by Rob Mullner, Chief Enthusiast – JC Whitney
It was very early Saturday morning when the fear gripped me-what if we threw a party for lovers of $500 cars and the adventures awaiting them on the inaugural Gambler 500 and no one showed up at JC Whitney LaSalle, IL?
Fortunately, before I could ponder further and share my concerns with Toby, JC Whitney store manager, Eric, Truck Master General and Tom our videographer, the first few gamblers started to show up, on trailers and in clumps of two and three; the strange, the colorful, the questionably engineered and Sawzall modified vehicles started to arrive, park and drop by our coffee and donut stand for a dose of sugar and caffeine. It turned out that many Gamblers needed the boost; I heard multiple stories of all-nighters being pulled in preparation for the 6am kick off.
I had a few moments to chat with Jake, the lead facilitator of the Gambler 500 Illinois and we discussed the Gambler movement and how unloved cars were getting a chance to get back on the road, providing entertainment and a challenge to those participating. Jake and his co-conspirator Hank had participated in the Gambler 500 Iowa a few weeks prior and offered a few tips to the rapidly growing crowd. He strongly encouraged drivers and navigators to give each other lots of room and make sure and pick up any trash they encountered during the numerous stops outlined in the route book furnished to all participants. After that, Jake and Hank started releasing participants in small groups to keep traffic flowing and let Gamblers mix in with the general motoring public.
The JC Whitney Truck and Jeep were on hand to offer support for any Gamblers that got stuck, required tools or air and we ran with different groups over the 43 stops of the route book. We met lots of great people and enjoyed the instant camaraderie of this group.
We don’t have the space here to detail all of the stops in the very well researched route book and wouldn’t want to give away all of Jake and Hanks efforts to produce a very fun event. Please take a look at the picture gallery here to get a sense of the kinds of vehicles, creativity, scenery and terrain we encountered on the Gambler 500 Illinois.
After camping at Cordova Raceway Saturday night, the event wrapped up Sunday afternoon at JC Whitney and the group enjoyed each other’s cars and compared stories. Jake handed out trophies and JC Whitney gift certificates to the top 5 teams that had achieved the highest number of points on the elaborate Scavenger Hunt, Challenges and Bonus opportunities built in to the event. Yes, it’s true if you weren’t there you missed an excellent event! If Jake and Hank plan another event next year I can assure you JC Whitney will be participating and we hope to see you next year.