“To Finish is to Win” is the official motto of the Great Race organization. We are thereby winners! On a beautiful, sunny California afternoon, we crossed the finish line in Pasadena under our own power, over 4,000 miles and fourteen days after leaving Atlanta with no mechanical failures and no flat tires.
We were the 96th car in starting sequence this morning and we were on the road at 8:26 AM. We immediately got on the I-215 headed North toward San Bernardino. We exited on Devore Road and headed toward Glen Helen Park for our first timed rally segment of the day. It’s amazing to me that within a half-hour drive of downtown Riverside you can be in largely uninhabited mountainous terrain. Our first segment involved several low speeds (including a 15 MPH piece in which we nearly missed a sign) and in 43 minutes, we were 11 seconds late.
We were put on the N4 highway toward Palmdale. This turned into a very winding hilly road passing through the beauty of the Angeles National Forest. The scenery was exquisite; so exquisite, in fact, that we missed a sign at which we were supposed to speed up. As a result, we were 38 seconds late. In our excitement over realizing we had missed a sign, we neglected a delay at a yield sign, and arrived at the next checkpoint with a 31 second error.
On our last leg, we finally hit some hills that Winston simply couldn’t ascend at the prescribed speed. I obviously overcorrected on the downhills, since we scored a 14 second early checkpoint. And with that checkpoint, our cross-country rally had been completed. I must admit that my sense of relief was tempered with a sense of loss that this great adventure was coming to a close.
We transited to the beautiful high desert city of Santa Clarita and the Town Center Mall. What a reception! I was startled by trumpeters on each side of the car playing trumpet fanfares as we entered the gate. There was confetti everywhere. The crowds were terrific. There were dozens of local antique cars on static display (including a rare 1928 Plymouth model Q). And best of all, they fed us inside the huge mall with both breakfast items and Mexican cuisine. Guess which I chose…
After 2 hours in Santa Clarita, we left at one-minute intervals in a prescribed order for Pasadena – first on the I-5 and thence the I-210. That whooshing sound you hear is the traffic moving by at 80 miles per hour.
Tomorrow, we attend the awards banquet, load the car, and head east. We hope to make it as far as Phoenix by close of day.
To experience the Great Race, it takes only a little time, an entry fee, and an old car that qualifies, To describe the experience is much more difficult.
The Great Race organization is one of the most dedicated groups of people I’ve ever encountered. They are a living tribute to Tom McRae’s vision, energy, and leadership. This is an organization with a passionate mission – to get 100+ antique vehicles across the
This event is one in which there is an extremely competitive set of activities going on in an environment that feels like a moving family reunion. I saw many people who were with me on the 1998 race. We shook hands and hugged and got caught up on family news. Friendships are made and treasured in the midst of very intense competition. After all, there is in the background over $275,000 in prize money at stake.
One aspect of the event that I appreciate is its total commitment to what some politicians would like to call “family values.” If you look
I feel honored and blessed to have been a part of not one, but two Great Races. Margo and I are especially grateful, because as many of you know, she had a health crisis after the last Great Race that was certainly life threatening. We’re thankful that due to your prayers and a skilled surgeon’s hands, she is still with me to enjoy this experience.
Many thanks are in order:
To the Great Race organization and all the wonderful people who make the event possible, I send my thanks and appreciation for a job very well done.
To Bob King, who initially came up with the idea of doing this in 1998, inspired us to restore the Plymouth, and navigated on part of both years. He has also been a major contributor of the funds needed to do the race. To you, my loyal friend, thanks.
To Harry Jenkins, who funded the balance of the entry fee in this year’s race and suffered through 12 days cooped up with me in a steaming green metal box named Winston.
To Richard Wright and Robert Morris and their workers, without whom we wouldn’t have had a “bulletproof” car. This car has now gone nearly 9,000 miles in grueling conditions without a single mechanical failure on a Great Race!
To Margo, my wife of 23 years, whose tolerance for pain is evidenced by her continuing support of this insane undertaking. She has had to suffer through all the preparation fiascoes, the unplanned crises, and the demands of driving the support vehicle both times. We get spoiled by having our hotel registrations taken care of, our laundry done, our trailer repaired, etc. Thanks and love, Margo.
To Jerry Gregg -- support crew extraordinaire. Jerry helped us for a week in 1998 and drove the support truck for the first several days this year. He is an inspiration. He is tireless and has more common sense in his little finger than I’ll ever muster up. When Jerry’s with us, my hands are never dirty, because he takes care of everything. Thanks, Jerry.
