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Cannonball Baker Sea To Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash

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The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, widely known simply as the Cannonball Baker or Cannonball Run, was an unofficial, unsanctioned automobile race run five times in the 1970s from New York City and Darien, Connecticut, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California.


Conceived by car magazine writer and auto racer Brock Yates and fellow Car and Driver editor Steve Smith, the first run was not a real competitive race, as there was only one team running, but intended both as a celebration of the United States Interstate Highway System and a protest against strict traffic laws coming into effect at the time.

Another motivation was the fun involved, which showed in the tongue-in-cheek reports in Car and Driver and other auto publications worldwide. The initial cross-country run was accomplished by Yates; his son, Brock Yates, Jr.; Steve Smith; and friend Jim Williams beginning on May 3, 1971. The first running was accomplished in a 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman van, called the "Moon Trash II". The race was run four more times, on November 15, 1971; November 13, 1972; April 23, 1975; and April 1, 1979. Jack May and Rick Cline drove a Ferrari Dino (05984) from the Red Ball Garage in New York City in a world's record time of 35 hours and 53 minutes, on April 23–25, 1975, averaging 83 mph (134 km/h).

A remarkable effort was made by American racing legend Dan Gurney (winner of the 1967 24 hours of Le Mans), who won the second run in a Ferrari Daytona. Gurney said, "At no time did we exceed 175 mph." With Brock Yates as co-driver, it took them 35 hours and 54 minutes to travel 2,863 miles (4,608 km) at an average of approximately 80 mph (130 km/h), while collecting one fine. Snow in the Rockies slowed them down considerably.

The record for official Cannonballs is 32 hours and 51 minutes (about 87 mph), set in the final run by Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough in a Jaguar XJS in April 1979. This New York to Los Angeles record was broken in 2006 by Alex Roy & David Maher, setting a time of 31 hours 4 minutes, as documented in the film 32 Hours 7 minutes. On October 19th 2013, Ed Bolian and his team, co-driver Dave Black, and passenger Dan Huang, made the trip in a Mercedes CL-55 in 28 hours and 50 minutes.

The 55 mph (89 km/h) speed limit imposed as an energy-conservation measure by the 1974 National Maximum Speed Law and in effect for the last two Cannonballs was actually faster than the quickest average speeds of point-to-point travels of Erwin George "Cannon Ball" Baker in the first half of the 20th century. In 1933, Baker drove coast to coast in a Graham-Paige model 57 Blue Streak 8, averaging greater than 50 mph (80 km/h), setting a 53-hour 30 minute record that stood for nearly 40 years.

After the original Cannonball races were halted, Car and Driver began to sponsor a legitimate closed-course tour, the One Lap of America. Outlaw successors in the United States, Europe, and Australia continue to use the Cannonball name without Yates' approval.

The race

The object of the Cannonball Baker was to leave the Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street in New York City (later a venue in Darien, Connecticut; the now-defunct Lock, Stock, and Barrel restaurant, located in the Goodwives Shopping Center), usually after midnight, and drive to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California in the shortest time possible. Those were the only rules.

Nothing was specified as to the route, type of vehicle, number of drivers or crew, or maximum speed permitted. There was a gentlemen's agreement that the vehicle entered would be driven the entire distance, not having it transported on another vehicle, nor having an identical second vehicle hidden near the finish, etc. Speeding citations received along the way were the driver's responsibility and did not disqualify the vehicle, although having to stop to receive a ticket increased the vehicle's overall time.

The Cannonball Run was technically a race in that the fastest time was declared the "winner" and the results were announced in order of time, but times were not taken very seriously. It was found that sheer speed did not guarantee a first-place finish.


The Cannonball runs gained notoriety after the 1972 run, but it was Time May 5, 1975 story on the Jack May and Rick Cline race that solidified it in the public consciousness. To the surprise of many, the hilarious reports in Car and Driver were warmly received by the press and the public alike, rather than being condemned for being reckless.

Reportedly, the worst "accident" that occurred in all of the Cannonball runs was spilled lasagna aboard a motor home which made the trip in 57 hours, as Car and Driver Magazine detailed the November 1971 running in their March 1972 issue. That article was reprinted in its entirety in 2005, being chosen to represent the decade of the 1970s in the magazine's 50th anniversary series of article reprints.

In his memoir book about the races (see References), Yates reports that in the 1972 event, an all-female team consisting of Peggy Niemcek, Judy Stropus, and SCCA racer Donna Mae Mims ("The Pink Lady") suffered a crash near El Paso, Texas, resulting in a DNF (Did Not Finish.) The book contains a first-hand account by Mims, stating that their Cadillac stretch limousine veered off the road and rolled over after the driver fell asleep at the wheel. Although the car was destroyed and Mims suffered a broken arm, no other vehicles were involved in the crash, and this was the only serious accident in all the Cannonball races.

