News Culture

New “Cannonball Run” Spits on Founder Brock Yates’ Grave, Part Deux

The new “Cannonball Run” makes the Gumball 3000 look like The 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This is Part 2 of my series “Cannonball Run Founder Dies, New “Cannonball Run” Spits on His Grave.” Part 1 has proven VERY popular. Will there be a Part 3? Probably. There will be no direct linking to the offending site, however. They don’t deserve it.

I’ve never been a Civil War re-enactor, but I’ve met a lot. Union or Confederate, they’ve all got one thing in common. They believe in authenticity, down to period food and underwear. That means that the Union always wins Gettysburg. It also means that no matter how much they spend on period-correct clothes, flags and guns, they never claim they’re actually in the army, or fought in the Civil War.

This weekend I spewed 2000+ words of opinion-laden invective dissecting how a new event calling itself the “Cannonball Run” had betrayed the values of the original — and of American car culture itself — by pretending to be something it is not.

The list of those insulted is too long to print. The list of those profiting from spitting on Cannonball Run founder Brock Yates’ grave? Short, but I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of naming them. Whatever the legalities involved, my opposition is based purely on the event being a cultural crime. Now that it has ended with a Havana bacchanal, more outrages and hypocrisy have come to light.

It didn’t take much digging to discover how much deeper the hypocrisy about “honoring” its namesake goes.

The bottom line?

The new “Cannonball Run” makes the Gumball 3000 look like The 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Here’s my handy chart once again, with some updates and corrections, to get you up to speed:

*Take your pick: 1) According to eyewitness accounts. 1A) Some original event entrants had individual car sponsors stickers, new event cars wore event sponsor stickers, in addition to individual sponsors (if present), according to pictures. 2) Accounts vary. 3) We’ll never know for sure. 4) Discounts available, allegedly. 5) If the Bullrun or Gumball 3000 are guides. 6) Or so I was told. 7) Opinion, meet satire. 8) A lot of op, some ed. **Capitalism isn't necessarily bad, but it wasn't the inspiration for the 1971-79 race. It sure seems to be for the new one, though., Alex Roy

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the fresh outrages.

New ”Cannonball Run” Website Once Included Brock Yates

Not only is the new “Cannonball Run” site full of self-serving obfuscation and omissions, but changes over time suggest the most cynical hands lay behind the edits. Brock Yates is currently nowhere to be found, but that was not always so. A little poking around in Wayback Machine yielded the proof.

Here’s a paragraph from the site’s “Our History” section from March 2016:

Alex Roy

By October 14th, 2016, it was gone. What possible reason would the event organizers have to erase Yates from the history books? You decide.

It’s an interesting paragraph for another reason, because it combines fact and linguistic fiction with amazing and shameless agility:

“…forever changing…what modern car rallies are about…”

That suggests the original Cannonball Run was a legal rally — which is untimed — when it was absolutely an illegal race — which absolutely must be timed. This deliberate conflation draws a fictitious line back to the original, meant to convince new applicants (i.e. customers) that what they’re about to do is anything like the original, and that their five-figure entry fee is exactly that: the entry fee to become a “Cannonballer”, and part of that history.

FYI, the original Cannonball Run entry fee was $250. No five star hotels. No bottle service. No trophies. Okay. One trophy. Trophies are for winners. Races have winners. Luxury car rallies don’t.

As for Yates’s famous quote about doing 175 MPH, that was in the context of his 1972 record-setting run with co-driver (and F1 legend) Dan Gurney, which took 35 hours and 54 minutes.

“Ralliers” (SP?) doing 175 MPH for no reason en route to Key West?

Yates would smacked each one in the face with his John Surtees driving gloves, if any of them knew who Surtees was.

Also, Yates was an editor at Car & Driver at the time, not a reporter.

But wait, there’s more.

The “What We Stand For” currently looks like this:

Alex Roy

But it USED to look like THIS:

Alex Roy

Someone sure didn’t want Yates in there. Hmmmmm. Nice font change, though.

The “2016 Re-Launch” currently looks like this:

Alex Roy

But it USED to look like THIS:

Alex Roy

The organizers know exactly who Brock Yates is, and they’re trying to pretend he never existed.

Smell test? Failed.

Claiming Equality, But Literally Throwing Counterfeit Money At The Fans

You read that right. One or more new “Cannonballers” threw money at the fans during the Key West parade event. Not real money of course. Play money. Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo, and the bills are a little too realistic for some people’s taste. One particularly unhappy resident sent me a long story about the incident, which I didn’t believe until they sent me Key West Today’s share of the original post:

Alex Roy

The locals don’t appear too happy about this. Read the comments.

