The Great Race coming to Lowell on June 21

Deb Belanger from the Convention and Visitors Bureau just shared the following press release about a very interesting and fun event that will take place in Lowell on June 21, 2014 . . .

Great Race, Car 3

2014 Great Race to overnight in Lowell, MA on June 21

Lowell, Mass., will host an overnight stop of the 2014 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty, Saturday, June 21, 2014.

The Great Race, which began 31 years ago, is the world’s premiere old car rally. 100 cars will start the race in Ogunquit, Maine, and weave its way 2,100 miles over nine days down the Atlantic Coast through 13 states before the finish in The Villages, Florida on June 29.

The Great Race is not a speed race, but a time/speed/distance rally. The vehicles, each with a driver and navigator, are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. They are scored at secret check points along the way and are penalized one second for each second either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.

Cars start – and hopefully finish – one minute apart if all goes according to plan. 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. Cars built prior to 1972 are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. Over the decades, the Great Race has stopped in hundreds of cities big and small, from tiny Austin, Nevada, to New York City.

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, the Leslie Special, from the movie.

Mayor Rodney Elliott will be on hand to greet the cars as they arrive on Middle Street. “We are very excited to be hosting a first class car rally in the City of Lowell. This is the second time in the Race’s history to stop in Massachusetts and will bring hundreds of visitors to the City and is an economic boom to the downtown” said Elliott

The opening ceremonies will take place at the beginning of Middle Street at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday June 21st. The cars will make their way from the Lowell Connector to Dutton Street to Market Street to Middle Street, where thousands of fans can greet the racers and take photos as they arrive. The cars will arrive beginning at 5:00pm, at one-minute intervals for more than an hour and a half and stay parked until 8:00pm 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. All Great Race stops are free to the public. The Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Lowell are coordinating the plans locally.

Deb Belanger, Executive Director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chair of the Great Race Organizing Committee has been working with Great Race Officials since early April, 2013. “Lowell was a perfect fit for the overnight stop for the Maine to Florida Route. Race Officials found us through our website and liked what we had to offer. A final decision to choose Lowell took place after Officials visited us in July!”

“When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival,” race director Jeff Stumb said. “Last year we had 30,000 spectators at the start in St. Paul at the ‘Back to the 50s Route’, and another 10,000 people at the overnight stop in Cape Girardeau, MO. And a total of 250,000 people see the Great Race during our stops.”

The local organizing committee has been meeting for months planning this Vintage and Classic Car Showcase. The LOC is made up of members of local businesses including the Lowell National Historical Park, Merrimack Valley Car Club, Courtyard Marriott Billerica, Heritage Farm Ice Cream, Trinity EMS, Lowell Gallery, Lowell Sun, UMass Lowell Tsongas Center and local car enthusiasts. Day-long events include a classic car show, Cruisin’ Lowell, where car enthusiasts can show off and cruise the downtown footprint in their vintage vehicles, a vendor area for all things vintage and a kids area where kids of all ages can take photos with antique fire trucks, jeeps and more! All events are free to attend and great for families and folks of all ages.

Deb Belanger said “The organizing committee is expecting over 7,500 people from the New England Region to visit the City of Lowell during this event and expects over 400 classic cars during the Vintage and Classic Car Showcase prior to the Great Race arrival. The region is an active car community and having it on a weekend allows us to draw a large crowd of new visitors.”

In addition, area restaurants will feature photos from the first Car Race that Lowell hosted in 1908 when Lowell was trying to direct the attention of some corporations seeking a new location in which to build its car in this thickly settled section of the country! This event was called the “250 Mile Automobile Road Race”

After leaving Lowell the following morning, cars will head west for a lunch stop in Bennington, Vt. The other overnight stops include Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Valley Forge, Pa.; Norfolk, Va.; New Bern, N.C.; Wilmington, N.C.; Mount Pleasant, S.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla. The finish will be at Lake Sumter Landing in The Villages, Fla.

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. The Great Race will also be shown on speed network!

For more information on the Vintage and Classic Car Showcase, featuring the Great Race, visit If you have questions or would like to sponsor the event, please contact Deb Belanger, Greater Merrimack Valley CVB at or call 978-459-6150 ext. 115.

One Response to The Great Race coming to Lowell on June 21

  1. Joe S. says:

    That sounds like a big weekend in Lowell, as there is a food and wine festival and an MCC visit by Robert Redford, and maybe even some summer solstice celebrations.