The Great Race: Ponca City Youth X-Cup team seeks adventure of a lifetime

One of the most popular road rallies for classic car enthusiasts includes a special division for youth teams, and one of them hopes the event will be “the adventure of a lifetime.”

The Great Race, which pits two-person teams against the clock and against each other, begins on June 23 in Traverse City, Mich., and heads north around the Great Lakes – through 19 cities, two countries and four states – before finishing July 1 in Dearborn, Mich. Its X-Cup Division allows for the participation of high school/college/youth group teams.

J.D. Hanks, Dr. Paul Davis, Eric Riggs, Austin Radka and John Neisen

1930 Model A Ford pickup truck

Team/sponsor: Ponca City Youth Team

Car’s history: The pickup was purchased new in Pawhuska, Okla., by J.D. Hanks’ grandfather. Hanks inherited the car and restored it (the first time) when he was in college, and he drove it regularly for years. In 1998, Hanks and a group of his high school students took part in the Great Race for the first time, and he made it an annual event through 2006. This year’s Great Race marks the return of Hanks and the Model A.

Team: Recently retired doctor Paul Davis, who drove a Model A when he was in medical school (and still owns it), will serve as the team’s driver. Three teenagers, who serve together as altar boys at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Ponca City, will share navigation duties – 17-year-old Eric Riggs, who just completed junior year in high school; 18-year-old Austin Radka, who just finished his junior year and will serve as student council president next year; and 16-year-old John Neisen, who just completed his sophomore year and is next year’s student council vice president.

Hanks, the team’s coach and mechanic, restored his first car in high school and owns a number of Model A Fords, including a hot rod he built while in high school in 1964. Also in his collection: a 1909 Buick, a 1928 Buick phaeton, a 1928 Buick Model 47 Sedan, two 1932 Auburns and a 1927 Model 80 Pierce-Arrow roadster.

With 10 years of Great Race experience, Hanks knows what his teenage protégés are in for. “I want this experience to be the adventure of a lifetime for those boys. This all about getting young people involved in cars like this so that when people like me are gone, there will be others interested in preserving this part of Americana.”

Read next Up next: The Great Race: X-Cup team focuses on youth and skill

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