Were the new “Cannonball Run” organizers behind this? I doubt it, but that one of their participants finds it funny at all says everything about what this event represents.

Once again, here’s what the site currently says:

Alex Roy

I already tore this apart in my last article, but in the context of the fake-money throwing incident, we need to focus on one phrase, specifically, “We believe…that all cars and their drivers are created equal, and therefore we exemplify camaraderie to all.”

Whomever threw that fake money is clearly lacking in camaraderie and/or self awareness, because — when you’re driving a supercar through Key West and people are scrambling to grab those bills off the ground — someone should be asking themselves what message is being sent.

Is it “Let them eat cake”? Drop dead? Gotcha! Tricked again? Haha, suckers!?

It certainly isn’t camaraderie with the original Cannonballers, many of whom couldn’t afford a five-figure entry fee for the new one, or the drivers in successor events like Brock Yates’ One Lap of America, U.S. Express, 2904 or C2C. It certainly isn’t with the people lining the streets to watch an orgy of privilege, condescension and cultural appropriation.

Perhaps it’s camaraderie with the other new “Cannonballers.” If so, then the organizers have a major problem, for they failed to vet entrants for the appropriate spirit, because the spirit demonstrated here sucks. The organizers bear philosophical responsibility to discourage behavior that not only spits on Erwin “Cannonball” Baker and Brock Yates, but also belittles fans, old and new.

New “Cannonballers” Aren’t Like The Old Ones

You can’t “honor” the spirit of Yates by honoring the Cannonball Run movie. The movie was a comedy — beloved yes, but not necessarily a good one — which deliberately avoided depicting the reality, which is that endurance racing, especially on public roads, is basically like being in the submarine.

If you want to cross the country as Cannonballers did back in the day, you must remain inconspicuous. There are 10,000+ law enforcement agencies between New York and Redondo Beach. Driving 100mph+ “safely” for that length of time requires focus, skill, equipment, fuel cells and a lot of luck.

What you didn’t see is this:

Alex Roy/Facebook

That is a screenshot taken from the new “Cannonball Run”, depicting a female participant standing through a Lamborghini’s sunroof to take a picture, in one of three cars in a rolling roadblock “somewhere between Massachusetts and Florida.”

I could link to the participant’s Facebook and Instagram video posts, but again, don’t want to give them the traffic.

Needless to say, none of these “Cannonballers” would have passed Yates’ smell test for professionalism, which was — despite the mythology — at the core of his legend.

Here’s some more behavior that would have made Yates sick:

Alex Roy/Facebook

What’s that? A convoy of stickered sports cars? NOT CANNONBALL.

Alex Roy/Cannonball Run

How about a multi-colored, stickered Ferrari (i.e. ticket magnet)? NOT CANNONBALL.

Alex Roy/Cannonball Run

How about a Lamborghini that actually says “Cannonball Run” on the side? NOT CANNONBALL.

Alex Roy/Facebook

How about a driver (cleverly named Mr. Fantabulous) disguised as Italian police, arrested for 140 in a 40, bragging about it on Facebook using their real names WHILE THE EVENT IS STILL ONGOING? Nice operational security.


I think that’s enough for Part 2 of “Cannonball Run Founder Dies, New “Cannonball Run” Spits on His Grave.”

For the record, I have no problem with events wanting to honor the spirit of Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, Brock Yates, the illegal races of the 70’s, or the movies they inspired, as long as no one gets hurt. These events happen all the time. They’re called the Gumball 3000, Bullrun and GoldRush, among others, and I’ve done almost all of them.

I forgive their take on it because they’re not called “Cannonball Run.” They’re not pretending to be something they are not.

Let’s not bitch-slap what little authenticity is left in the modern world.

If you want to “Cannonball” you can do it almost for free, or the cost of gas. Rent a jalopy with some friends and drive cross-country. Do it in under 38 hours, send proof to someone in the private Cannonballers Facebook group, and voila! New friends, and part of history.

Just kidding. That’s illegal, and none of us would ever condone such a thing.

Alex Roy is an Editor-at-Large for The Drive, author of The Driver, set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record a BMW M5 in 31 hours & 4 minutes, and has set multiple “Cannonball” endurance driving records in Europe & the United States in the EV, 3-wheeler & Semi-Autonomous classes. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.