2020: The Golden Summer Of The Cannonball Run (Cannonball History Part 4)

In the fall of 2019, Arne Toman and Doug Tabbutt broke the Cannonball Run transcontinental record by racing from Manhattan to Los Angeles in 27 hours and 25 minutes. Learn the origins of the Cannonball Run in Cannonball History Part 1 or the founding of the ‘Fraternity of Lunatics’ in Cannonball History Part 2. Read on for the current Cannonball record.

In 2019, Toman and Tabbutt expected to hold the cross-continent record for a few years. Tabbutt even told his wife he’d finished chasing records. They had no way of knowing that multiple drivers would break their record in the 2020 Cannonball run.

Tragedy Strikes Cannonball

A Stolen VW Passat involved in an accident. FOTOPRESS/Ross Land. A record-setting Cannonball run Mercedes E63 was destroyed in early 2020.
Highway Accident | FOTOPRESS/Ross Land..

Toman took his record-setting Mercedes E63 AMG out to spot for other drivers on other Cannonball record attempts. (Read about his brilliantly camouflaged car in Cannonball History Part 3).

Then one night, he pulled over to take a picture of a team setting the diesel record. Tragically, a tractor-trailer driver dozing at the wheel veered off the road and smashed into Toman’s empty, parked car.

That winter, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, and the US shut down for quarantine. Both Toman and Tabbutt noticed the empty highways while running errands and wondered how much faster a record they would have set without traffic. Then, one day, they heard rumors that someone had shattered their record.

2020 Cannonball Run: Record Broken

400728 15: A truck speeds through the night February 6, 2002 on Interstate 15, west of Las Vegas, NV. Interstate 15 is a primary proposed route for transporting radioactive waste from across the nation to the proposed nuclear waste dump site of Yucca Mountain, located approximately 90 miles north of Las Vegas. Although the route would skirt around downtown Las Vegas, many residents dislike the idea of shipping 70,000 tons of nuclear waste over nearby highways and railroads. In January, the U.S. Department of Energy endorsed the Yucca Mountain plan. U.S. President George W. Bush could annouce his support for the plan as early as this week. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images). Many drivers use this highway to set the 2020 Cannonball Run record.
Interstate 15 in Nevada | David McNew/Getty Images

In April 2020, a team of drivers reportedly crossed the country in a 2019 Audi A8 in just 26 hours and 38 minutes, with an average speed of 106 MPH. The team reached out to veteran record holder, Ed Bolian, to verify their time. He and the anonymous team decided to keep the run under wraps to prevent quarantine copy-cats.

Someone close to the team posted their time on Facebook anyway. Amid outcry, they deleted the picture. After the drama, Bolian spoke out against quarantine attempts. He urged the ‘Fraternity of Lunatics’ to stay home, despite the tantalizing empty roads.

Fred Ashmore Shatters 2020 Cannonball Run Record

Ed Bolian and others had urged the “Fraternity of Lunatics” to not attempt records during quarantine. But deserted highways from sea to sea were too tempting for racers to pass up. A C2C champion named Fred Ashmore Junior rented a 2019 Mustang GT, removed the seats, and fitted it with the oversized gas tanks from his previous race cars. When his brother and co-driver proved too busy for an attempt, Ashmore set out solo.

Ashmore found the roads clear of commuter traffic and cops. But he encountered more tractor-trailers than usual. Despite having no backup driver or scouts, Ashmore spent much of the run at the new Mustang’s 159 MPH limit and maintain a 108 MPH average. With an incredible 130-gallon fuel capacity, Ashmore only had to stop one time. He met friends with a fuel truck near Tulsa.

Fred admitted that he became deeply paranoid with no sleep or rest, panicking about law enforcement while waiting in line to enter California. After setting a mind-shattering solo record of 25:55, he refused to rest until he had turned around and hurried back across the Nevada border.

The Cannonball Veterans Fight Back

A 2018 Porsche 991 Carrera T sports car driving on the narrow mountain roads of Col de Turini in south-east France, taken on January 15, 2018. (Photo by Rich Pearce/Total 911 Magazine/Future via Getty Images).
Driving at speed | Rich Pearce/Total 911 Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Toman and Tabbutt watched their record broken not once but twice. And still, they were retired and without a car. Then Tabbutt’s wife gave her blessing to one last run. Toman immediately tried out a Corvette but felt it was too flashy, and with two seats, they would have to give up a spotter. Another C2C racer offered his 2016 Audi S6, and Toman jumped at the chance. He was able to salvage electronics from the totaled Mercedes and tanks from another retired car.

Toman also outdid all his previous car camouflage. He reshaped the lights and the grill, painted the rims, and re-badged the Audi to create a convincing replica of an undercover Ford Taurus police cruiser.

With many states relaxing quarantines, cars were again flooding the highways, and the two drivers knew they were racing the clock. Chadwick, their 2019 spotter, was busy. So they recruited Dunadel Daryoush instead. They found themselves back at the Red Ball Garage in August, less than a year after claiming the transcontinental record.

The Unbreakable 2020 Cannonball Run Record: 25:39

During their 2020 run, Toman and Tabbutt ran into some issues with the unfamiliar Audi’s automatic lane-assist feature. They also had scares from law enforcement. A highway patrolman running radar witnessed them at extreme speed but left them alone. One of their spotters saw the same patrolman at a gas station moments later. Another eastbound patrolman encountered them doing more than 100 MPH but did not make a u-turn. 

The disguise of the Audi worked so well that one of their spotters even radioed frantically to warn them of an undercover cop on the roads. With the highways still relatively empty, the team maintained an average speed of 110 MPH. Toman and Tabbutt set an unprecedented second record: 25:39.

With the quarantine lifting and traffic back to normal, Cannonball racers will be hard-pressed to break 25:39. Some Cannonball enthusiasts have suggested the 2020 records be scratched. Others say these records should stand. Whatever the future holds for the Cannonball Run, 2020 will always be the golden summer of Cannonball records.

RELATED: How Did the Cannonball Run Record Start? (Cannonball History Part 1)