Solo coast to coast record setter averages 108 mph

Episode 321

June 21, 2020

(Disclaimer: UpNorth Motorsports and HTF Motorsports recommend readers save their speed for the speedway)

Maine man breaks two records in same rental car in one week

In 2015, Fred Ashmore was invited to attempt his first coast-to-coast transcontinental race fashioned after the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash in 1971 began by Brock Yates of Car & Driver fame. Ashmore was unsure what to expect and decided to use his Henry J.

That car was not up to the task so he used his personal shop truck. The time was a little over 49 hours. Ashmore said, “I had no idea what I had signed up for. I felt like an outsider looking in” as he arrived at the Portofino Hotel and Marina in Redondo Beach, California.

Fast forward to May 2020, you may want to review Episode 316 

In that episode, Ashmore rented a 2019 Mustang GT in Oklahoma and set a new “Bandit Run” from Atlanta Motor Speedway to Texarkana, Texas and back with Coors beer purchased in Texas. Accompanied by his father Fred Ashmore Senior they did the jaunt in 14 hours and 59 minutes.

What Ashmore did not reveal at that time was that he rented that Mustang GT  for a little over two weeks. The Mustang underwent a two day transformation at a garage in Oklahoma to get it ready for the coast to coast run in early May before the “Bandit Run”.

Received a visit from Hancock’s Fred Ashmore in his 1963 Ford Galaxy he ran in 2018 in the vintage class of the C2C event. That car features a 200 gallon tank which allowed him to go coast to coast non-stop. The car averaged 96 mph, 12 miles per gallon, and a new Pre-1965 record 37 hours and 15 minutes. We need an auto museum to show historic cars like this. (HTF Motorsports photo)

What I determined from a conversation with Ashmore in Caribou last week was that this attempt involved extraordinarily research and planning. Ashmore’s preparation included top speed of car, fuel mileage, fitting of tanks for about 130 gallons of high octane gasoline, construction along route, weather forecasts, and coordinating what he hoped would be a short pit stop at the approximate half-way point in Oklahoma.

The car selection process was not left to chance. Ashmore looked at three other cars before settling on the rental Mustang:

  1. Ford Taurus Police Interceptor…not fast enough
  2. A  wrecked Dodge Hellcat…at the speeds and distance he would be travelling the Dodge was known to have heat deformed front fascia and excess fuel consumption
  3. Dodge Charger Scat Pak…to many people knew what he intended to drive

The Mustang after the coast to coast record with extra tanks removed and interior reinstalled. This shot was during the Bandit Run only a few days later. Over the course of the rental, Ashmore put 11,000 plus miles on the unlimited miles rental. The car was for sale before the rental and was sold shortly after its return to the rental agency. The new owner has no idea of the car’s history.(Fred Ashmore photo)

Ashmore took two days at his shop in Oklahoma to add three tanks for fuel giving him a capacity near 130 gallons. The tanks drained into the main tank and allowed him to make it to Oklahoma for a “pit stop”. He averaged about 12 miles per gallon. He also installed electronic equipment that woul allow him to communicate with his brother and folks who would be at the pit stop area. (Fred Ashmore photo)

At 6:00 am on a non-disclosed day in early May, Ashmore headed west from Red Ball Garage in Manhattan for the traditional starting photo. Because the early morning traffic leaving the city would be light especially on a weekday, Ashmore made good time as he sped west. Many transcontinental attempts were on weekends when traffic leaving the city was heavy. That type of move was part of the detailed preparation Ashmore put into this effort.

At the speeds he was travelling one can hardly say the trip was uneventful, however, except for a few calls on the CB to ask trucks to move out of the way he zipped toward his pit stop. This did not mean he simply drove. He had to be his own spotter, looking left and right and behind all the time, communications person, and with help from his brother Arthur looking for unplanned or unforeseen circumstances ahead. He said the constant activity helped keep him awake for over 30 hours.

