For some people, the Cannonball Run is a set of entertaining and ridiculous Burt Reynolds movies from the 1980s. To others, it’s an epic annual adventure across the United States and beyond. But what is it and how did it get started?
A Cannonball Run, or Cannonballing, is traditionally driving from New York City to Los Angeles in the shortest amount of time possible. It got started by Indiana-born racer Erwin “Cannonball” Baker in 1914. Baker—who received the nickname from a journalist comparing him to the Illinois Central Railroad’s Cannonball locomotive—rode a motorcycle across the U.S. in a then record breaking 11-day trek. In 1933, he set another record. This time driving a Graham-Paige car from NYC to LA in approximately two days and five hours, a record that would stand for some 40 years.
After a hiatus, interest in the Cannonball adventure was renewed during the 1970s. Car and Driver magazine editor Brock Yates organized Cannonball Run races from 1971-1979 that had just one rule. “All competitors will drive any vehicle of their choosing, over any route, at any speed they judge practical, between the starting point and destination,” said Brock. “The competitor finishing with the lowest elapsed time is the winner.” Among the winners of the event was Le Mans winner Dan Gurney in 1972. The Cannonball races of the 1970s sparked the aforementioned “The Cannonball Run” movie from 1981 and “Cannonball Run II” in 1984. Since then, several other cross-country and cross-continent road rallies were established.
Ready to Hit the Open Road?
Today, the Cannonball Run (www. cannonballrun.com) is an annual event that takes different routes across North America. Its organizers describe themselves as: “A collective of like-minded individuals that want to drive unknown open roads, explore new cities and destinations, and share this amongst other Cannonballers. We believe in a notion that all cars and their drivers are created equal, and therefore we exemplify camaraderie to all. We embrace individuality, embody the movement that Erwin started, and now we will carry the torch.” Best of all, anyone who pays the entry fee can participate in the event itself. So we guess there’s only one thing left to say: let’s Cannonball!
2018 Cannonball Race
August 24 – September 3