By Aila Boyd
Josh Hull, a Botetourt County native and Lord Botetourt High School graduate, is currently in the process of participating in the 2019 Hemmings Motor News Great Race, a yearly event in which teams from all over the country travel for over a thousand miles in antique cars.
This year’s race takes the motorists from Riverside, Calif. to Tacoma, Wash. It started this past Saturday and ends this upcoming Sunday. Last year, the race was from western New York to Nova Scotia, Canada. Roughly 130 cars are making the northward trek this year. In order to be used in the race, cars have to have been made in 1974 or before.
Most of the participants come back year after year, Hull said, which is one of the reasons why it’s a “very close-knit group.” He added that they regularly work on each other’s cars, vacation together, and see each other at other events throughout the year.
Hull has been participating in the Great Race for five years now. He does so with his driving partner Trevor Stahl. The two initially started participating in the race when Stahl took Hull to Detroit, Mich. for his 30th birthday because he’s a big Detroit Red Wings fan and wanted to get to see them play. While there, he met Stahl’s father who is an avid car collector. In the past, Stahl’s father had entered some of his cars in the Great Race, which sparked Hull and Stahl’s interest in doing so as well.
“His dad said to him, ‘Hey, I’ve got you a car. All you’ve got to do is find someone to ride with you.’ That’s how it just took off,” Hull recounted. “Trevor asked me if I wanted to go on the race with him. I said yes, and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Hull does the driving, while Stahl does all of the navigating.
The car that Hull and Stahl always use is a 1932 Ford Speedster, which is a dirt race car. The car is an open cockpit two-seater, which sometimes proves to be problematic.
“We’re exposed to the elements. When it rains, we get soaking wet,” Hull said.
Last year, Hull and Stahl finished fifth out of 129 cars. Before that, they won the rookie division.
“We’ve been really lucky. We’re one of the top teams and we do really well every year,” he said.
Hull describes the race as being a “time precision endurance race.” The objective is to arrive at the destination at exactly the right time— not a minute early or late. In order to do so, participants have to keep track of time lost in turns so that they can make it up.
One of the instruments that Hull uses is a speedometer that cost $3,000 and is far more precise than the typical speedometer in most cars.
“I can’t waiver from the set speed because over the course of time, a thousandth of a second, a tenth of a second eventually adds up. That could be the difference between first or second place,” he said.
In keeping with the era in which the cars were produced, all of the equipment that is used throughout the race is “rudimentary.” The only thing electronic that the participants are allowed to use is a digital stopwatch. They can’t use calculators or cell phones.
Before the race began, the route was premeasured and pretimed. The information was compiled into a trip packet, including tables and instructions, and was given to the participants 30 minutes before the race began. Hull stressed the fact that maps are not included in the packets.
“The information tells us how fast we need to go and for how long. Also, some of the road signs will be really hard to see, so it will tell us to look sharp because it might be behind a tree or something,” he explained. “It’s very precise. It’s very nerdish to an extent.”
As part of the race, Hull said he will get to visit the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Redwood National and state parks, Crater Lake, the Pacific Coast Highway, and Mount Rainier National Park.
“The course directors have done a really good job of picking our routes. They make sure we go through some of the prettiest country in the United States,” Hull explained, adding that none of the roads are major highways. “We get to see the way the country was before the interstate system.”
When not participating in or preparing for the Great Race, Hull works as a firefighter for the City of Roanoke and as a part-time firefighter/paramedic for Botetourt County.
Hull has a 5-year-old son, who he hopes to eventually start taking on the races. He describes both his son and himself as being “car nuts.”
$150,000 in prize money will be given out at the end of the race.