OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – In the Summer of 2021, drivers in the Great Race passed through Owensboro on their way across the country. That race is returning in 2024, but this time Owensboro will be where the race begins.

“I always tell people that Owensboro is too big to be little and too little to be big, so that makes us just right,” says Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson. “And for them, this is just right.”

Organizers with the Great Race say they began planning for this event 18 months out, making the announcement just over one year away from the start of the race, scheduled for June 22, 2024. Owensboro joins the likes of New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles as previous starting locations. Race director Jeff Stumb says after passing through Owensboro in 2021, the decision to host was simple.

“We have 500 people in our entourage from all over the world,” says Stumb, “and they came here and were just overwhelmed with what they saw, what you have here. This is a jewel.”

The race will consist of up to 120 drivers, each with a navigator, who will travel over 200 miles each day for 9 days on their way to Gardiner, Maine. Drivers must also follow specific speed limits and routes along the way. Jean Ann Martin and her husband Gary, who have participated in more than a dozen races, will be making the trip from Simpsonville, Kentucky to Owensboro in 2024.

“There are people from all over the world. There are people from all over the country. They’re our best friends and we just happen to get together once a year to do this, so it’s a great time,” says Martin.

Drivers and crews are expected to practice around the city in the days leading up to the race. It is estimated those involved with the Great Race will stay in Owensboro for 4 to 6 days, something city officials say is a boost to area hotels, restaurants and businesses.

“This time of year,” explains Mayor Watson, “it’s right before the softball tournaments and all that stuff goes on, and Friday After 5 hasn’t started yet. So it kind of fits perfectly into a little gap for economic development.”