Yates began working on a screenplay, to be titled Coast to Coast, but was scooped by two unofficial films in 1976, Cannonball and The Gumball Rally. Eventually, an "official" Cannonball Run movie was made — The Cannonball Run — starring Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise with Yates in a cameo appearance. Two sequels, Cannonball Run II and Speed Zone, followed. A later USA Network television program, Cannonball Run 2001, was given official approval to use the name.

U.S. Express

After the last Cannonball, Rick Doherty, a veteran of the 1975 and 1979 races, organized a successor, the U.S. Express. Doherty won the first U.S. Express with co-driver and famous game designer, Will Wright, at the wheel of a Mazda RX-7. Their time was 33 hours, 9 minutes. The U.S. Express ran to the beach in Santa Monica, making it longer than the Cannonball. Despite the increased length, the fastest time recorded was 32 hours 7 minutes in the 1983 race, 44 minutes faster than the fastest Cannonball, and the "official" cross-country record until it was broken in 2006. 1983 was the last year of the U.S. Express.

In 1981 the U.S. Express ran from Long Island, New York, to Emeryville, California (bordering Oakland, California, at the east end of the Bay Bridge). Interstate 80 was largely the route of choice. The winning team in 1981 was the first time Express team of David Morse and Steve Clausman driving Morse's gray Porsche 928.

One unique road hazard experienced in the 1981 run was an early snowfall closing the Donner Pass for several hours to vehicles without chains, just as the U.S. Express cars were approaching. Their Porsche 928 carried special plastic chains and was able to proceed, while others had to wait for the pass to open. The team of David Morse and Steve Clausman competed the next two years. In 1982 (also to Emeryville) they endured several memorable police stops, and in the final U.S. Express run in 1983 to Newport Beach, they placed second.


More than thirty years after the last official Cannonball, the issues raised, and the possibility of a full or partial revival, are still of interest to some motorists. Yates, in his book, recalled declining offers ever since the last race to revive the concept, and gave a number of reasons: It was unworkable, including increased police activity; increased legal liabilities on the part of any organizer; and increased year-round traffic and expanding urban areas, as well as warning of the obvious dangers of a race on public roads.

The Gumball 3000 gained publicity in the early 2000s as a similar event, sometimes held on coast-to-coast American routes, but paced over several times as long and with no time-based winner. While not a coast-to-coast event, The Bandit Run is a similar road marathon held yearly since 2007, when it marked the 30th anniversary of the film Smokey and the Bandit (produced by Hal Needham and starring Burt Reynolds, who would both make the first Cannonball Run movie four years later).

Alex Roy and David Maher set a new record of 31 hours and 4 minutes in October 2006. The 2008 documentary 32 Hours 7 Minutes documents the 1983 and 2006 record-setting runs.

Ed Bolian, co-driver Dave Black, and Dan Huang drove the 2,813.7 mile route from the Red Ball Garage to the Portofino Hotel in 28 hours and 50 minutes October 19–20, 2013, averaging 98 miles per hour, including the 15 minutes it took to get out of Manhattan in a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG. The drivers stopped three times for fuel. The car was equipped with two specially installed 22-gallon auxiliary fuel tanks in addition to its standard 23-gallon tank, a total of 67 U.S. gallons (250 L). As proof, Bolian presented the complete GPS logs, unknowingly recorded by GeoForce, a global field equipment tracking company whose services Bolian had acquired to track his car.

Motorcycle runs

Some of the previous motorcycle records between these two cities:

