Revving in the rain

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson A Clovis High School cheerleader waits Monday to greet a Great Race competitor on Main Street. Racers compete in the 4,000-mile endurance race across the country for the chance to win $270,000, according to race officials.

By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer

Through sunshine in central Texas and hail east of Clovis, 67 drivers raced in classic cars into Clovis Monday night on Main Street as part of the 25th anniversary of the Great American Race.

This is the third time the route has gone through Clovis, which has won the race’s Great American City Award twice, and would be the first city to win it three times if it wins this year.

Frank Currie of Anaheim, Calif., arrived in a 1910 Selden that he restored 10 years ago. Although his car had no hood, and hail stones fell inside the cab and dented part of the radiator, he said he had fun.

“When you think back over it, it was a lot of fun,” Currie said. “I still got a headache. It gives you something to do with your old car instead of parking it in the garage.”

Currie, who has raced for 19 years, brought his 21-year-old grandson, Cody, as his navigator. Cody Currie said joining his grandfather was a last-minute thing.

“We kept our time as we were going through the rain,” he said. “I’ve never seen hail that big in my life. I’m from California; we don’t get hail like that there.”

Jim Lewis, who works at Cannon Air Force Base, said he comes every time the race route includes Clovis, which is every five years.

“I’m just fascinated by old cars,” Lewis said. “Not this carnival stuff, but the cars.”

Vendors sold food such as funnel cake, burritos, sno-cones and corn on the cob to people walking by. Children jumped around in inflatable playgrounds.

“I want to drive the cars,” said 3-year-old Colton Cromwell.

This was Cromwell’s first time to see the race. His mother, Ginger, brought him and his brother to see their grandparents, who carried them.

“We thought the boys would love to see the old cars,” said Colton’s grandmother, Twyla Cantrell. “You can tell the local merchants put a lot of effort into it. It was worth it, even if we got a little splashed. It’s better than a museum, because you can hear them running.”

Local business owners and organizations hosted cars by building “pit stops” in which the cars could park. Jerry Lusk, owner of Clovis Bottlers, decorated his spot with mini-palm trees and took his theme from the Bobby Darin song “Splish Splash” to go with the city’s sock-hop theme.

Josh Voss from Walla Walla, Wash., drove a car sponsored by RM Auctions. Although he wasn’t the original driver, the 20-year-old took over in Grapevine, Texas.

“It was fun and scary at the same time,” Voss said of the storm before crossing into Clovis. “It’s amazing how many people showed up.
I’ve been to other places and it was like this and there was hardly anybody on the streets.”

Voss said the enthusiasm and turnout in Clovis was the best he’s seen on the race.

“When I came in, I was surprised because they told me, ‘Yeah, there’s people on the whole street.’”

After spending the night in Clovis, the drivers go through Portales today on their way to Albuquerque.