Coast-to-coast auto rally makes Valley pit stop

"Hip hip, hooray!" the announcer shouted Thursday to an enthusiastic Minden crowd waiting patiently on Esmeralda Avenue for the Great Race to make its way through the town.

Minden is one of the last stops of the National Guard Great Race, which began June 24 in Philadelphia, Pa., and will end Saturday in San Rafael, Calif.

The first car, a 1941 Ford, rolled into Minden at about 12:30 p.m. After that, the cars drove in one by one.

"One of the coolest things rather than seeing the cars is hearing them," said Johnson Lane resident Lyle Ottele.

There are 100 classic cars in the rally and the drivers come from all over the world, including a team from Australia and others from South Africa and the Bahamas.

"We've driven about 4,000 miles so far," said Los Angeles resident Franklin Murphy, navigator of a 1932 Ford Roadster. "The East is a lot different. Lots of trees."

The oldest car in the race is a 1911 Velie H1 Racytype from Murdo, S.D.

"It's the only surviving H1," said driver Howard Sharp, who has been a participant in the race for 15 years. "This is its last ride."

The car is sponsored by the Valley Cruisers Car Club.

"We don't get to choose which car we sponsor," said Valley Cruisers vice president Kim Schembri. "But we told the parking attendant that we want the oldest car in the race and we got it."

The race headed to Minden after leaving Tonopah at 6:30 a.m. It led the drivers through Benton, Calif.

"Benton was nice, but it was in the middle of nowhere," said Vallejo, Calif., driver Buck Kamphausen. "We had a good time in Tonopah."

Kamphausen and navigator Ty Holmquist have three cars in the race.

"We haven't had any misadventures," Kamphausen said of their journey thus far.

Frank and Doli Johnson from Carson City came down to the event because of their "interest in old cars."

"We have four old cars," Doli Johnson said.

NASCAR team owner Jack Roush made his appearance to a welcoming crowd.

"It's a real patriotic event, going from little town to little town," said Roush, driver of No. 16 Fusion Ford Taurus. "It's a great thing to visit with folks in the community."

Lunch was provided by the Lion's Club and residents from all over the Valley lined the streets of downtown Minden. Local organizations including the Douglas County Historical Society and Court Appointed Special Advocates also made an appearance.

After Minden, the drivers headed to Placerville for the end of the 12th stage of the race. Today the race heads to Colusa, Calif., and after that there are three more stops until they reach the final destination of downtown San Rafael, Calif.


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