Central Magnet Car Club Competes in Great Race
Great Race competitor Jacob Hendrixson steadies the engine of Bonnie, a vintage 1953 Pontiac Chieftan

MTSU junior Jacob Hendrixson wanted to be around cars and work on cars when he started Central Magnet School’s Car Club four years ago.

“Now we want to race cars,” said Hendrixson.

Hendrixson will compete in his second Great Race June 22-30 from Riverside, California, to Tacoma, Washington. He is the son of Sheriff Lt. Barry Hendrixson.

Sheriff Sgt. Scott Culp, who is the school resource officer at Central Magnet, will drive the 1953 Pontiac Chieftan nicknamed “Bonnie” in the 2,300-mile race while students navigate.

The race “is not a speed race but a time/speed/distance rally,” stated the 2019 Hemmings Motor News Great Race website. “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.”

The lowest score wins. The biggest challenges are staying on time, following instructions and getting an old car to finish each day, the web site stated. The race is presented by Hagerty.

“Bonnie, she’s great,” Hendrixson said of the car. “She is in the best shape since 1953, maybe better shape. We’ve done updates.”

Culp said Bonnie needed an updated engine. Because of age and size of the 66-year-old car’s engine, they had trouble finding parts and a mechanic to repair it. Reed Grant’s Racing Engines of Kittrell rebuilt the engine in 1-1/2 years.

They swapped over from 8 volts to 12 volts and added a fan to cool the overheating engine and an electric ignition.

Because of the exact timing for the race, they borrowed a computer from Fredette Racing in Illinois to figure out the most accurate times.

The contestants use a map with directions.

“You have to be there at the exact 10th of a second,” Culp said, explaining any time early or later is added to the score. “A perfect score is zero.”

Central’s team consists of graduates Hendrixson and Chris Johnson, who competed in the 2017 Great Race with a stop in Murfreesboro, and Central Magnet School sophomore Aaron Guthrie in his first race.

“Chris and Jacob are seasoned professionals,” Culp said. “They’ve got to train Aaron when we get there.”

Hendrixson said the two others not navigating for Culp will look for road signs, keep up with the speed through stopwatches and relay information.

They’ve talked with other drivers and earned confidence, hoping for a first place win in their X Cup Class of colleges and high schools. They finished in second place in 2017.

Accompanying them will be Culp’s wife, Jenny, a Central teacher, and mechanic Dean Holland, his wife, April, and their two daughters, Maggie, a Central 6th grader, and Annie, a 3rd grader. They will drive Bonnie to California and back in an Enterprise-discounted price truck.

Culp thanked sponsors including the Antique Automobile Club of America, the Stones River Antique Automobile Club of America and the Murfreesboro Hot Rod Club Student Group. Mark Guthrie donated the shirts. Central Magnet School supports the race.

The car will be inspected Thursday. The drivers and navigators will receive a basic overview of rule changes and participate in the Trophy Run Friday to determine the winner if there is a tie at the end of the race.

They begin the race Saturday, June 22. People may get updates on the Central Magnet School Car Club Facebook Page or the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Facebook page.

Through the race stops, they will tour a museum featuring Steve McQueen’s 1968 Bullitt Mustang and the Redwood Forest.

Hendrixson is anticipating a “Great Race” experience.

“We will get to see that side of the country,” Hendrixson said. “Going to California and driving the backroads traveling on the West Coast will be an out-of-this-world experience, I feel like.”

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