‘Apex: The Secret Race Across America’ lifts veil on Cannonball and U.S. Express races
Tangent Vector’s second documentary debuts Oct. 20 on NBC Sports — because it’s a sport
A documentary that will shed light on the real coast-to-coast Cannonball Run races and U.S. Express races is coming to NBC Sports and iTunes this month, and it’ll be the first feature-length look at these “events” in almost a decade.
“Apex: The Secret Race Across America” will tell the story — narrated by Ice-T by the way — of the original Cannonball Run races of the 1970s in their heyday, when supercars and plain old cars equipped with all sorts of expensive equipment to avoid police detection set off from the vicinity of New York City, getting to Redondo Beach, California, some 35 to 40 hours later. Brock Yates was among the earliest supporters of the actual race and even wrote a book about it, even though he himself concluded that by the end of the 1970s suburban sprawl and increasing traffic had taken its toll on the landscape, making it harder to set new records. The last of the Cannonball Run races took place in the 1970s after the event had become too popular for its own good — a marching band was at one of the launch events — and when State Police agencies in basically every state between New York and California knew that racers were coming.
The later U.S. Express races of the early 1980s were advertised pretty openly in the classifieds section of Autoweek at the time, so if you were a subscriber, you could get in touch with the organizers and enter the race if you had the car, a co-driver, the skill and would not mind getting a few speeding tickets on the way there or perhaps spending a night in the slammer of some rural town.
By the early 1980s, the NY to LA time had been whittled down to the low 30-hour range, with the best U.S. Express time on the last race in 1983 set at 32 hours and 7 minutes.
“32 Hours 7 Minutes” also happens to be the name of a documentary made by filmmaker Cory Welles, documenting two attempts in 2006 by drivers Alex Roy, Dave Maher and herself as the third passenger. The film was released in 2013 amid a complex legal dispute between Roy and Welles, and well after the 2006 record run set by Roy. We’re not spoiling anything here by saying that Roy and Maher set a time of 31 hours and 4 minutes about a decade and a half ago and that he had been waiting to release his own documentary of the record runs for quite some time. Roy wrote extensively about his two attempts in a 2008 tome titled “The Driver: My Dangerous Pursuit of Speed and Truth in the Outlaw Racing World.”
Produced by Tangent Vector CEO and longtime Roy collaborator J.F. Musial, “Apex: The Secret Race Across America” will air on Sunday, Oct. 20th at 9:30 PM ET on NBC Sports, and will be available for purchase later.
“The film features interviews and footage of participants from the many eras of transcontinental racing including journalist Alex Roy (record holder/participant), SimCity creator Will Wright (record holder/participant), Indy 500 winner & racer Bobby Unser (participant), Cannonball Run writer/founder Brock Yates (record holder/participant), journalist Matt Farah, and many more,” Tangent Vector says.
If you’re a student of these races and have seen Welles’ film, you’ll recognize some of the footage of the U.S. Express runs and the successful 2006 run by Roy and Maher, but it’s the interviews with Yates and other participants that should be particularly juicy.
“The Secret Race Across America tells the true story of what happened after the Cannonball Run ended in 1979, the rise of the U.S. Express, and the seemingly unbreakable NY to LA 32-hour record set in 1983, when FBI scrutiny forced an end to the secretive races,” the production company says.
A few years ago we attended a gathering of the past Cannonball and U.S. Express participants and their cars in Greenwich, CT, on the eve of Greenwich Concours, and heard priceless stories.
If these NY to LA races seem like a thing of the past … let us assure you that they are not and that there are still attempts every year to set new records. They just don’t advertise these things in the back of Autoweek anymore — the Cannonball community keeps it a little quieter these days.