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The History Channel Great Race 2000

June 24, 2000

General video footage (5:42)
Interview with PRO DIVISION WINNER: #120 Dick Burdick (8:46)
Interview with SPORTSMAN DIVISION WINNER: #39 Billy Cothern (5:55)
Interview with Jimmy Doyle driving a 1946 American LaFrance Fire Truck (3:40)

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SACRAMENTO, CA – The past came alive Saturday for 25,000 fans on Sacramento’s Capitol Mall as 88 vintage cars took the checkered flag in The History Channel Great Race. One hundred cars took the green flag in the 18th annual 4,000-mile, transcontinental rally-race 13 days ago in historic Boston, MA. Drivers and navigators battled the elements, their fractious machines in a timed endurance competition for $275,000 in prizes.

Human spirit overcame major mechanical problems as driver Dick Burdick and navigator Wayne Bell erased a :05 second deficit on the final day of competition to deny two-time defending champions Rex Gardner and Gary Kuck an unprecedented three-peat. Burdick and Bell’s final cumulative score was 1:37 seconds off perfect rally-time for the transcontinental crossing. Burdick and Bell topped Gardner and Kuck in car #1, the Carquest/Centurion 1917 Hudson by :05 seconds.

It is the fourth championship for Burdick and Bell and the first in car #120, the Thermon 1916 Hudson Speedster. It was also the most difficult. The Hudson was beset by serious mechanical trouble most of the race. Fortunately for Burdick, championship scoring drops each competitor's worst two days. Burdick lost a transmission early in the race came into Peoria, IL on a wrecker. Four days later, the Hudson clanked into Cheyenne, WY with a broken ring gear. Just last evening, the Hudson was on jacks at midnight in the parking lot of The National Auto Museum in Reno, NV. Thermon’s 18-year veteran mechanic, Ray Terry, repaired a cracked overdrive housing.

"It was a tough damn race!" exclaimed Burdick, covered in confetti at the Sacramento finish. "The car held up. We had a long dry spell. The last time we won this was back in ’92 (they also won in 1989 & 1990)." "You can’t say enough about Ray Terry," noted Bell, who (along with Burdick) has never missed a Great Race. "He carried this car on his back. We were virtually out of competition and he kept putting it back together again." First place was worth $50,000 in prizes.

The X-Cup Division, exclusively for high school students, needed an algebra equation to decide the winner. After rally-racing for nearly 4,000 miles, White Water Tech Center of Connersville, IN

finished with in dead heat with defending champions, Oklahoma’s Ponca City High School. Both teams scored an identical 1:27 off of perfect time for the three-day championship run. The first tie breaker in Great Race rules award the victory to the oldest car, but both teams ran 1930 Ford Model A’s. The tie was broken by a special X-Cup rule which awards a handicap based upon the amount of vehicle restoration completed by the students. White Water Tech Center was awarded the victory.

"Folks, if you ever have the chance to do this, grab it with both hands," exclaimed instructor/driver Mike Sparks. "It’s unbelievable! I’m so tickled for the boys and for Connersville. They worked on this car all year." "I’m surprised we did it," said a dazed Chris Davis, who took his turn in the navigator’s seat for the championship run. "We made a wrong turn! I’ll never forget the towns, the sights, the scenery and how everyone comes together to help each other." The X-Cup Division teams will share $25,000 in college scholarships.

Great Race veteran Dave Reeder drove to his second championship, this time with navigator Jack Christensen in the cockpit of his 1934 Ford rumble seat roadster. Reeder, a GMC Dealer, won Sportsman Division in 1992. The margin of victory was a micro-thin :02 over good friends from Tennessee, G.R. Pike and Bobby Hadskey in a 1917 Hudson Indy Car. Reeder/Christensen were :33 off perfect rally time for a three-day Championship Run.

"I felt pretty good going into today," said Reeder, "but I thought they’d beat us. This moves us up the ladder and into the alligators (Pro Division)." Having won Expert, and the $30,000 first prize, Reeder and Christensen must compete in Pro Division next year.

The boys from Georgia dominated the Sportsman Division in a 1929 Ford Model A Speedster. Billy Cothern and John Williamson finished third in last year’s Great Race and came back to win the novice Division by :15 seconds over Corky Coker and his 15-year-old son Cameron in the 1937 Coker Special Buick Indy car. Cothern and Williamson scored :37 seconds off of perfect time for the three-day championship.

"I love everyday," shouted Williamson in the finish gate, "but I love this day the best!" Cothern/Williamson won $30,000 in prizes and move up to Expert Division.

A husband and wife team from Saugus, CA took Rookie of the Year honors in a 1957 Triumph TR3. The Hedkes bested Richard and Wayne Fredette in a 1932 Ford truck by :10 seconds. The Hedkes’ TR3 was one of the newest cars in the Great Race. Scores are handicapped by vehicle age, with older cars having the advantage, giving the Hedkes an uphill climb en route to their three-day championship score of :55 seconds off of perfect rally-time.

"We’re so glad to be home," said Janet after taking the checkered flag, "and what a better place to win than right here!" "It’s even better than anyone ever said it would be," said Steve. "Tom (McRae, Great Race Founder and President) really knows his stuff!" The title was worth $10,000.

The 2001 route for 19th running of The History Channel Great Race will be announced Sunday, June 25th.

In the past 17 years, Great Racers have logged more than 5,000,000 miles in vintage machines and been the center of free family celebrations in more than 650 cities on the North American Continent. More than 300,000 spectators attend Great Race stops each year. The total cash and prizes awarded exceed $3,300,000.

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