You may remember the old movie, starring Burt Reynolds, called Cannonball Run. In the movie, Reynolds, as J.J. McClure, tries to win a cross country race. The movie was based on the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining –Sea Memorial trophy dash, but do you know who Cannonball Baker was? He was the first commissioner of NASCAR.
Erwin George “Cannonball” Baker was born in March 12, 1882 and started his career as a vaudeville performer. In 1904, Cannonball won his first race on a motorcycle in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Soon Cannonball heard about the amazing records being set by cars and became interested. He soon moved to Daytona Beach where many land records were being set.
Cannonball never won an automobile race. He set his mark on the racing industry by competing on motorcycles, before turning his attention to driving across the country setting records by driving a Cadillac from San Diego to New York in 11 days, 7 hours and 15 minutes.
In those days, there was a prohibition in place and young men used fast cars to deliver moonshine. After prohibition, finally ended those same men used their fast cars to run from tax officials to keep their business operating. Soon these men started racing their super fast cars. However, many of these men no longer had a purpose for their souped up cars, yet, they still had a desire to drive fast.
During that meeting and the days that followed, it was agreed that Cannonball Baker should become the first commissioner of NASCAR. His skills as a well known motorcycle racer were put to the test in creating the new races. His skills as a vaudeville performer were put to use to promote the new sport. One of the main reasons he was chosen was that he could be bought by no one in the industry.