"The adventure spanning thousands of miles across America started over a called bluff, a cocktail, and a challenge."
As CEO of Catalyst Studio & PR, J “JJ” Sanchez was pretty well respected in the world of advertising, and known for hosting influential gatherings at the agency, a sort of ‘who’s who’ of industry. On one such occasion the CFO from Ocean Drive Magazine dropped in. Ever the classic Mad Man, JJ’s conference room was more tavern than conference. Adorning the agency’s walls along with an impressive array of industry awards and accomplishments was a collection of movie memorabilia. Recognizing the Cannonball Run movie poster, the Magazine Executive remarked, “I‘m friends with Brock Yates. If interested I’d be happy to make an introduction and can even get you invited to the race.” For those unfamiliar, Brock Yates was a renowned motorsports journalist, as well as organizer of the real Cannonball race to which the movies are based. Confident this was just name-dropping, and being slightly under the influence of more than a “splash of water,” JJ called the CFO on his offer.
As fate would have it the relationship was genuine and JJ found himself talking with the legend himself Brock Yates, former editor Car & Driver, Barrett-Jackson commentator, founder of the original 72’ Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, and screenwriter of both Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit. Ever the cantankerous curmudgeon he was known to be, Brock challenged JJ to enter the race. Now being called on his bluff, JJ, an Ad Agency Executive who never raced a day in his life, found himself committed to a motorsports competition. After graduating Skip Barber racing school and receiving personal instruction from famed Hollywood stunt driver Bobby Orr (just in case), JJ went on to place 74th out of the 99 competing teams, not bad considering.
Needless to say JJ was addicted and over the years raced everything from Dodge to Lamborghini, all which required real training, a real racecar, and clearly carried real risk (the older one gets, the more one considers their mortality). This got him thinking. Was there an automotive series anyone could do? Something NOT a road race, yet above a snooze n’ cruise? Since none existed, JJ set out to invent one.
Catalyst President & fellow marketing authority David Hickman recommended JJ merge marketing knowledge with his passion for philanthropy and vehicles. Personal friend and exotic car journalist, Tom LaPointe suggested using the event to honor a motoring pioneer. Putting pencil to paper JJ sketched out a board game; starting at the same time from the same position, participants move about the board (or in this case the country) by solving clues and accomplishing missions. The clues could be based in history, road side America, attractions, sponsors, even pop-culture; anything in relation the participant’s geographical location. Throwing in a few motoring challenges anyone or any car could do for good measure, JJ had the workings of a very different driving event.
Invitations to participate began with JJ’s associates, of which were business leaders who in turn invited their friends. A rolling influential network was literally on track. With a firm belief to pay-it-forward, and realizing this eccentric group could also make a difference, JJ decided the rally should aid to recover America’s missing children. The one of a kind production was christened the FIREBALL RUN Adventurally® (a tribute to late NASCAR great and Orlando resident, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts).
On Saturday September 29th 2007, 65 teams left on a 3500 mile journey from Orlando Florida for Beverly Hills California pioneering the most unique motoring adventure in America. And the rest as they say is history.
Since 2007, FIREBALL RUN has evolved into a popular live event and award winning film series. Annually distributing over 75,000 posters, FIREBALL RUN’s Race to Recover America’s Missing Children® is the largest and longest active recovery effort for missing children, and has aided in the unprecedented return of 38 missing children. In addition to the effort for missing children, FIREBALL RUN and teams have donated thousands of dollars in toys, books, sports equipment, time, money, and computers to local charities along their annual journey.