Two guys drove from New York. to LA and back in 79 hours and 5 minutes

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In May 2020, as everyone and their brothers tried to beat each other New York to LA time, Chris Clemens and Mark Spence quietly and definitively set their own eccentric record. Not far behind Arne Toman and Doug Tabbutt, who finished recover a record who had been ripped from under them a month earlier, during the traffic-free days of the start of the pandemic, Clemens and Spence pulled up to the traditional Cannonball finish line in the parking lot of the Portofino hotel in a 1999 Mercedes-Benz SL500 coupe to the ‘narrow.

Where they took a five minute break, turned around, and walked over to the Cannonball start line at the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan. They returned to their starting point in 79 hours and 5 minutes, breaking a three-day record since 2015.

Chris Clemens

“For me, going coast to coast started out as a joke,” said Clemens, 40, who owns the car. “When you’re done driving from New York to LA, I think everyone turns to their co-driver and says, ‘Do you want to start over? “The joke turned into something we wanted to do, a different accomplishment than the normal cannonball.”

Clemens initially struggled to find a driver. A few people said they would, and then withdrew. Fred Ashmore said he would after he finished his solo race now record, and to his credit, he had planned to jump on a plane and fly back to New York to do it again, twice. But the corporate madness hit Ashmore as soon as she arrived, completely exhausted, at Redondo Beach. At the last minute, Clemens found himself without a co-driver.

When is it Ed Bolian, a former record holder who stands among the great self-anointed poobahs of the illegal transcontinental road racing community, recommended Mark Spence. Spence rode with Toman and Tabbutt to New York, where he jumped in the golden SL500. They all left at the same time in their respective cars.

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Chris Clemens

Clemens and Spence didn’t have that much leeway. “It’s not the best car, but it makes a lot of sense to me,” Clemens said of the golden Mercedes, which once belonged to a larger than life uncle he had been close to. When her uncle passed away and Clemens told his aunt why he wanted the car, she said it was something her late husband would certainly have supported.

“He was the stereotypical cool uncle who let me do everything my parents wouldn’t do,” Clemens said of his uncle, a 7-foot-350-pound man with a personality to match his stature. “When I was eight, he bought me a remote control helicopter that ran on nitromethane. He gave me my first tape of explicit lyrics, that of Mötley Crüe Dr Feelgood. Things like that.”

So Clemens and Spence took off in the family heirloom, which Clemens had arranged with all the goodies: laser jammers, radar detectors, infrared cameras for detecting cops, GPS tracking equipment for proof, all the goodies that have become popular. among the people who get into this sort of thing. For a while, they even kept pace with Toman and Tabbutt, taking advantage of the other crew’s vast network of observers. That is, until they were pulled over for speeding in Iowa.

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Chris Clemens

“Once we stopped there was no catching up,” Clemens said. “They were doing 160.”

Toman and Tabbutt were asleep when they got to the Portofino, which Clemens said was fine, as they weren’t tempted to cool off their heels by kibbling with their coworkers in the parking lot and losing their adrenaline as a result. There were a few hiccups on the way back: Nebraska sucked with deer; they were followed by the Michigan and Iowa police; and of course, the exhaustion started to take its toll. But they did it in one piece and now hold a record that few people are likely to want to challenge. Clemens said he felt so rushed when they were done that he simply dropped Spence off and continued to drive solo until he was home in Massachusetts.

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Chris Clemens

“It was a crazy experience,” Clemens said. “I will never do it again.”

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