May 17, 2020
(Disclaimer: UpNorth Motorsports and HTF Motorsports recommends saving speed for the speedway)
Eastbound and Down background
WAR crew chief Bob Alexander two years ago mentioned that a friend of his was involved in an interesting motorsports adventure. That was when I contacted Hancock’s Fred Ashmore Jr. and he told me about his involvement with cross country challenges related to the original Cannonball Run. The first was a single vehicle run by Brock Yates of Car & Driver, his son, Brock Yates, Jr., Steve Smith, and friend Jim Williams beginning on May 3, 1971, in a 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman van called the “Moon Trash II.”
Ashmore raced stock cars for several years with an extensive motorsports history racing four-cylinder cars primarily at Speedway 95 and helped crew a top fuel dragster in the Nostalgia Drag Race circuit for 8 years. His last stock car race was at the Last Chance Motorsports 150 event in 2012 where he won the four-cylinder class.
“The Bandit Run”
The 2020 challenge for Ashmore and his father, Fred Ashmore Senior as told by Junior:
The Route: While there is no determined Route. The route is designated as such. You must leave the parking lot of Atlanta Motor Speedway, drive to Texarkana Texas, buy Coors (not Coors Light), get receipt, and return back to starting spot. This is taken directly from the movie Smokey and the Bandit. Big Enis and Little Enis paid Burt Reynolds aka “Bandit” to bring back a tractor trailer load of Coors in 28 hours for an event. Coors was not available east of Texas.
Team 15:48 Held by Chris Hays of Ocala Florida (This was done outside the event)
Solo 17:48 held by professional drifter Taylor Hull out of Senoia, Georgia (This was done outside the event)
New overall record: 14:59 Fred Ashmore Jr & Fred Ashmore Sr. (Set within the event)
“On May 7th my father, Fred Sr, flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a spring visit to a home I purchased earlier this year. Since I was out of town on another excursion, he stayed in a hotel and I picked him up Friday morning. We packed our stuff and headed to the Oklahoma shop to prepare the car I rented for the other trip to accommodate the East Bound & Down (EB & D) event.
There were no crazy fuel cells, simply an Uniden R3 fully filtered and a 500 watt Ranger CB with a 10k Stryker antenna for communications.
With the stop at Semi Crazy CB shop in Tulsa to tune the antenna, it put us into Atlanta around 3am EST. The event was scheduled for the 9th, however many teams opted to leave early to beat the traffic.
After meeting another team from the north in the wee hours of the morning, I opted to sleep and get some rest before our departure. During our ride to Atlanta I discussed with dad what ideal times would be for optimal travel. I came to the conclusion that sleep was best and proper departure time was best used in our favor.
As I travelled to Atlanta knowing there were eight teams of seasoned drivers, I questioned the ability for us to win the event. The reason for questioning this was the fact I knew my almost 76 year-old father not only wasn’t able to drive at a competitive speed but wasn’t tech savvy enough to do much navigation and limited spotting. There was also four transcontinental record holders teamed up competing as well as a national drift champion Taylor Hull.
In the morning, I had ordered a sticker pack from one of the competitors, Timothy “Dat Sticker Guy” that awaited application. Our theme was simple and fitting. The Coors Light Silver Bullet stickers dressed the doors with “Big Fred” and “Little Fred” just below the window. This was like “Big Enis” and “Little Enis” in the movie. Fittingly the 2019 Mustang GT rental car was named Kilroy, echoing the movie when Bandit purchased a new Trans Am for the run.
With no extra fuel capacity, we departed at 8:45 AM and started making our way out of Atlanta. Through shared links, people can watch and figure your speed and times. For this I called on my brother, Arthur for updates on average speeds and target times to each city.
Our first few hours really set a good pace, arriving in Birmingham in around an 1-1/2 hours. As the day went on, our pace grew and I started to think, ‘We might be able to win this thing!’.
With two stops for fuel on the way to Texarkana, we realized the key fob to the car was misplaced on the last stop before Texas. We ran 49 North of Shreveport with little to no traffic. This was when I gave my father the thrill of his life and took him to a speed he had never been.
We made it to Texarkana, Texas in 7 hours and 5 minutes. When we pulled in for fuel and beer in Texarkana, the pump wouldn’t take a card, and I had to wait in line for fuel. There was no Coors but Coors light. We bought it and I fueled the car leaving the $15 change inside. We only needed to top off! We did find the keys under dad’s seat though.
