Just passin' through: Crown Rally brings $30 million worth of cars to town

High-grade cars wait in line for the drag race portion of the Crown Rally that visited Rantoul on Friday.

RANTOUL — Holding one leg of the event at an airport was one item on Crown Rally 8’s to-do list. Mission accomplished.

Drivers from 24 states and four Canadian provinces, with co-drivers from South Africa, Ireland and “all over Europe,” participated in the Rantoul leg of the rally Friday.

One hundred upscale cars ranging from Lamborghinis to Porches, McLarens and Rezvanis started Crown Rally 8 in Chicago, then made the trip to Rantoul on one leg of their late May-early June event.

“There’s about $30 million worth of cars traveling on this rally,” said co-creatorTom Busen, who called this rally “the dragon run.”

Starting instructions

A Crown Rally official gives a driver instructions before starting the drag race.

“We are going to the tail of the dragon in North Carolina,” from Indianapolis, where the cars headed after their frolic in Rantoul. From Indy to the state parks near Bloomington, Ind., then to Knoxville, Tenn., and on to the “twisty-turny” 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129 near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Crown Rally is a charitable event in addition to a chance for upscale car owners to get their machines out on the road with like-minded folks. Busen said this year’s goal is to raise $100,000 for several charities — among them the Epilepsy Foundation and The Shriners Children’s Hospital.

Crown Rally 9 will be held later this year and will take in Minnesota and Wisconsin, finishing in Chicago.

Few people knew the event was in town Friday unless they saw the myriad “Crown Rally”-wrapped vehicles making their way to the airport. The event was closed to the public, although a few people took in the goings-on outside the fence at the east end of the east-west runway.

The exotic cars all bore wraps featuring vinyl donated by 3M.

Guys with helmets

Helmets were required apparel for drivers and passengers in the drag race.

“They donate the raw product, and we use certified install shops,” Busen said. “Some people do custom wraps.”

Many of the drivers use clever themes like Team Mini that featured Dr. Evil and Mini-Me. Another car featured a “Talladega Nights” theme.

“Others do funky stuff like different TV shows and movies,” Busen said.

Seven motorcyclists from the Shriners Motor Brigade escorted the cars the 125 miles from downtown Chicago to Rantoul.

All of those attending partook of a hog roast.

Emergency personnel were on hand, including Rantoul Fire and Pro Ambulance, and several Rantoul police officers used radar to track the speed of the cars as they sped west down the runway.

“It’s not a competition or a race,” Busen said. “It’s a rally,  a chance to meet with different people you normally wouldn’t get to meet.”

Crown Rallies are invitation-only, and the car owners — who on average own three different vehicles — are all well-heeled.

Busen said the drivers get a lot of compliments from fellow travelers on their driving decorum.

“Our cruise is really open-minded,” he said. “It takes a certain type of individual to put 1,000 miles on a supercar.”

Most of the route does not take place on the interstate. He said the drivers love stopping in small towns to get gas and visit with the locals.

“Our goal is to do primarily back-road country diving,” Busen said.

In Indianapolis, the drivers attended a “big block party” featuring their cars in Monument Circle.

“We try to change up every rally and do new roads and different cities,” Busen said. “We have done full road courses, oval tracks, drag strips.

“Closing down an airport has been on our power agenda.”

Busen wouldn’t be surprised if the rally is back: “Everybody wants the air strip.”