Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, the winner of the first race ever at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a motorcycle race in which he rode an Indian), took off from San Diego on this day in 1914 in his first of many runs across America. He reached his destination, New York City, riding an Indian Motorcycle in just 11 days, smashing the old record by 9 days. After the incredibly quick run a journalist stated that Baker was faster than the Cannonball express train. The name stuck. To this day cross country races, usually unsanctioned and outlawed, are known as cannonball runs all across the world. In the 1970s Car and Driver sponsored five Cannonball Runs, none were official races, yet they gathered quite a crowd and allowed for numerous records to be set. They were conducted in protest of the 55 MPH highway laws that had gone into effect. Today the New York to LA record stands at 28 hours and 50 minutes set by Ed Bolian and team in 2013 driving a Mercedes CL55 AMG.
Erwin “Cannonball” Baker in New York with his Indian motorcycle after his 1912 international journey. Open source