Ride, Repair & Repeat to victory

Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

Josh Hull and Trevor Stahl driving the ‘Stars and Stripes’ on one of their ‘better days’ of weather during The Great Race.

Without hesitation, Hull and Stahl, yet again, entered The Great Race, with excitement and anticipation for some of the most exciting adventures this side of the great USA.

Josh Hull and Trevor Stahl, ‘the Stars and Stripes kids’, joined 120 other driving enthusiasts from June 24 through July 2 this year for The Great Race. It started on Main Street in the Historic Springfield district of Jacksonville, Florida. “Famous drag racer, “Big Daddy”, Don Garlits waved 120 teams from all over the world, off at the starting line,” Hull shared.

The ‘Stars and Stripes’ car Hull and Stahl drove is a 1932 Ford Dirt track Speedster with a 21 stud Flathead V8. However, by looking at the car you notice that there is no top and it is opened wheeled. Hull shared that one of the most common questions they get is, “What happens when it rains?” He said, “Our response is, “We get wet!” “

With almost 120 vehicles registered, each entered their different categories; Rookie for newcomers, Sportsmen which is the bigger class, Expert if you have won a Sportsman division and then the Grand Champion if you have won a race in the past. They also have a division set up for High School and College drivers.

This is Hull and Stahl’s 3rd year driving the race but their first in the ‘Expert’ Division. “Last year we were in Sportsman Division,” Hull said. “Some people have been racing in Sportsman their whole career and some for over 30 years or so.”

This year’s race followed the route of the Historic Dixie Highway. The Dixie Highway travels north and south through seven states, from Florida to Michigan.

The Great Race was started in the early 80’s by Tom McRae, who was a car enthusiast by nature. His teammates shared he was also an enthusiast of life. “McRae founded the race on the basis of honoring families, our great country and most importantly, God for making all things possible as he was diligent in saying a prayer in every city to bless the participants and everyone involved in each event as praising the Lord was a staple in his operation,” his friends stated.

However, this race that McRae started is quite different. It is only for pre World-War II cars that weren’t originally built for interstate driving or driving over 55mph. The routes are mapped out through some of the most beautiful scenery the USA has to offer and most on backcountry roads that ‘suit the lovable antique vehicles better’.

Entry fees range from $1500 for students, $5500 for private and $7000 for corporate entries. The total purse was $150,000 with trophies and the Grand Champion received over $50,000 in cash and prizes.

Although McRae has since died, his vision for the event and his love for old cars still live on through the continuation of The Great Race through many drivers and under the new leadership of Corky Coker. The racers comments echo that each year is always exciting with new ‘twists and turns’ that provide a race filled with excitement as well as challenges for these racecar drivers.

“I am the owner of the stars and stripes car as well as navigator,” Stahl shared. “It’s also the most important position!” he added with a wink.

Stahl is originally from Detroit, but is married and lives in Montgomery County now. He is also the owner of Blacksburg Fit Body Boot Camp at 401 South Main Street in Blacksburg. “His father has a very extensive car collection of a few hundred antiques which are highly collectible and rare,” Hull said. “They also have a car museum in Chesterfield Michigan, just outside of Detroit.”

Stahl got into the race four years ago when it traveled from Maine down to Florida and his parents had a car in it as well as his two brothers. “I hopped in the backseat of my brothers 41′ Packard and road the rest of the way from Virginia to Florida with them to get the hang of it and learn the ropes,” he said. “I was hooked instantly and found a car to race the next year!”

Then, he said, that all he needed was to find a driver and that’s when he asked Josh to join him in the race that next year which went along Route 66 from Springfield, Missouri to the Santa Monica Pier in California. “I went up to Detroit with him three years ago for my 30th birthday,” Hull shared. “I guess his family saw my enthusiasm with vintage cars, so they asked me if I would like to go with them, so in a nutshell that’s how it happened!”

