February 19, 2002

Public Television to air special program about Henry Ford’s first race

Dearborn, Michigan – On a cloudy day in October just over 100 years ago, a then unknown and fledging car maker built and drove an untested car called “Sweepstakes” in a race against the premier auto racer and auto manufacturer of the time. In a dramatic upset, Henry Ford defeated Alexander Winton, which gave Ford the credibility to obtain financial backing to start Ford Motor Company less than two years later.

This David and Goliath story has been recreated in a new Public Television special, called “Race of the Century,” that will begin airing this spring. The program features renowned automotive experts, historians and authors, as well as key family members from both the Winton and Ford sides of the story, including Edsel B. Ford II, great grandson of Henry Ford and chairman of Ford Racing’s centennial.

“This was the first race car my great grandfather built and he was the undisputed underdog at the time,” said Edsel Ford. “He had never driven a car in a racing competition before, and he was challenging Alexander Winton, an established, successful automobile manufacturer, and the most famous racer in the United States at the time.”

Winton’s vehicle had an additional 44 horsepower over Ford’s racecar, but somehow Ford managed to stay close through the ten-mile race, which took place in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. In the seventh lap Winton’s car faltered and the unthinkable happened, Ford took the lead and went on to win the race.

“The story of Sweepstakes’ win cannot be understated. It truly was the race that changed the world, because it established Henry Ford in the automotive industry at that time,” Edsel Ford said. “This race gave my great grandfather the visibility to continue to pursue his vision of creating an affordable car. About 20 months after winning this race, he established Ford Motor Company and made his dream a reality.”

The one-hour program features historical and recreated footage and includes a dramatic re-enactment of the original race, which was taped following Ford Racing’s 100th anniversary celebration on October 10, 2001 at Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.

Other notable interviews in the production include James Alexander Winton and Charlie Wake, great grandsons of Alexander Winton; William Clay Ford, Sr., Henry Ford’s grandson; Winton biographer Bernie Golias; racing historian and author Leo Levine; Jackie Stewart; John Force; Carroll Shelby; and Dale Jarrett.

Airing schedules will be available through local listings and will be updated regularly on the Centennial site at ford.com beginning in late March.

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