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STATESVILLE, N.C. (July 1, 2024) – As many participants admit, finishing the Great Race is a victory in itself. Vienna and Pete Barger did just that, driving their cherry red Southern Star-sponsored 1967 Pontiac Bonneville across the finish line in Gardiner, Maine, last week following a grueling 10-day, 11-state endurance race that began more than 2,300 miles southwest in Owensboro, Ky. 

Like most things, the Great Race is about the journey.

“It’s not a race for speed; it’s a time trial,” said Pete, who served as team navigator alongside wife Vienna, the team’s driver. “You’ve got to go stop to stop, checkpoint to checkpoint. It’s all about getting cars out of the museum, out of the garage, and putting them on the road and driving them.”

Following two days’ worth of mechanical woes, which proved too much to rebound from, the Bargers ultimately finished 47th in their division and 100th overall. But the husband-and-wife team did manage to bring home a pair of aces (perfect time) during the race.

“It’s a lot of fun but a little fatiguing,” Barger added. “You’ve got to hit the checkpoints at exactly the right time – you can’t be too early, you can’t be too late.”

With a field of almost 150 entries, the Great Race is a nationally renowned event that has been around for decades. 2024 marked the second year of the Barger family’s participation and saw the Southern Star team move from the Rookie class to the Sportsman division. In addition, it was the first time the brand moved into a sponsorship role for the entire series. 

“One of the coolest things about it is that you’re out in the middle of nowhere,” Barger said, “and you’ve got little kids and old people, and everybody in between, just sitting on the side of the road just waiting for you to come by because they’re so into it.” 

To kick off the event Southern Distilling Company held a massive Cruise-In at its Statesville distillery prior to the Great Race, which brought in more than 65 classic vehicles. Its Southern Star brand also unveiled a limited edition Great Race Single Barrel Cask Strength Rye Bourbon. The highly sought-after bottle was available only through online pre-orders or at the distillery. 

During the Great Race tour, the North Carolina-based distillery featured in-market activation in every overnight stop during the race, offering bourbon and car aficionados complimentary Southern-Star branded t-shirts, hats, cups and decals.