The Great Race makes pit stop in Rawlins

Rawlins Daily Times, Chad Abshire Driver Curits Graf, along with his navigator, Wayne Bell, pull out of Rawlins in a 1932 Ford Roadster after a pit stop in Rawlins. The Great Race stopped in the city for a lunch break Wednesday.

Rawlins Daily Times, Chad Abshire
Driver Curits Graf, along with his navigator, Wayne Bell, pull out of Rawlins in a 1932 Ford Roadster after a pit stop in Rawlins. The Great Race stopped in the city for a lunch break Wednesday.

By Thorn Compton

sports@rawlinstimes.com

RAWLINS — It was a flashback of cars at the historic Old Depot in downtown Rawlins Wednesday afternoon as The Great Race made a pit stop in Carbon County during the eight-day rally from California to Illinois.

Competitors from all over the country and the world are driving across America’s highways competing for the title of Great Race Grand Champion.

Steve Hedkey from Santa Clarita, Calif., is in his eleventh year of the race. He said he finished in fifth place overall last year and is currently in the running for another good finish.

“We are having a good race this year, we were 10th overall coming in today,” Hedkey said, standing next to his cherry red 1964 Studebaker. “We had a real good day yesterday; we finished in second overall and missed first by one second.”

The stop in Rawlins was just a lunch stop before the drivers continued their race to Cheyenne. Drivers had 60 minutes to rest up, use the restroom and grab some lunch before they were back on the clock.

Grandfather and grandson team Rex Gardner of Grove, Okla., and Kolton Hastert, 17, of Lansing, Kan., have been competing together since Hastert was 11.

“I’ve been here a time or two in years past,” Gardner said of stopping in Rawlins. “I’m positive we were here in ‘98. They all seem to run together after you do so many. I’ve been going since ‘85.”

Rawlins Daily Times, Chad Abshire Kouzo Uematu, navigator for driver Yasuo Isotani, waves from a 1970 Nissan C-30 after pulling into Rawlins for a lunch break during The Great Race. Hailing from Kyoto, Japan, it was the pair’s first time participating in the event.

Rawlins Daily Times, Chad Abshire
Kouzo Uematu, navigator for driver Yasuo Isotani, waves from a 1970 Nissan C-30 after pulling into Rawlins for a lunch break during The Great Race. Hailing from Kyoto, Japan, it was the pair’s first time participating in the event.

One of the international drivers, Yasuo Isotani from Kyoto, Japan, said the pit stop is much appreciated.

“We are very tired,” Isotani said after parking his 1970 Nissan C-30 for his lunch break. “We’ve been driving for five days now.”

An interesting part of this race is the fact that it features all classic cars. The youngest car in the race is a 1972 Jensen Healey and the oldest is a tie between three different 1916 Hudsons.

Isotani, who is participating in his first Great Race, said managing those older cars adds a little bit of drama to the race.

“The oil isn’t coming smoothly for us, so sometimes when we drive the mountainside the car suddenly stops,” Isotani said. “I try to call my friend in Japanese but he isn’t coming, so we just sit in the car and wait for it to cool down.”

For Hedkey, he said living in California and doing practice runs in the desert keeps his cars in shape for the race.

“The Studie is running really well,” Hedkey said of his Studebaker in its second race. “We’ve worked on it for almost a year making sure it can take the heat and rough roads and whatever got thrown at us. Where we live is real close to the desert where we practice, if the car can run there in the 100 degree heat it can run anywhere.”

The Great Race continues until June 26, where the 33rd Grand Champion will be crowned and $150,000 will be given away in prizes. Hedkey said his path to the championship couldn’t be easier.

“All we have to do is be perfect all the time,” Hedkey said with a grin.

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