A Brief History of the Cannonball Race Record

Since we discovered speed, the urge to dominate every lane, road, highway and circuit has only grown. This can be attributed to our innate competitive nature. Motor racing is one of the most popular motorsport activities in the world.

While races may vary from country to country, there is one thing that unites them all and that is speed and a chance to win the title. These include sanctioned and unsanctioned races. In our innate need to satisfy our need for speed, we have managed to deliver some of the strangest races and some that have changed our approach to automotive design, technology and the whole science of vehicle production.

One of the most popular unauthorized races in America is the Cannonball Run challenge. It’s a race that takes place in New York. It involves competitors running from the Red Ball Garage in New York to the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach near Los Angeles. This race has a distance of 2,906 miles.

To better understand how and why this race came about, here is a brief history of the Cannonball Run Record.

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What is the Cannonball racing record?

Cap of champion in Cannonball Run II 1984

Before we dive into the story, here’s a brief explanation of what racing is and what exactly it entails. The Cannonball run Record is a race that takes place in New York where participants run down an unprecedented street to see who can get from New York to Los Angeles in the shortest possible time.

When you hear or think of unauthorized races, you think of chaos and indiscipline. No more underground nitrogen tanks and people running away from the cops. If you watched the 1981 movie The Cannonball Run, you might have been misled. Racing, in reality, may be unauthorized, but it is far from chaotic or dramatic.

There is a lot of planning, diligence, attention to detail and acuteness brought to the race by all parties involved.

History of the cannonball race record

The Cannonball Baker Sea Memorial in Shining Sea

Going through:

The Cannonball race began in 1933 and continues to this day. The forbidden fruit is always sweeter and it can be said for this breed. How the Cannonball Run Record has managed to stand the test of time can only be attributed to the love people have for running.

Because it is not sanctioned, it is considered illegal and the parties involved are well aware of the ramifications that accompany participation.

For this reason, the winner of the race is never announced immediately. It may take up to a year for the results to be announced. This is because the statute of limitations for anything illegal about racing expires after one year.

The race was started by Erwin George Baker aka Cannon Ball Baker. He started the race setting records coast-to-coast in the United States. This was before he set the record from New York to Los Angeles in 1933 while driving.

It was different as he had previously only used motorcycles to set his records. At the time, motorcycles were a must because of the unpaved roads. During his 1933 race, Baker completed the race from New York to Los Angeles in 53 hours and 30 minutes.

It was quite impressive considering that 19 years earlier it had taken him 12 days to cover the same distance. The 1933 record was set in a Graham Automobile. When he finished the race it wasn’t really a competition and it wasn’t nicknamed the cannonball race. This only happened after the death of Erwin George. This was done to honor his contribution to motorsport and his unparalleled global impact on America.

RELATED: Here’s How Cannonball Run’s Record Improved Over the Years


Since Baker’s record of 53 hours and 30 minutes, things have changed. The roads are better and the cars are faster. New records are set almost every year. Some of the more popular Cannonball Run records include the current record of 25 hours and 39 minutes set by Arne Toman and Doug Tabutt in May 2020 in their 2016 Audi S6.

In May 2020, the Double Cannonball Run Record was set by Chris Clemens and Mark Spence in their 1999 Mercedes SL500. The solo Cannonball Run record is held by Fred Ashmore who won in June 2020 in a rented 2020 Ford Mustang GT.

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