About The PRDA
Everything Old is New Again
What Goes Around, Comes Around... and other Cliche's
By Brad Niemcek
We interrupt this exciting account of the ancient exploits by the flawless
founders of the PRDA to bring you up to date -- a little.
It seems we are not the only idiots interested in reliving the first running
of the Cannonball Sea To Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, first run 40
years ago, back in 1971. That's a long time, back when Brock Yates, the
Cannonball's creator, was pressing middle age but was at the peak of his
considerable literary skills. Today, he is older than God and spends most of
his time doing what wealthy old gentlemen do in upstate New York.
What is that, you ask. Actually, I have no idea. Or, at least I didn't until
last month (January, 2011) when the first of two massive articles on the
Cannonball appeared in CAR, an English car magazine.
Note: They still drive cars in England, so they still have magazines devoted
to them. Here, we have pickup trucks, SUVs and mini-vans and Toyotas that
rocket unexpectedly out of control, so there are no American car magazines
left -- at least not like Car and Driver in the day's Brock Yates was
raising hell. Just so you know, CAR seems in many ways like it was patterned
after C&D -- smart, literate and not afraid to occasionally be hilarious.
It is probably no surprise, then, that the editors of CAR decided to do a
40th anniversary "Cannonball Re-run." A writer/phtographer team, Matt Jones,
and Mark Bramley, were assigned the task of driving across the US of A,
maybe to see whether we have any anarchy left over here, and to meet as many
of the original Cannonballers as they could find and to write about the
experience. CAR ended up publishing 20 pages of Jones/Bramley material
most of which should some day be available online (at www.carmagazine.co.uk).
The editors began planning the trip with a question: Would Brock Yates be
willing to make the trip again? No he wouldn't, he sniffed, but perhaps the
CEO of Cannonball Enterprises, the family corporation, would.
Wait a minute! The what?
In case you didn't know, the Cannoball is by now only slightly smaller than
the Mafia. The outlaw race itself ran five times, then Yates wrote two
"Cannonball Run" movies and a "Smokey and the Bandit" movie, then the
Cannonball morphed into the "One Lap of America," now known as the Tire Rack
One Lap of America, then Yates got a bunch of us to help him write
"Cannonball!", the book. Now Brock Yates is not only older than God, he's
richer. (You don't think so? Tell me, who else do you know who is able to
keep a replica of a Novi Indy roadster, one of A.J. Foyt's old short track
cars, a motorized bar stool, and other priceless toys in his garage?)
So, Brock Jr., who keeps the magic alive (so to speak) was asked to make
the CAR re-run trip and as a result I finally got a chance to meet the
14-year-old kid who made the first ever cross-country trip with his dad.
Brock Jr. is a kid no longer, of course. He's a raw-boned, suntanned
50-something-year-old fast talker who now runs the Tire Track One Lap of
America annual non-race thingie from his home base in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Brock Jr. doesn't write terrific magazine columns, books or movies or do
television commentary like his dad once did, but he sure as hell comes off
as a carbon copy of his savvy, cynical old man. In fact, he does it better
now than Brock Sr. did back in his hey-day. But hey, that's what dads
want, ain't it?
So, my first encounter ever with Brock Jr. came in Indianapolis last
September during the Cannonball Re-Run thing. As had been arranged, Steve
"Yogi" Behr and I met Yates and the Brits for breakfast at the Charlie Brown
diner/restaurant, just a stone's throw from the Speedway. And after
breakfast we went there for a photo session, of course. The focus of
Bramley's work: a brand new "arrest-me red" Dodge Challenger.
We were aware that the CAR trio had earlier stopped in Pennsylvania to meet
Oscar Koveleski so we knew they'd be exhausted the time they got to us.
I haven't been interviewed by a magazine writer nor asked to pose for
pictures in a long time. It was fun. And I was reminded how outrageous my
old New York buddy, Yogi Behr, can be:
"When we stopped for fuel I'd have the gas hose pumpin' in one hand and my
hose in the other, then I'd toss ten bucks on the ground and leave. That
little trick saved us more than a minute we won by less." That was in
l972, of course.
I was not nearly as colorful. Jones described me as "a softly spoken,
well-dressed ex-PR exec, who retired to Wisconsin, where he pursues his
incongruous interest in beekeeping and maple syrup." So yes, I suppose I
found Matt Jones a pretty likeable guy too.
After about 90 minutes with us, the CAR trio was back on the road. They
stopped in Kansas where, at breakfast, Jones tried "muffins that look like
they've been sick on themselves."
And finally, they make it to California where they meet Tony Adamowicz and
that other guy that ran the Cannonball, Dan Gurney. As Jones quotes Brock
Jr. in summary, "If only for a few days, we paid a damn good tribute to the
Cannonball, and America's unfettered open road."
You can read about and see pictures from the CAR Magazine article HERE.
Chapter 1 |
Chapter 2 |
Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 |
Chapter 6 | To Infinite And Beyond...
Brad Niemcek. Used with permission. All Rights Reserved.