Sandhills Open Road Challenge

Technicians do one final inspection before sending cars off on the first leg of the Sandhills Open Road Challenge Loup 2 Loup race. The drivers go from Halsey to Purdum, then turn around and race back on the first day of racing at the SORC on Thursday.

HALSEY — The Loup 2 Loup race opens the Sandhills Open Road Challenge with 105 drivers taking the trip from Halsey to Purdum and back on Thursday.

The SORC began in 2000 with 34 drivers, and this year it will once again hit its limit of 120 for the main race on Saturday. The Loup 2 Loup was added in 2012 as a preliminary to the events and to expand drivers’ opportunities to race through the Sandhills around Arnold.

Ted Hughes of Seward is an owner of Hughes Brothers Inc., infrastructure manufacturers.

“My car is 2019 McLaren 600 LT, so it’s a new model for this year,” Hughes said. “It’s kind of a track version, it’s real lightweight and all that.”

The car has a 3.4-liter, twin turbo-charged, 600 horsepower engine.

“It’ll go,” Hughes said with a smile. “The SORC, I’ve been in every single one so this will be the 19th year. I’ve run the Loup 2 Loup every year also.”

Hughes said he has several racing cars and started road-racing Corvettes and Vipers.

“This is just something different to drive, just to play with it,” Hughes said. “That’s what it’s all about, to come and have a little fun with the car.”

Hughes Brothers will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2021.

“We build structures that hold up power lines that go across the country,” Hughes said. “We are 98 years in business right now. I’m third generation in a business that was started by my grandfather and his four brothers.”

He said the SORC event is about the people.

“We come up here and this race (Loup 2 Loup) will last 13 minutes for us,” Hughes said. “You don’t spend two days for 13 minutes. It’s all the people and knowing them, meeting them again, because they come from all around the country. I’ve made a lot of friends with this thing over 19 years.”

Nick Ekberg and his dad, Lyle, of Wakefield race enjoy the SORC as well.

“Our car is a ’65 Corvette,” Nick said. “It’s got a full roll cage and just a small block 327 in it.”

The Ekbergs have been to every SORC race and have competed in the Loup 2 Loup every year since it began as well.

“The people bring us back, hanging out with each other and just having fun,” Nick said. “We only do it once a year and we don’t do anything else anymore.”

He likes the challenges the Loup 2 Loup offers.

“It’s a pretty technical course and if you only drive it once a year, it’s always a surprise what’s up around the next corner,” Nick said. “It’s fun. I drive up and Dad drives back.”

Chad Riley of Omaha drives a 2008 Z06 Corvette.

“It’s pretty much stock, just added the safety equipment and lowered it a little bit,” Riley said. “This is my sixth time running the Loup 2 Loup and the 16th time running the SORC.”

Riley’s interest in racing was piqued as a young boy in the 1980s.

“I used to read Hot Rod magazines a lot,” Riley said. “There was an article in the magazine about the Silver State Classic in Nevada where they did this open road race. It just intrigued me to be able to take your car out and drive it really fast on public roads.”

The race in Las Vegas was something he always wanted to do.

“But then a friend of mine here showed me a videotape of what was going on out in Arnold, Nebraska, and I’m like, I’m doing that next year,” Riley said. “I got my car ready and did that.”

He hasn’t run any other road race, but said with all the curves at the SORC and the Loup 2 Loup, “it’s a lot more fun.”

Riley manages the IT department for Pinnacle Bank.

The schedule continues Friday with the One Mile Shootout at 8 a.m. just south of Callaway. The car parade follows at 2:30 p.m. in downtown Arnold.

On Saturday, the Sandhills Open Road Challenge begins at 8:30 a.m. with cars driving north out of Arnold to Dunning, then back again.

For directions and more information, the website sorcrace.com offers maps and schedules.