Hull added that he has always enjoyed old cars and racing. “I always wanted to race cars,” he said. “I work at a local dealership for a number of years and I also had my own detailing business on the side.”

Also, Hull is a part time paramedic in Craig County. Jim Cady, Craig County’s Emergency Management and Services Coordinator shared that, “Many of our EMS providers enjoyed following Josh with his cool looking American flag painted car, on a daily basis on social media.”

Hull has one son, lives in Botetourt County and is a Paramedic in Roanoke City. “I work for Craig, along with the people on duty 24 hours a day.” Hull said. “I wanted to be a firefighter since I was a kid.” He started volunteering at age 17, went to college and was hired on to Roanoke City in 2007. He has worked part-time for Craig County for almost 6 years.

Cady’s son is a firefighter in Roanoke city. “Cady Jr. was my first lieutenant when I got hired in Roanoke.” Hull shared. Hull also helped to paint and install dry wall with the restoration project of the new Fire Department building in Craig.

Hull and Stahl were very happy on their third day as they pulled into Bowling Green Kentucky and collected ‘2 Aces and 4 seconds’ for the day, “which made for a really good day.”

“In talking with Josh Hull after the race it’s very interesting how complicated it is for the navigator during the race to continually calculate speeds and times, as all must be done by hand,” Cady shared. ” He said there’s a lot of math work being done during the race and the drivers ability to be smooth and consistent during curves ,hills, traffic, cows in the road, etc. all has to be taken into account.” He added, “It has been a lot of fun to follow their success over the past three years.”

No two days were alike during their nine-day race this year. Still, both were hoping for a better finish than last year. “Last year’s race ended on a disappointing note for us,” Hull shared. “We were sitting in fourth place overall, until we cracked our head with four hours to go in the race.”

Therefore, this year, during the off-season, their team acquired two new engines, and were working on rebuilding them both. “We had one for our main engine and another for a backup,” Hull said. “However, two weeks prior to the race, our team noticed that the new racing engine had a crack in the block.” Luckily they were able to their back up. “The downside is that we were basically given a new car and no time to practice with it.” Hull added.

Hull shared that he and Stahl have truly enjoyed traveling through some of the States greatest landmarks. However they do not get to see a lot of it as this race is different from many. “I don’t really look at the road because my eyes are locked on the speedometer,” Hull said. “I have to keep the speedometer at the exact speed to complete that leg of the race and my navigator is busy calculating our exact speeds as we look for markers to turn.”

Because of this, Hull explained that each driver has to know his or her car well. Each driver has to know how fast their vehicle accelerates from 0mph to 10, from 0-15mph and so on as well as how fast it brakes. “If we are driving at 30mph, my navigator will start the stop watch and my job is to brake the car exactly to 15mph at the apex and accelerate to 40mph,” Hull said. “We have mathematical equations to figure out how to make up seconds lost as 1/10 of a second could mean the difference between fifth and first place.”

The drivers race to the time on their stopwatch. There is no odometer allowed on the vehicles, therefore they have to be not just good but exactly precise at following directions given them. The navigator who calculates time during every leg has to do so with expert precision. The speedometer on their ’32 Speedster cost them a mere $3000. “Our speed is accurate to millimeters per mile!” Hull explained.

Daily, drivers have the opportunity to win ACE’s which is a perfect score of driving from one leg of the day’s travels to another leg, reaching their destination with 0 seconds left on their time. There are several legs in one day.

The first day came to an end in Tifton, Georgia. “Not too bad as a 1st stage, we got three aces and four seconds for the day!” Hull shared on Facebook. “We were performing very well in the first four days against very stiff competition, the car handled superbly and the engine was very strong.”

The fourth day ended in Bowling Green Kentucky. The home of where the Corvette is built. They allowed the teams to take their cars for a lap around the Corvette Test Track. “This is a true bucket list item for any car enthusiast!” Hull exclaimed. “We finished the day first overall, and 3rd overall in the whole race, and collected ‘2 Aces and 4 seconds’ for the day, which made for a really good day.”