  1. Erwin "Cannonball" Baker drove his Ace motorcycle from LA to NYC in 6 days, 22 hours, and 52 minutes, in 1922.
  2. Well Bennet rode a Excelsior/Henderson in 1922 to cross NYC to LA in 6 days, 16 hours, and 13 minutes.
  3. Earl Robinson in 1935 did the run in 3 days, 6 hours, and 53 minutes.
  4. Rody Rodenberg and his record of 71 hours and 20 minutes, June 17-20, 1936, on an 1936 Indian scout. This was disputed by Dot Robinson.
  5. John Penton (of Penton racing fame)set a time of 52 hours and 11 minutes, for the Los Angeles to New York solo motorcycle run in 1959. The trek was made on a BMW R69S.
  6. Tibor Sarossy, at the time a college student, set a record in 1968 of 45 hours and 41 minutes. Tibor used a homemade fuel cell made of jerry cans, which allowed for a reported four fuel stops. He also claims he never slept, though he did pass out from a diet of Hershey Bars and coffee at the produce inspection station in California. He averaged 58.7mph on a BMW R69S.
  7. Fred Boyajian set a new time on October 11, 1969 with a time of 42 hours and 6 minutes. Fred used a beer keg to proved extra fuel. Evidence provided was Western Union telegrams at New York City and Los Angeles.
  8. George Egloff in 1983 set the record of 42 hours, recorded by witnesses participating in the event.
  9. Carl Reese left from West Valley Cycle Sales BMW Dealership in Winnetka, California at 3:15 A.M. PST on August 28th, 2015. Reese arrived at BMW Motorrad dealership in Manhattan, NY at 9:04 P.M. EST on August 29th, 2015. Traveling 2829 miles in 38 hours and 49 minutes, on a K1600GT BMW motorcycle. The trip was documented by notaries at both start and finish.

New era and electric vehicle records

In 1968, the Great Transcontinental Electric Car Race was held between student groups at Caltech and MIT. The Caltech team, led by EV pioneer Wally Rippel, converted a 1958 VW Microbus powered by Ni-Cad batteries. The MIT team converted a 1968 Chevrolet Corvair powered by lead cobalt batteries. The MIT team raced from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Pasadena, California, while the Caltech team raced the opposite direction. A network of 54 charging locations were set up along the 3311 mile route – spaced 21 to 95 miles apart. The race began on August 26, and ended on September 4th. Although the MIT team reached Pasadena first, they were towed part of the way. After assessing penalty points, Caltech was declared the winner with a corrected time of 210 hours 3 minutes.

With the introduction of long range EVs, such as the Tesla Roadster and in particular the Tesla Model S, coast to coast travel became more feasible. In January 2014, Tesla Motors completed the first coast-to-coast corridor in their supercharging network for the Model S. A team from Tesla Motors completed a 3427-mile route from Los Angeles to New York City run in 76 hours, 5 minutes. (Time included 60 hours, 8 minutes driving, and 15 hours, 57 minutes charging.) In July 2014, a team from Edmunds completed a slightly shorter 3331.9 mile route in 67 hours, 21 minutes. (Time included 52 hours, 41 minutes driving, and 14 hours, with 40 minutes charging.) The initial cross country supercharging route was sub-optimal for New York-Los Angeles runs, notably due to the link between Denver and Chicago running through South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin along Interstate 90.

Carl J Reese and co-drivers Rodney Hawk and Deena Mastracci took advantage of a newly opened corridor on Interstate 70 to drive the 3011 mile route from the City Hall Los Angeles to the City Hall New York City in 58 hours and 55 minutes April 16–19, 2015, a new record for EVs, in a 2015 Tesla Model S P85D. The drivers stopped 24 times for electric charging, with a total charge time of 12 hours 48 minutes. As proof, Reese presented 16 documents notarized on both ends, identifying drivers and 3 eyewitnesses: Matt Nordenstrom, Johnnie Oberg Jr, and Anthony Alvarado. Complete GPS logs recorded by GPSInsight (a fleet tracking company) were sent to Jalopnik, Guinness Book of World Records. GPSInsight provided GPS tracking equipment to the team to verify the event. Reese's team of 3 drivers broke Tesla Motors' (team of 15 drivers) previous record of 76 hours 5 minutes and Edmunds.com's (team of 2 drivers) previous record of 67 hours 21 minutes.

From October 18-21 of 2015, Deena Mastracci and Reese were joined by Alex Roy, with whom they beat Mastracci and Reese's prior record of 58:55 for an LA-NYC run in an electric vehicle with a total time of 57 hours, 48 minutes.

Semi-autonomous vehicle records

The first coast-to-coast autonomous record was set by employees of Delphi. Delphi engineers covered 3,400 miles, San Francisco to New York City, over a span of nine days.

Carl J Reese, Deena Mastracci, and Alex Roy set a new coast-to-coast record using Tesla’s new Autopilot function. The trio made the 2,995-mile journey in 57 hours, 48 minutes after departing from Redondo Beach, California, on October 18, 2015 at 9:15 p.m. PST and arriving at Red Ball Garage in New York on October 21, 2015 at 10:03 a.m. EST. The trip was completed with fewer than 14 hours of charging and 96 percent of the driving done by Tesla’s Autopilot system. This record was a first outside of manufacture testing, proving that automated systems can deliver people coast to coast safely in record time.

+ indicates winners
* indicates overall record


Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash Wikipedia

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