Great Race makes a pit stop in Fort Scott

Thursday, June 24, 2004
Steve Moyer/Daily Mail Mark Dziwanowski and Troy Hughes, 2 Comics in a Car, cross the finish line at Fort Scott amid a cheering crowd of well-wishers. Dziwanowski has terminal pancreatic cancer and his final wish is to complete the whole race from Jacksonville, Fla., to Monterey, Calif.

By Steve Moyer

Nevada Daily Mail

Racers from all over the country came through Fort Scott Wednesday on the Great Race, a 20-year tradition with classic car enthusiasts. The race is not a speed contest but a rally competition where navigation and control is more important than how fast a car goes.

The competitors leave each morning for their destination with a list of instructions. If followed carefully, will get them at their destination at the specified time. Each competitor has different instructions so no one can simply follow another car.

Crowd favorites included the only all-female driving team, the Lacy Racers; a team of local men who are driving across country to promote awareness of pancreatic cancer, 2 Comics in a Car; and a team of men honoring Bill France Sr., Team Daytona USA.

The two local men, Troy Hughes and Mark Dziwanowski, both of Springfield, hope that by participating in the race they can get the word out about pancreatic cancer as well as fulfill the final wish of Dziwanowski to take part in the event.

"More research needs to be done. Pancreatic cancer has a 99 percent mortality rate yet less than 1 percent of research money is spent on this type of cancer. I want to change that," Dziwanowski said.

Hughes and Dziwanowski received a hero's welcome from the crowd who pressed around the car they were driving as soon as it came to a stop. Children and adults offered programs and t-shirts to the two for autographs and asked questions until the two were escorted to their lunch.

Bill France Sr. was a pioneer in auto racing. He founded NASCAR (National Association for Stack Car Auto Racing, Inc.) and built both Daytona International Speedway and Talledega Superspeedway. Some people have made the claim that France was the single most influential figure in American auto racing.

Bill Baxter owns a replica of the 1935 Ford V-8 coupe France drove in 1936. He and NASCAR historian Buz McKim, along with their wives and pit crew Jean and Gwen, hope they can do well in the race.

"It would be nice to be able to do well. Bill France was an important figure in racing and we wouldn't want to let him down," McKim said.

A local wellness clinic offered drivers massages in the lobby of the Scottish Rite Temple while dinner was being served in the dining area. Sponsors, including Nevada Daily Mail publisher Carl Simpson, met the drivers and navigators at the finish line, escorted them to lunch and got their pictures taken with the team and received a hat with the Brick Yard Rally logo as a souvenir.

Local craft makers and vendors of everything from pork rinds to barbecue ribs plied their wares to a large crowd of onlookers while the announcer gave a running account of the teams and their cars coming in to the finish line.

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