What is the Fastest Cannonball Run: Breaking Down the Record Drive

The Cannonball Run is an underground, unsanctioned race widely regarded as the ultimate test of endurance driving and navigation across the United States. Originating from rebellious car enthusiasts, it challenges participants to travel from New York City to Redondo Beach, Los Angeles, spanning approximately 2,906 miles. Notoriously, drivers strive to set record times, with the current fastest completion claimed to be 25 hours and 39 minutes, achieved by a team in October 2021.

A cannonball speeds down a track, leaving a trail of smoke and fire in its wake

Our collective interest often lies in the extremes of human capabilities and technology, and the Cannonball Run embodies both. While the exploits may dazzle aficionados, it’s essential to acknowledge the legal and safety implications. Public roads aren’t racetracks, and these attempts occur without official sanctioning, presenting significant risks.

We must balance our fascination with speed and prowess with an understanding of the responsibilities on the road. The Cannonball Run, though a tapestry of high-speed travel and carefully honed strategies, stands at odds with public road safety. It serves as a monument to car culture and an ongoing conversation on the limits of lawful driving.

The History and Evolution of the Cannonball Run

The Cannonball Run, born out of rebellion and the hunger for adventure, has morphed into an underground legend, testing the limits of both machine and man. We embark on a journey through its consequential timeline.

The Birth of an Unsanctioned Race

It began in the 1970s, conceived by Brock Yates and Steve Smith. Inspired by Erwin ‘Cannon Ball’ Baker’s coast-to-coast rides, the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, often simply known as the Cannonball Run, defied the conventional norms of the road. Initially a statement against increasing speed regulations, this unsanctioned race quickly became a test of endurance and speed across America.

Key Figures and Record Breakers

Over the years, many have sought to etch their names into Cannonball folklore.

Alex Roy, along with his co-driver David Maher, claimed a record in 2006, crossing the United States in just 31 hours and 4 minutes. This mark stood until Ed Bolian, Dave Black, and Dan Huang shattered it in 2013, completing the run in 28 hours and 50 minutes. Most recently, in 2020, the duo of Arne Toman and Doug Tabbutt, with their accomplice Dan Huang, set a new benchmark of 25 hours and 39 minutes.

Each record has pushed the envelope, showcasing the blend of cutting-edge technology, meticulous planning, and sheer driving grit.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Race

⚠️ A Crucial Note

During the pandemic, an eerie stillness on the roads presented an unprecedented opportunity. Some saw this as a chance to defy odds and set extraordinary times.

With fewer vehicles to navigate and less law enforcement on patrol, competitors like Toman and Tabbutt utilized this rare window to carve their path into Cannonball Run history. This period saw a flurry of attempts, as racers balanced the ethics of capitalizing on such a global crisis with their unquenchable thirst for the record.

The Vehicles and Equipment of Cannonball Records

The pursuit of the Cannonball Run record has always depended on a blend of high-performance vehicles equipped with specialized gear. Let’s explore how advancements in automotive technology and aftermarket modifications have contributed to setting new benchmarks.

Advancements in Automobile Technology

Mercedes, Audi, and Porsche have left an indelible mark on the Cannonball landscape by providing vehicles that combine speed, reliability, and advanced features. The 2016 Audi S6, with its turbocharged V8 engine, is a prime example. It delivers the horsepower needed to sustain high speeds across long distances. The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG stands out too; its balance of power and luxury makes it a formidable contender. Meanwhile, electric vehicles like the Porsche Taycan 4S are beginning to show their potential in endurance challenges, demonstrating that alternative energy sources can compete in high-stress scenarios.

Vehicle Notable Features
2016 Audi S6 Turbocharged V8, Quattro AWD
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Bi-turbo V8, Luxury Amenities
Porsche Taycan 4S Electric Power, High Endurance

The Role of Modifications and Equipment

When we embark on a Cannonball Run, stock vehicles are rarely enough. Modifications are crucial. High-capacity auxiliary fuel tanks ensure fewer stops for refueling, essential in a race against time. Radar detectors and laser jammers become our electronic eyes, providing a layer of defense against speed enforcement. GPS systems are not just for navigation; they track our progress, ensuring the most efficient route. Every piece of equipment is a strategic addition, aimed at shaving off precious minutes. The use of a police interceptor, often seen in the Ford Mustang GT, provides added durability and resilience under the stress of non-stop high-speed driving.

Key Modifications & Equipment:

  • 🛠️ Auxiliary Fuel Tanks: For extended range
  • 🚨 Radar Detectors & Laser Jammers: To evade speed traps
  • 💡 GPS Systems: For optimal route planning
  • ⚙️ Engine Tuning: To increase horsepower and efficiency

Legalities and Safety Concerns

When we embark on the challenge of a Cannonball Run, we navigate a maze of legal and ethical considerations. The aim for record-breaking speed directly conflicts with traffic regulations designed to ensure public safety.

Navigating Traffic Laws and Enforcement

We must acknowledge that exceeding speed limits is illegal. This violation can lead to encounters with law enforcement, including police officers who may use police interceptors or police scanners. The use of CB radios can inform us of nearby law enforcement, but this does not legitimize breaking the law.

Key Traffic Law Entities
  • Speed: Adhering to posted limits is a legal necessity.
  • Illegal Activity: Strictly, any form of racing on public roads is not permitted.

Driving responsibly and within legal bounds is a crucial aspect of roadway safety, and it is our responsibility to uphold these standards.

The Ethics of High-Speed Cross-Country Driving

The ethics of high-speed cross-country driving cannot be overlooked. We must consider the potential risk to others, understanding that our actions on the road can have serious, unintended consequences. Participating in unsanctioned events, like a Cannonball Run, inherently involves ethical dilemmas.

Engaging in High-Speed Driving: Reflecting on the potential danger to other road users before deciding to drive at high speeds is essential.

Our commitment to ethics should lead us to conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects both legal abidance and respect for the safety of everyone on the road.

Significant Cannonball Run Records

Record Breaking Moments

The Cannonball Run is an unsanctioned speed record from New York to Los Angeles. Pioneered by Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, the drive spans roughly 2904 miles, beginning at Manhattan’s Red Ball Garage and ending at the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach.


In November 2019, drivers Arne Toman and Doug Tabbutt set an incomparable record. Accompanied by spotter Berkeley Chadwick, they completed the journey in less than 26 hours—25 hours and 39 minutes to be exact, achieving an average speed of 113 mph.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Fred Ashmore claimed an impressive solo victory. He drove coast to coast in a rented Ford Mustang, modified the car for extra fuel capacity, and managed to shatter previous solo driver records.

We’ve also witnessed the 2904, a celebration of the more affordable approach to the Cannonball, where participants hone their strategy and endurance while adhering to a strict budget.

Electric Vehicle Record

As for electric cars, there’s a record for that too. A team has proven that even without the traditional combustion engine, a cross-country drive can be done swiftly, showing the potential for electric vehicles to compete in endurance challenges.

Top Speed vs Average Speed

While top speeds may peak interest, the average speed is the crucial factor for Cannonball records. That includes strategies to evade traffic and refuel quickly, demanding seamless coordination and precision from the entire crew.

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