Hull and Stahl kept their friends tagged in by posting daily on Facebook. Many wrote messages back; “Love your posts as they are fun following your race!”, “Looking good!” and “Keep it up!” were some of them.

Hull shared some of what he remembered the next few days. “The next two days we started to slip back in position due to our speedometer loosing speed and we were eventually able to dial it back in and stay within the top five to top 10. However, the last two days we got wet. We were on our way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Also, on the morning of the final day as we were heading into Traverse City, the temperatures were in the 40’s and 50’s as well. It makes for a cold ride at around 50mph as there is no real way to get warm!”

They shared that throughout the race they visited many different locations for their lunch stops

and overnight stops. “The hospitality was wonderful at every location,” Hull said. “We found enjoyment in answering questions from the spectators, signing autographs, and letting the kids sit in our car.”

Their favorite location was Travers City Michigan, where the Cherry Festival was happening, which is one of the biggest festivals in the entire United States. It was also tender to Stahl’s heart as it was his home state. “I got to see a lot of friends and family along the way,” he said.

“I recommend that everyone visit the city during this time of year,” they both agreed. “It is truly one of the prettiest cities I, personally, have ever visited as the city sits on Grand’s Travers Bay of Lake Michigan.” They described many features. It holds many state parks and lakes and the main street is full of restaurants, brewpubs, and shops. The temp is in the mid 70’s with little humidity. “Also, they had a fair, accompanied by a huge air show that included sky divers, trick planes, and the Thunderbirds.”

“My favorite lunch stop was at our very own Stahls’ Automotive Foundation which you can check out at http://www.stahlsauto.com for more information,” Stahl said. “We have hosted all of the great racers and it was voted the “Best Lunch Stop” during the great race.”

“The last few days of the race, we got to meet and hang out with one of the biggest car guys on the planet, Wayne Carini,” Hull shared. “He also has one of the best automotive television shows in the world and you can find his show “Chasing Classic Cars on the Velocity Channel.”

The motto of the race is “Ride. Repair. Repeat.” “We do that plenty along the way!” Stahl said.

There is a second motto that says, “To finish is to win!” “It takes a team of mechanics to work on the cars during each evening and just getting to the finish line is a victory in our minds!” Stahl added. “Only 90 or so of the 120 cars entered, crossed the finish line this year.”

On the final day, they said they were greeted at the finish line by hundreds of thousands of people in the beautiful Traverse City, Michigan during the heart of the Cherry Festival.

They finished the 2,600-mile race in Travers City Michigan on Sunday July 2nd. “We were 7th

overall out of 120 cars, 5th in our ‘Expert’ Division,” Hull said. Also, the top the winners of the race were from the Expert division. “We also finished 3rd overall in ACE’s, with 12 and only mere seconds separated the top 10 teams.” They also received a plaque for day 3 overall winner. “And, lastly, we got the ‘Best Dressed’ award,” they said smiling.

“One of the biggest things we enjoy about the Great Race is the family type atmosphere,” they agreed. “Not just with the interactions with the spectators, but moreover, with our competitors, as we help each other every night to get our cars ready for the next day.”

They also follow each other on social media. “We also visit with them when we travel,” they added. “The Great Races have truly become an extension of my own family!” Hull added.

The ‘Stars and Stripes’ car has been in a number of classic and hot rod magazines and also has been on a tire add. “We have also been featured on the Velocity Channel as well,” Hull added. “Jay Leno has also posed with our car at a charity event.”

People can follow them on Facebook at Motor City Racing, where they can see cool videos, pics and follow them throughout their journeys.
“My parents, two brothers, and next year two sisters will be entering the race from Buffalo, NY to Nova Scotia, Canada,” Stahl shared. “It is a family affair as we are collectively called the “Spirit of Stahls”.” They also raise money for autism during the race and this year the Spirit of Stahls team raised over $40,000 to fight Autism, one mile at a time.

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