The “Pit Stop”

Off exit 211 Kellyville/Drumwright on Interstate 44 waited Grant Goss on right and Brady Mullins center with 150 gallons of high test pump gas. Their 20 gallon per minute pump allowed them to make the stop in under eight minutes. Ashmore estimated he received 127 gallons which would allow him to get to Redondo Beach without another fuel stop. Less than one minute later an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer was on that spot looking for any suspicious activity. By that time Ashmore was moving at 104 mph on I 44. (Fred Ashmore photo)

The remainder of the trip west went as planned. Planning has to include a mandatory agriculture inspection station at the entry point to California. Ashmore spent about 25 minutes at the station.

With no weather events to plague the him on the route, except for some ground fog as he moved into California, Ashmore slipped through traffic as he approached his destination.

The rental Mustang at the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach, California. His early morning arrival necessitated headlights to see one of the most famous signs for transcontinental adventurers. (Fred Ashmore photo)

With the nature of such attempts highly secretive, it would be hard for second party verification of the times. Ashmore meticulously placed way points as he headed west including this photo at the Portofino at 4:55 am Pacific Standard Time showing the trip duration. The 2019 Mustang GT had a limiter which allowed to car to go no faster than 159 mph. (Fred Ashmore photo)

Fred Junior

I am not speculating what motivates a person to drive at what some would say are insane speeds on public highways. I suspect a multitude may cry out about the moral or flamboyant nature of transcontinental racers.

What I have come to know about Fred Ashmore Junior is his desire to win. After winning at stock car racing, Ashmore, 44 stepped away from that scene saying he was tired of that type of action. It was time to move on.

From that first cross country trip in 2015 in his truck, he has reignited a desire to something noteworthy and this challenge seems to fit the bill. Repeatedly Ashmore mentioned over the course of the interviews that I have done with him that he likes beating the high dollar teams with a low dollar yet reliable vehicle to accomplish his goal which he unequivocally stated is to win whatever he enters.

The 1994 graduate of Ellsworth High School, in Ellsworth, Maine went to Wyoming Tech in Laramie, Wyoming from September 1995 to May 1996 to hone his skills in the automotive world. While at Wyo-Tech he attended classes with fellow EHS graduate Brett Alexander owner of K & B Automotive in Ellsworth, the son of Maine Motorsports Hall of Famer Bob Alexander.

Ashmore said the school was not greatly challenging since he had been working for his dad, Fred Ashmore, Senior, since he was a youngster. Most of the material was fairly basic since they needed to gear the coursework toward someone who may have little or no automotive experience.

A host of automotive adventures lie before Ashmore upon returning to Maine from Wyoming. Maybe a future episode will lend itself to his story up until transcontinental events.

What stood out to me was the relative costs of the machines he used for these trips. The Ford Galaxy at the pictured at the beginning of this episode cost him an estimated $3000 minus labor.

The record set at the transcontinental event in 1983 (shorter course) and in 1979 on the Connecticut to LA long course was shattered by Hancock, Maine’s Fred Ashmore Junior. His 1979 Mustang Cobra Stallion completed the 2,886 mile course in 31 hours and 47 minutes. This was described in Episode 288 November 3, 2019 in UpNorth Motorsports. (Travis Bell photo)

The Mustang Cobra was a wide body kit edition used in the TV show Miami Vice as a prop car. Ashmore hauled it home and sunk an estimated $3500 into it during the two month build/rebuild for the record setting event in 2019. The three person crew included his friend,Travis Hilton, and brother Arthur Ashmore. Three stops for fuel were needed with “only” a 70 gallon fuel tank. They averaged 91 mph.

Part of the charity side of these trips include donations to the Cannonball Memorial Run Fund which advocated for the police and assists fallen officers’ families. The Brock Yates Memorial Fund which donates to Alzheimer research.

What is next for the Hancock man? I am not sure, however, I suspect he is being closed mouth to protect himself. We shall see.

