Cannonball Run Racers Seize Quarantine's Empty Streets To Break Records

By Steve Goldstein, Lauren Gilger
Published: Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - 3:28pm
Updated: Thursday, June 25, 2020 - 7:53am

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Ed Bolian
Ed Bolian
Ed Bolian stands in front of the Mercedes he broke the Cannonball record with in 2013.

You may have noticed that for a couple of weeks during the quarantine the roads were totally empty. Daredevil drivers took notice as well — and used the opportunity to try to break an unofficial record.

The Cannonball Run is an illegal and off-the-books timed race from New York to Los Angeles. It began in the 1970s and features car enthusiasts motivated to spend 30-plus hours sitting in a cramped supercar with a co-driver, cruising at break-neck speeds and dodging speed traps on highways and back-country shortcuts.

For years, the record hovered around 30 hours, coast to coast, until the COVID-19 quarantines cleared out the streets.

In recent months, the record has been broken seven times as drivers soup up their cars with expanded fuel tanks and state-of-the-art police scanners and take to the empty roads.

The Show spoke with exotic car dealer and former Cannonball Run record holder Ed Bolian. He said despite what viewers see in the classic Burt Reynolds film, driving the Cannonball is more like going to the office.

“It’s really some of the least dramatic driving you’ll ever do," Bolian said. "You’d think with the speed it would be like the Dukes of Hazzard every moment, but it’s really not. It’s really much more a test of endurance but also, because you have multiple people in the car invested into a great outcome and avoiding all the potential negative outcomes — it ends up working out really well.”

Because the race ends in Los Angeles, many drivers find themselves racing through nearby locales.

“So Arizona used to be a pretty lenient state for speeding but obviously that is no longer the case," Bolian said. "So that is one place where any lawyer you talk to will tell you, ‘Do not get stopped for speeding.’ So certainly worth retaining a good lawyer if you plan on driving as fast as you can through there.”

The Show asked Bolian if driving during the quarantines gave these drivers an unfair advantage, if these records are legitimate or if they’ll be recorded with an asterisk.

“It doesn’t detract from the achievement, they still won the marathon, they still won the race, they still did the thing — Barry Bonds still hit all those and there’s all those balls on somebody’s mantle who caught them, but at the same time it’s not reasonable for somebody to approach the game today and think that outcome is feasible for them,” Bolian said.

The current record was set on April 5 by a team driving an Audi A-8 from the east side of Manhattan to Redondo Beach. Their time: 26 hours and 38 minutes.

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