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The Great Race passes through Brainerd lakes area on last leg of the route

The Great Race passed through BIR on Saturday, June 25. The race is 2,300 miles across the country and is a race of precision, not speed.

Cars competing in the Great Race make a stop at Brainerd International Raceway on Saturday, June 25, 2022.
Driver J Reinan and navigator Chris Brungardt, riding in a 1918 American LaFrance Speedster, arrive for a lunch stop during the Great Race on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at Brainerd International Raceway. The 2022 Hemmings Motor News Great Race is a time, speed, endurance rally for 1974 and older collector vehicles, starting in Warwick, Rhode Island, on June 18 and finishing in Fargo on June 26.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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The rain fell against and into the yellow 1918 American LaFrance Speedster as it rolled into Brainerd International Raceway on Saturday, June 25.

The car was driven and navigated by Jerome “J” Reinan and Chris Brungardt. Reinan, who grew up in Fergus Falls, was in the midst of his ninth year of participating in the Great Race. The race route changes every year, but this year it started in Warwick, Rhode Island, and ended in Fargo, North Dakota.

Reinan and Brungardt were the first car to pull into the raceway, but they were not the first place team. The two were given the honor since both of them are considered the “local kids.”

Cars competing in the Great Race make a stop at Brainerd International Raceway on Saturday, June 25, 2022.
Decals on a car competing in the Great Race show the route and stops along the way, June 25, 2022, during a stop at Brainerd International Raceway.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“They put us out first because we're the local kids,” Reinan said after they arrived for the pit stop. “So you get that honor when we're here. We're probably running like 90th or something, you know, but they put us in first because we're from rural Minnesota.”

The Great Race, which began 39 years ago, is not a speed race but a time/speed/distance rally. The vehicles, each with a driver and navigator, are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. They are scored at secret checkpoints along the way and are penalized one second for each second either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.

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This year, 132 cars registered and there were 120 cars left by the time they arrived at BIR. Cars built in 1974 and earlier are eligible to participate in the race, but a majority of the cars participating are much older than that.

“We measured it and we know exactly where they should be at any given time and they draw numbers for starting position,” race director Jeff Stumb said. “So everybody does the same route, but one minute apart. That's why you see cars still coming in after some cars have been here for an hour.”

The race spans over nine days in total and travels to 19 cities in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Competitors came from across the world, with cars shipped in from Japan, England, Australia, Germany, Canada and all over the United States.

Brungardt, who currently resides in Fargo, was in charge of navigating Reinan through all of the instructions. The two faced a few bumps in the road, but it hadn’t stopped them on their journey to finish the race.

“It's made it 104 years so it had, you know, it had some tire issues,” Reinan said of the Speedster. “One day, we had two flat tires on the same day and we only had one spare, so we had to kind of figure out how to get a second spare.”

Luckily for them, someone had an old Rolls Royce with the same size tube and they got some help putting on the emergency spare.

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Their car was the most primitive car in the race. It doesn’t have a roof, so the duo got rained on while on their route to Brainerd. The rain continued on and off Saturday morning and they were not expecting it. The two were under the impression tthe area would have clear weather, but the forecast was wrong. However, they didn’t pull over to put on rain suits. Instead, they powered through the precipitation in order to not mess up the competitors behind them.

“You can't stop on the course because you're being timed,” Reinan said. “You can't get penalized. I guess we could have pulled over, but the other thing is, the team that's behind us is currently in first place. And so we have to be respectful of them because we don't want to do something stupid in front of them that affects their time.”

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An exciting thing for Reinan is he had an entourage of friends and family following the duo from Duluth to Fargo. They traveled from different locations in the state to gather together and watch the two complete the last leg of their 2,300-mile journey.

Cars competing in the Great Race make a stop at Brainerd International Raceway on Saturday, June 25, 2022.
Spectators got a chance to check out cars competing in the Great Race on Saturday, June 25, 2022, during a stop at Brainerd International Raceway.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The Great Race concluded in Fargo on Sunday. The route and location will be different next year and more information on the race can be found at greatrace.com.

SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or sara.guymon@brainerddispatch.com.

Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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