A 1917 Peerless Speedster (aka "The Green Dragon") turns 100 this year, and holds the title for the most consecutive Great Race competitions.

Block party

Take advantage of the chance to see 120 Great Race vehicles and hundreds of other classic cars at the Coker Tire cruise-in and Great Race block party on Sunday, June 25, from 4 to 8 p.m.

When drag-racing legend Don "Big Daddy" Garlits waves the green flag Saturday, June 24, in Jacksonville, Fla., 120 vintage car drivers will take off for a finish line in upper Michigan.

They're part of Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty, a controlled-speed endurance road rally on public highways in classic cars. The nine-day, 2,300-mile rally challenges and rewards the team with the greatest driving precision. Teams of two compete for the grand prize of $50,000.

The Great Race will travel the historic Dixie Highway, which stretches from Florida to Michigan. The 2017 Great Race planners have configured a route to cover landmarks all along the way before reaching the finish line July 2.

The road rally will stop at 10 cities along the way to showcase their classic cars, and Chattanooga is on the second day's schedule. Of particular interest to local race fans is that when the vintage autos roll into town on Sunday, June 25, their drivers won't head to the riverfront as in past years. They will stop at Coker Tire headquarters on Chestnut Street.

Great Race organizers say the decision was made to change venues due to predicted size of the turnout. They felt there simply would not be enough room in the allotted riverfront space. The Coker Tire crew plans to welcome the Great Racers with a slightly downsized version of its Chattanooga Cruise-In.

While the cruise-in portion of the Great Race lasts from 4 to 8 p.m., the first drivers aren't expected in until 5:30 p.m., continuing to arrive until about 7:30 p.m. Some streets around Coker Tire will be closed for the event.

Racers will enjoy a complimentary catered meal inside Coker Tire Museum, while cruise-in visitors will have other options for food and refreshments.

The goal of drivers in the Great Race is to match a pre-determined time, set by a special pace car, while following precise course instructions. But sometimes, just getting to the finish line is a victory in itself.

For example, a 1960 Plymouth Fury is making its rally debut after surviving the damages of Hurricane Sandy. The Fury is driven by Hagerty's female millennial team, driver Shelbie Buchanan and navigator Ashleigh Powell. They will trade technology for analog watches, maps and rally charts as they race against the clock.

Each stop on the Great Race is free to the public and spectators will be able to visit with participants and look at their cars.

"When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival," race director Jeff Stumb says.


ChattanoogaNow Sections