To my employer, Camber Corporation, and the individuals I work for and with. The company has supported me any way possible. When I suggested to Stephen Kee that I might want to do this, he gave me his full support, even though I would have to be out for 3 weeks. There was no hesitation. Many of my colleagues have sent encouraging emails. Peter Flowers and Analda Anglin have worked to keep the Web site up. And Analda’s mother provided me with chocolate chip cookies (the gift that keeps on giving) in Indiana! Thanks to everyone at Camber for your support.
To my clients and colleagues in the Apache M-TADS/PNVS program at the Redstone Arsenal, my deep thanks for working around my schedule during this time. I appreciate your patience more than I can tell you.
To Jim Laurea, Pam Chismar, and Jared Chismar, friends who have tended to the old homestead while we’ve been gone. They have fed the dogs and cats, brought in the mail, and even kept the grass cut. Thanks to you all.
To all of our other friends who have sent letters, cards and emails of encouragement, thanks.
And to God, who has granted me the health and other resources to complete this adventure, all praise and honor.
Postscript from the Support Crew:
This morning the Support Crew slept in! After the Awards Brunch, we made good time to Phoenix through undescribable heat. After a late dinner, we crashed! Batty and Margo decided to get some more zzzzz’s.
Now we are eagerly anticipating our visit with Diane and Hal Johnson in El Paso. But I just had to stop a minute and add my thoughts to Bob’s.
First, I heartily endorse all of his thanks and gratefully accept his personal note to me. As many of you have heard me say, when we decided back in 1978 to get married, my prevailing thought was “It will never be dull.”
Also, those who know me will realize that my biggest concern is my pets! So I double the thanks to Jim and Pam and Jed for giving me peace of mind!
As we traveled this road, I had some time to reflect on what a chance in a lifetime the Great Race is. Along the way as we met people at the Parc Fermé, many expressed admiration and awe at our undertaking, and maybe a little envy. We have had the opportunity to realize what many people will only dream of doing.
And as Bob mentioned, in 1999 I wasn’t sure that I would be able to embark on another adventure of this magnitude. To all who have helped me with their medical skills, their prayers, their encouragement, and their love, I express my sincerest thanks. And to Bob, it has been the usual challenge coupled with some tense moments spiced with laughter, and another Mead Adventure! Love you…
The Great Race Press Release for that Day:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SO. CALIFORNIA RACER WINS
IN THE 19TH HISTORY CHANNEL GREAT RACE
Pasadena, California – June 30, 2001 – Three-time Great Race Grand Champion Wayne Stanfield of Anaheim, California, claimed a fourth Championship today as The History Channel Great Race roared to a finish on Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA. Stanfield, in a 1934 Roush Racing Ford Indy racer, scored an incredible 1.52 seconds off a perfect score of zero with rookie navigator Andy Massimilla of Stratham, NH. In the fiercely competitive $275,000 transcontinental rally-race, only three seconds separated the winners from two-time champions Rex Gardner of Stilwell, KS and Gary Kuck of Lincoln, NB, in the Carquest 1917 Hudson racer at 1.55 seconds.
"This is an especially sweet victory winning this close to home," an excited Stanfield explained. " It’s also a great victory for Jack Roush and the entire Roush racing team. It was great working with Andy and I’m sure he enjoys this as much as I do."
A spirited crowd of 10,000 Great Race fans cheered with delight as 94 vintage cars took the checkered flag. The ill-tempered old cars and trucks left Atlanta June 17 and spent the last two weeks struggling over 3,800 miles, 14 states, three mountain ranges, the Great Plains, and the Mojave Desert to reach the finish line in the world’s longest and richest rally-race. In a fitting finish on Colorado Blvd., formerly Route 66, two of the biggest crowd pleasers were a 1954 and a 1955 Chevy Corvette.
The $25,000 X-Cup high school division ran a tight race as 10 high schools and Boy Scout troops from across America competed in cars they spent the previous year restoring and preparing to make the cross-country trip. In the end, Bedford (Iowa) High School X-Cup team took first place with a best score of .57 seconds in their 1931 Model A.
Bob LaBine of Phoenix and John Marchisotto of Scottsdale, AZ, won Rookie of the Year scoring a 1.42 seconds in a 1955 yellow Ford T-Bird.
"The Great Race motto is ‘to finish is to win’ and every Great Racer is a winner in my book. This 19th running was spectacular," enthused race CEO and founder Tom McRae. "When we charted the course and booked the cities our hope was to create the best race ever. By all measurements it was."