Great Race rolls through Morgantown

MORGANTOWN — “Man, you guys got a cool town here,” Great Race Announcer Jason White said, extolling the virtues of Main Street, USA on a picturesque Monday afternoon in Morgantown. 

“And it’s about to get cooler by the minute.”  

With that, a 1916 Hudson Super Six Series H crept to a stop in front of his position near the top of High Street. 

So began a two-plus-hour rolling tide of more than 100 vintage, pre-1974 vehicles flowing into and out of downtown Morgantown as the University City hosted the Great Race for lunch. 

Morgantown served as the mid-day stop on day three of a nine-day, 2,300-mile race from Owensboro, Ky., to Gardiner, Maine. The short High Street layover broke up a 183-mile stretch between overnight stays in Marietta, Ohio, and Frostburg, Md. 

The Great Race isn’t about who gets to the end the fastest. It’s about time and endurance.  

Each driver and navigator team must use vintage equipment to get a vintage vehicle exactly where it’s supposed to be at the exact time it’s supposed to be there. They’re given a paper map and a long list of instructions 30 minutes before they roll out each morning.    

Brad Phillips, of Salisbury, Md., was behind the wheel of the aforementioned Hudson. 

“What a day. Position one and we got lost like crazy … It was a really interesting morning,” he said. “I love West Virginia. It’s one of my favorite states to drive in — lots of curves and hills. Plus, we were sweating to death for the past two days, so this 70-some-degree weather is magic. Love being here in West Virginia.”   

While there’s no doubt the motorized menagerie — including some exceedingly rare, museum-worthy vehicles — was the primary draw, the weather certainly helped things along. 

A large crowd filled High Street to appreciate both. 

“I’m just feeling excited, because if you look down High Street, the sidewalks are full of people coming out to see the cars and, honestly, to see Morgantown,” Deputy Mayor Joe Abu-Ghannam said. “That’s really what we’re putting on display here. The cars, to me, are the added bonus.”   

Abu-Ghannam helped steer the Great Race into Morgantown. He approached city administration about it last fall after Kevin Swisher, a friend and local car enthusiast, put it on his radar. 

“It’s just a beautiful day. Honestly, if I were to envision everything coming together perfectly, this is how it would look,” Abu-Ghannam said.  

The Great Race is projected to return to West Virginia in 2025. Charleston is currently slated to host an overnight stop during the nine-day run from St. Paul, Minn. to Lake Murray, S.C. 

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