Pete and Vienna Barger, owners of Southern Distilling Co., will begin The Great Race on June 22.


A week before embarking on The Great Race, Pete and Vienna Barger held a cruise-in at their business, Southern Distilling Co. A large crowd enjoyed checking out the vintage cars, live music, whiskey tastings, craft and other beverages, food trucks, and distillery tours.

The event gave Pete a chance to show off his prized 1967 Pontiac Bonneville and talk about the Bargers’ upcoming adventure.

Starting June 22 in Owensboro, Ky., Pete and Vienna and their children — Trinity, CL, and Lily — will be participating in The Great Race. They will spend 10 days driving across 10 states before finishing in Gardiner, Maine. On the way, over 300 participants have destination lunch and night stops.

Vienna will be behind the wheel for The Great Race, and Pete will navigate.

The race was founded in 1983. Participants drive vintage vehicles and are judged on precision driving and navigation skills. Teams are scored based on their ability to arrive at specific destinations at precise times.)

There are five different divisions including the X- Cup (younger drivers), Rookie (first time Great Racers), Sportsman, Expert, and Grand Championship.

Pete, who is looking forward to the reconnecting with the friends he made last year, first learned of the race while he was in college in California. After it passed by his family farm in Mooresville in 2021, he started thinking about participating.

In 2023, Pete raced in the Rookie division.

“We are no longer rookies,” Pete said of the 2024 race. “We are ‘working class.’ ”

While he is looking forward to the journey, Pete is laser focused on a top finish. There will be beautiful scenery but getting distracted can cost drivers points.

“We don’t want to get lost … We have to be 100 percent focused,” he said.

Vienna will drive while Pete navigates. Overt the course of the race, they have to average 23 mph to hit their targets. Having a perfecting calibrated speedometer is critical, he explained.

“Being in the cockpit is intense,” Pete said. “There’s a lot of yelling going on. Teams actually win by seconds.”

Last year, Pete was off by 15 minutes.

To better prepare this year, he’s worked on prepping his car better and stocking the 24-foot travel trailer that follows behind. The “chase” vehicle has all the tools they need should they encounter a car problem. The goal, he said, is to win.

“I’m either going to celebrate or go to a corner and pout,” he joked.

If he wins, Pete will celebrate with a glass of his signature creation.

“I will be having a Pete’s Pontiac Punch,” he said, referring to his favorite bourbon creation.

Pete encourages everyone to follow their journey via Instagram. He will be posting regularly, including updates with photos.

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