the start in Traverse City, Mich., and another 15,000 people at lunch in Fairport, N.Y., on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during our 20 city stops.”

Cars built prior to 1969 are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. In the 2012 Great Race, a 1907 Renault and a 1914 Ford Model T were the two oldest vehicles. There were also two 1916 Hudsons, a 1916 Packard, a 1917 Hudson and a 1917 Peerless in the event and many of those cars are expected back again in 2013.

Last year’s winners, Barry and Irene Jason of Keller, Texas, drove a 1935 Ford coupe. The 2013 winners will receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse, based on 100 entries.

Over the decades, the Great Race has stopped in hundreds of cities big and small, from tiny Austin, Nev., to New York City.

After leaving Monticello the cars will head south to Vicksburg, Miss., for the sixth of nine overnight stops, eight of which are on the Mississippi River or the Gulf of Mexico.

The other overnight stops along the route are in La Crosse, Wisc., on June 22; in Davenport, Iowa, on June 23; in Hannibal, Mo., on June 24; in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on June 25; in Baton Rouge, La., on June 28; in Covington, La., on June 29; and in Mobile on June 30.

The other lunch stops are Eau Claire, Wisc., Dubuque, Iowa; Peoria, Ill.; Washington, Mo.; Paragould, Ark.; Natchez, Miss.; Crowley, La.; and Irvington, Ala.

The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae and it takes its name from the 1965 movie, The Great Race, which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The movie is a comedy based on the real life 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris. In 2004, Tony Curtis was the guest of the Great Race and rode in his car from the movie, the Leslie Special.

The Great Race gained a huge following from late night showings on ESPN when the network was just starting out in the early 1980s. The first entrant, Curtis Graf of Irving, Texas, is still a participant today and will be racing a 1916 Packard again this year.