The Bullrun 2006

Granted, the last thing we need in the world is another story about a cross-country race where rich guys in exotic cars try to outsmart the nation’s finest to grab a meaningless checkered flag. The premise is a tired one, especially considering Hollywood has already made a couple of bad movies on the subject. But when I received an invitation to partake in the 2006 Bullrun, the latest version of a coast-to-coast speed contest, I couldn’t resist the temptation. Not because I had a desire to win the thing, but I wanted see what kind of characters were willing to put up the $14,000 team entry fee and if they really drove like kamikaze pilots on Quaaludes.
Admittedly, there’s a curious temptation about recklessly breaking the speed limit and trying to get away with it. But considering I had quite a bit to lose (my job), I decided the best thing to do was to run the event using my brain. My plan was to drive as I drive every day, obeying most traffic laws while exhibiting a certain degree of etiquette. I chose the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR as my mount — perhaps not the first thing to come to mind for a cross-country trip, but a good choice considering its high level of performance and traffic-carving size. Jason Spencer of Oakley Sunglasses, a good friend of mine, was my driving partner.

What makes the Bullrun different from other events is that each day ends at a designated hotel. There are two checkpoints every day — you receive the first one in the morning; the second one is handed out at midday, which leads to a hotel where your room is already booked (the cost of the rooms is included in the entry fee). Once there, a dinner and a small party ensue (also included). The event began in Times Square in New York City and ended eight days later in Beverly Hills, California. Here are some highlights of the things that happened in between.

First Half: New York to Toronto to Chicago to Kansas City
Mario Andretti was the guest of honor at the start of the race, made possible by his association with MagnaFlow, a major sponsor of the Bullrun. I asked him what he thought about guys with little to no talent, racing high-performance machines on public roads. He laughed and said, “I don’t recommend it. But there are stretches of road along the way where people can go fast safely. It’s all about picking your spots.”

It turned out, not many of these guys had a clue about picking spots. As the green flag dropped in Times Square, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Spykers and 50 or so other expensive machines sped off recklessly to the first checkpoint: Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. The distance is about 105 miles, which Jason and I completed in about an hour and a half. One fellow, who got there after we did, collected five tickets during that first stint. As we made our way to Toronto and then Chicago, we passed a number of Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches pulled over on the side of the road, with flashing lights behind them. Radar detectors were helpful but not foolproof. Spencer and I ran into trouble when a state trooper pulled our Mitsu over in Illinois. We were stopped for doing about 80 mph, but in the end, it turned out to be just a warning.

As we drove the long stretch of Interstate from Chicago to Kansas City, a blue Ferrari F430 whizzed past us going about 120 mph. Although tempted to get on its bumper, we maintained our pace. Approximately 20 minutes later, we saw the Italian exotic on the side of the road with a patrol car parked behind it. Another hour or so later, the same Ferrari passed us again. Sure enough, it was pulled over having another friendly visit with a patrol officer a half hour later.
Later in the day, the F430 pulled up next to us at a gas station. The driver stepped out of the car with a dejected look on his face. I recognized him right away: Hayden Christensen, the actor who played young Darth Vader in the last two Star Wars movies. “How many times did you get nabbed today?” I asked him.

“Five. And you?” he asked.

“None,” I answered. “We’ve been going at a normal pace the whole time.”

He shook his head. “And yet here we are at the same exact point at the end of the day…”

You have much to learn about The Force, young Skywalker.

Second Half: Vail to Las Vegas to San Diego to Beverly Hills
As soon as we departed Vail, we heard through the grapevine that a couple of Bullrun contestants had been pulled over and thrown into jail. They were the drivers of a Chevrolet Corvette C5 and a Porsche 996. These characters, a couple of Brits on holiday, had been an absolute menace on the road. They consistently passed on the shoulder, split lanes and were a hazard to everyone, including other Bullrun contestants. So I wasn’t too shocked or upset when hearing of their arrest. However, I did shed a tear for them when I heard they were subjected to a strip search.

The drive through Colorado, just outside of Denver, is one of the most picturesque in the country. A pack of Bullrunners, including our Evolution, ran together here, just enjoying the scenery. Our final checkpoint that day was Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Despite our relaxed pace, we were in the top 10, but at this point, no one seemed to care about the running order. The Bullrun organizers did a fine job of staging the event, but left many details unaddressed, such as posting the running order of the race. We later found out that some participants skipped the afternoon checkpoints altogether, going straight to the hotel to get an early start to the partying.

Jason and I hit every checkpoint, and on the final day, we were the first to arrive at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Although we weren’t the overall winners of the race (at least we don’t think so), we did have the satisfying feeling of crossing the finish line first after 3600 miles. More important, we were the only car to get through the thing without a traffic violation. Although there were no accidents, Bullrun organizers estimate that more than 400 tickets were issued — from speeding to reckless driving — totaling more than $100,000. No wonder the race attracts a lot of bored rich guys. For more on the Bullrun, go to the R&T website or

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