Ashmore knew he wasn’t alone in wondering if the global catastrophe was creating an unlikely opportunity. What he would soon discover, though, was that the lockdown was spawning a frenzy.
One of the drivers who toyed with making a run was Carl “Yumi” Dietz, who drove up to New York from South Carolina on April 3 and decided to give it a shot. Almost instantly he discovered that conditions were ideal. Manhattan had long been regarded as “the destroyer of Cannonball dreams,” as one race veteran put it: On a normal run in typical traffic, it can take more than an hour to get out of the city; under 20 minutes is considered lucky. Dietz set off from the Red Ball at 4 p.m., when New York is usually jammed with traffic, but the streets were deserted, and he blasted off the island in five minutes. “I may or may not have hit triple-digit speed in the Lincoln Tunnel,” he said. “Who can say that?”