We blistered out of that store to the next one, which had only one six pack of Coors left. Upon coming to the counter, a person was buying groceries with a card which they clearly knew had no money on it. So I bought their groceries to get them out of line, paid for my beer, and left Texarkana for the final time.
Our trip back started off decent. Route 49 in Arkansas really helped as a starting return leg, but Atlanta or as we call it, ‘Slow-Lanta’ was at the other end. Our main issue was catching the LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers) from behind. The average started coming down as we paced them for nearly an hour. Likely the car they were looking for was behind them.
During the event people always want to race. I have an objective when I drive, that the only thing I do is pace myself for my average and let those people go. Going through an area, a guy in a Challenger was one of those people. I let him go, and he’d back up to me.
About the third time, he came up on the right at a high rate of speed and out of nowhere cut us off and put us on the rumble-strips. We were fine and eventually this guy faded away in the mirror behind us. The damage was done though. The car picked up a vibration and several miles later traveling at a higher rate of speed the tire came apart.
I was initially bummed that our chances not pulling off an upset was over. I immediately exited looking for a place to change it. As we pulled in, the car drew attention of a bunch of workers in the parking lot. They helped jack it while we removed the tire and swapped it out.
I’m not sure how fast we changed it but there were people all over the car helping and taking pictures. We tossed the blown tire in the trunk and were away.
Many know my father sells used tires back home in Hancock, Maine. He was insisting I pull over and check the lugs after a few miles. With 368 miles to go we were now running sustainable speeds on a dummy donut.
Stubborn and determined, I refused to stop until we could get enough gas to make it to the finish. That came at the 300 mile mark.
Our pace had slowed but our mileage went up. I filled the tank which would give us a 30 mile cushion if I chose to run a little faster. As time went on and my brother reported our average had dropped to over 15 hours and on pace to tie the record. This was not satisfactory for my standards. I raised the speed and average up every chance I got.
We caught construction in Atlanta, my father’s one ride of his life was challenged. The dummy donut was taking the sustained speed and punishment I gave it as we made our exit at 3 digits. The 3 digit average over the last two hours had us pulling in at 11:44pm of the same night.
I showered my dad with beer and asked him how it felt to likely win our first race? He exclaimed. “I thought it was all over when the tire blew at that speed, but somehow you got it done”.
I wouldn’t have had it any other way I told him. We quickly realized our closest competition was approximately 2 hours behind our time and we had won setting a new all time record of 14:59.
Taylor Hull was there to congratulate us and the Northern team took the pictures. During the photos and celebration of just a few minutes I had remembered the car said zero miles to empty when I pulled in. Kilroy ran out of gas as we took pictures and had a celebratory beer with my friends.
We went to the hotel for a nights rest. The next morning we drove to Oklahoma and removed the electronics, driving light, and stickers from Kilroy then returned it to the rental car company. They never said a word and never even checked the mileage. A little less than 11,000 miles in 2-1/2 weeks. Unlimited miles, 2 tires for the back and a memory with my dad that lasts a lifetime, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Approximately 1360 miles
Average 92.2 MPH
Although I did all the driving, this is not considered a solo record, which is true and accurate to what us transcontinental drivers consider a solo run.
Best quote of the trip.
“Fred I thought you were going to take it easy? What’s your dad think of those speeds” I sent picture of him eating all the snacks.
Maine native on NASCAR team that wins first post Covid race
The NASCAR Cup resumed the 2020 racing season at Darlington in from of no fans in what was considered a benchmark race which would set the tone for the hectic schedule over the course of the next few weeks before more states open their states to spectator events. It certainly looked weird and as winner Kevin Harvick noted after doing donuts at the start/finish line it certainly sounded different.
During the race, the drivers and teams seemed tp adapt well to the unique situation they found themselves in. The race had a few glitches such as leader Jimmie Johnson tagging Chris Buescher, a lapped car on lap 89 only half a lap from winning the first stage. I have no clue why that happened. Johnson said he wished he could have that turn two run back again.
Harvick had the number one pit stall and used to to perfection along with very good pit stops by his crew.
Vehicle of the Week
Porsche Panzer Thunder circa 1973
Can Am 917-30
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)