Two Guys Drove from N.Y.C. to L.A. and Back in 74 Hours and 5 Minutes


In May 2020, when everyone and their brothers were trying to beat everyone else’s New York-to-L.A. time, Chris Clemens and Mark Spence quietly and definitively set their own oddball record. Not far behind Arne Toman and Doug Tabbutt, who ended up reclaiming a record that had been snatched out from under them a month earlier during the traffic-free days of the early pandemic, Clemens and Spence pulled up to the Cannonball’s traditional finish line at the Portofino Hotel parking lot in a cramped 1999 Mercedes-Benz SL500 coupe.

Where they took a five-minute breather, turned back around, and headed back toward the Cannonball’s starting line at the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan. They made it back to their starting point in 74 hours and 5 minutes, shattering a three-day record that had stood since 2015.

Editor's Note, July 21, 2021: Due to a transcribing error, this article initially stated that Clemens and Spence achieved this feat in 79 hours, 5 minutes. The correct record is 74 hours, 5 minutes. This article and headline have been updated, and we regret the error.

"For me, going coast to coast to coast started off as a joke," said Clemens, 40, the car’s owner. "When you finish driving from New York to L.A., I think everyone turns to their co-driver and says, 'Wanna do it again?' The joke turned into something we wanted to do, an accomplishment different from the normal Cannonball."

Clemens initially had trouble finding a driver. A few people said they'd do it, then backed out. Fred Ashmore said he'd do it after completing his now-record solo run, and to his credit, he had planned to hop on a plane and fly back to New York to do it again, twice. But the folly of the undertaking hit Ashmore as soon as he arrived, utterly spent, in Redondo Beach. At the last minute, Clemens was left without a co-driver.