The Great Race team

Alfred State is once again gearing up for The Great Race. Pictured are 2019 team members Jordan Dunning (front row, right), and (standing, from left to right) Jacob Derk of Cattaraugus, Caryl Koch of Cuba and Hunter Mayne. Also pictured is Mike Sosnowski (front row, left), who assisted the group by making necessary electrical repairs to ready the team’s Mercury Medalist for the race.

For the fifth year in a row, Alfred State College automotive students will participate in the classic car competition known as The Great Race.

The annual race is June 22-30, beginning in Riverside, Calif., and continuing about 2,300 miles north until the final finish line in Tacoma, Wash. The time-speed-endurance rally includes vintage cars from 1974 and older, with around 130 classic cars competing this year.

The grand champion of the 2019 event will win $50,000, with the total purse being $150,000.

As it has in the past, Alfred State will participate in the X-Cup Division, which is designed for high school and college teams. This year, the Pioneers will be competing in a black 1956 Mercury Medalist two-door sedan.

“The car is a perfect example of a mid-’50s hot rod in the James Dean/Marlon Brando style,” says automotive trades professor Mike Ronan. “It has a V-8 engine and a three-speed standard transmission.

“The Mercury is on loan for the race from James Claire, of Hornell, a gentleman who has been key to our involvement in the classic car world as an avenue for students to learn more about this interesting hobby,” Ronan adds.

The ASC team includes returning team members Jacob Derk, a technology management major and heavy equipment, truck and diesel technician grad from Cattaraugus, and Jordan Dunning, a 2019 heavy equipment, truck and diesel technician graduate from Cicero, as well as three new members. They are Jacob Minkel, a 2019 mechanical engineering technology graduate from Attica; Caryl Koch, a 2019 motorsports technology graduate from Cuba; and Hunter Mayne, a 2019 motorsports technology graduate from Attica.

Serving as faculty adviser on the trip will be Greg Traugh, an instructor in the heavy equipment, truck and diesel technician program.

Ronan says that there are many reason why the college continues to participate in the annual event each year, including the national exposure and experiential learning opportunities for students.

“A special factor involves the support that classic car organizations have extended directly to students in the form of scholarships and grants,” he says. “Our involvement with The Great Race over the years has resulted in over $25,000 in direct support for students.”

Also worth noting is that the Alfred State team has become known as the “go-to” group for Great Racers when a problem with their vehicle arises, Ronan says.

“The team carries a full complement of tools, equipment, and supplies, and stands ready each evening to help out those in need,” he says. “The team often splits up to work on more than one vehicle every night, and can often be found working in the parking lot until 2 or 3 in the morning. The sense of accomplishment derived from these on-the-spot challenges has proven to be a powerful confidence builder as these students prepare to go into the world of work.”

For more information on The Great Race, visit

Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is