Swanson opens with a sprint car win

The USAC Silver Crown season along with every other race scheduled for 2020 was COVID-19 bashed. The guy UpNorth Motorsports has been following, Five-time Silver Crown Champion and all time winningest driver in USAC Silver Crown history, Kody Swanson, finally was in action.

The event was the Xtreme Must See Racing non-winged sprint car race was held at one of Swanson’s favorite tracks, Lucas Oil Raceway in Claremont, Indiana, part of the NHRA owned complex that includes the drag racing track which was holding regional races simultaneously.

The #4 Nolen Racing entry based in Whiteland, Indiana was managed by former owner Gene Nolen’s son Greg. You may recall Swanson’s friend and owner Gene died in April 8, 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic, though not from Covid causes. This season is dedicated to the memory of Gene Nolen.

Kody Swanson, center, with second place Bobby Santos III on left and third place Kyle O’Gara on right in the winner’s Circle at Lucas Oil Raceway after what was described by several as a classic duel between Santos and Swanson in the 30 lap feature. (RJ Gill Photo and Design photo)

The race for the checkered flag came down to New England native Bobby Santos III and Swanson, originally from Kingsburg, California. From their three and four starting spots both shot to the front in the first two laps. Swanson took the lead with a slightly better handling car despite his Tranter V6 vs Santos V8.

Things changed when on lap 17 a spin brought the two together for the restart. Santos Speedway Chevy V8 showed its superior pulling power as he moved to the front. Swanson fought back and took the lead just as another spin brought out the yellow with 8 to go. Since Santos was leading the at start of the lap, he was able to take the lead again on the restart with 7 to go.

Swanson did not for one moment concede the race. He charged down low in turn 2 with five to go and took the lead for good finishing 1.8 seconds ahead of Santos III and Kyle O’Gara who inherited third after Russ Gamester broke on lap 17.

Kody Swanson in Victory Circle at Lucas Oil Raceway with his oldest son Adam. Family is important to Swanson. (Swanson family photo)

Post race Swanson commented, “I’m still excited about it. Everyone on this Nolen Racing team worked so hard to improve our car every chance that we got, and we never gave up. Most people know that Gene loved the V6, and I’m extremely grateful that we got the win with one for our first race in his memory.

I’m thankful for Greg Nolen stepping in to lead this team, it certainly is a special one. We are fortunate to have great equipment, but it’s the people who make all the difference. Thanks Rick, Bill, Kevin, Dale, Rich, Ben, Ryan, Luke, Chris, Tyler & everyone who’s part of it!”

Swanson had a cool push truck getting him started at the event. Sprint cars do not have starters and require a push to fire up their car. This video is courtesy Jordan Swanson, Kody’s wife and spotter.

Alex Zanardi seriously injured in handbike race

Alex Zanardi at a post-race press conference after driving the Rahal Letterman BMW in the 2019 Rolex Daytona 24 Hours IMSA race. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Friday 56 year old Alex Zanardi was seriously injured in the national race for paralympic athletes near Pieza, Italy. He veered into the travel lane during the race and could not be avoided by a truck.

The two-time CART champion and four-time Paralympic gold medalist was airlifted to Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital in Siena, Italy where he is in stable yet very serious condition. He suffered sunken frontal skull and facial fractures. Doctors are trying to keep him alive from reports coming from Italy.

Sting Ray back in action

Another driver UpNorth Motorsports continues to follow is Sting Ray Robb, Payette, Idaho, who races in the Indy Pro 2000 Series Presented by Cooper Tires. This will be his fourth season after finishing fourth in points in 2019.

He drives for Juncos Racing based in Indianapolis, Indiana a short distance from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Robb hopes to be racing IndyCars in the future. He just graduated from high school last season.

Sting Ray Robb, 19,  prepares to take his Indy Pro 2000 out for practice at Road America in preparation for the July 9-10 doubleheader races. The 18 race season ends October 23-25 with a doubleheader at the Streets of St. Petersburg race. One of Robb’s sponsors is the Big Idaho Potato. (Sting Ray Robb photo)

Pray for Alex Zanardi please

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)


Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine