I just got back from the most amazing journey! Fireball Run is a live destination-based competition with 40 teams made up of successful business owners and celebrities. For eight days, through 14 cities, and 2,500 miles we got hands-on with grassroots America, receiving unprecedented access and leaving destinations better than when we arrived.
From a fireworks send off in Independence, Ohio to a parade finish in Bangor, Maine, we had to navigate solely based off of clues. We could use anything and anyone to solve clues, and accomplish missions. Clues lead us to find pieces of history, roadside points-of-interest, attractions, brands, even pop culture. The only address we had was where we were to sleep at night and let me tell you, some days all we were looking forward to was going to bed! We went head-to-head uncovering clues, driving and running around like crazy for 12 hours non-stop every day to complete missions and bonuses (which were sometimes fake).
My teammate, Shea Holbrook (pro race car driver and my lifelong friend) and I competed against an astronaut, the president of the Rock ‘N Rock Hall of Fame and even a lumberjill. Some teams had exotic and sexy cars, others more typical and historic, and then there were the extremely odd cars. To ramble off a few: there was a Lamborghini Aventador, a 1981 DMC-12 DeLorean Time Machine as featured in the Back to the Future trilogy, a Ferrari 458 Italia, a Devon GTX, a Porsche 911, a Fisker Karma, a Rally Fighter, a water truck, an ambulance, and our sexy blue and pink hotrod, a 2012 Honda Accord V6 (with sat-nav of course) provided by Hendrick Honda.
Thankfully, we partnered up with some other more experienced teams to help us, as we were the rookies. Using more brainpower than horsepower, we were doing fairly well within the first hour of the first day when we snapped a photo (which we get extra points for) of a fellow Fireballer pulled over by a cop!
Uncovering clues led us to partake in some of the most amazing well-kept secrets in America. We sat in Lucille Ball’s Mercedes and held her Emmy, we also sat in Robert H. Jackson’s chair at the desk he used as chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials, things that no one has done since the pieces were restored. We got to drive at Watkins Glen Int’l and met president of the track Michael Printup, then met up with Skip Barber himself at Lime Rock…and then there were pumpkins. Yes, we raced in gigantic 500-1,000 lb pumpkins in the water with a paddle. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the hard working people of Cummings Diesel and felt the power of a 500hp diesel engine that they make for 18-wheelers.
Speaking of great people, every town we went to truly hosted us. We would roll into town seeing thousands of proud citizens on the streets welcoming Fireball Run. The community effort was… unbelievable. Towards the end of our journey we went to the real graveyard where Pet Cemetery was filmed, and re-enacted a scene… I played the priest. We also went to town where there had been two battles in the War of 1812. I put on the silly hat and got to shoot the musket! While we actually did many other things, these were some of my favorites.
Lastly, I’ll share one bonus that seemed a bit risqué from the beginning. We got very up close and personal with the beautiful Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, where we were to take a photo wearing ONLY a toga. I will never forget the face of a nearby sightseer when we ran by in bed sheets!
Everywhere we went we helped a local charity along the way. Together we donated over $10,000 in toys, sports equipment, learning games, and more. Some call Fireball Run a rally, car show, or a game and, in fact, all are accurate but it’s so much more. The purpose of the “adventurally” is to aid in the recovery of missing children by being a massive awareness campaign. Along the way people asked us how to donate and the truth is, “We don’t need donations to find missing children: We need people looking and we need business owners to be willing to hang a poster.
Each team got a child to represent from their region. Every time Shea and I stepped foot out of the car we had posters in hand of the missing child we were representing. In our case, it was youngster Donald Jackson. We wanted our team name to represent Donald, so we called ourselves PrettyTough4DJ. Fireball Run distributed over 200,000 posters and received $42 million worth in news media. We were covered by live stream webcast and local news everywhere we went. From this live rolling production, Universal will be making a full-length movie for next year’s Orlando Film Festival, plus a series of “webisodes” that will air on fireballrun.tv next summer. There were over 350 news stories regarding this year’s Fireball Run and its Race to Recover America’s Missing Children, which ultimately gave these children a voice again.
Fireball Run gave me a different perspective on life. In Schenectady, NY, at dinner we sat with a man who didn’t appear to be with the group. Shea and I said Hi… He introduced himself as: “I’m a father of a missing child you’re looking for, and he’s been missing for eight years.” Needless to say, I welled up. He told us how every day he wonders where he is or if he’s even alive. We hugged and the last thing he said to me was, “I can never repay you all for what you’re doing for my family.” Well let me tell you, that hug said everything – and I’m a hugger myself!
The last day of the Fireball Run was pretty stressful. I’ve never done so many u-turns in my life! We felt like we were far behind, but we didn’t know what position we were in because they stop posting results the last two days, to build the suspense. Given how competitive Shea and I are, we definitely wanted to do well. We were at the banquet in Bangor, eating a great dinner and sipping on some wine while listening to the awards, when suddenly we heard JJ refer to “The Girls.” We had won the Sedan class! I tell you, I’ve never been more excited over a plastic road sign in my life!
We have many people to thank for putting us in the Fireball Ball Run: O’Brien Watersports, TrueCar, Hendrick Honda, Lucas Oil, Growing Champions For Life, Ten-80, Race4Girls, Livin Over Board, beatbyagirl.org, Live Your Legacy Summit, and Hangtyte. We also express our sincere appreciation to the communities that hosted us and to the whole Fireball Run production. It was EPIC!
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