Cannonball Run 2009

Chapter 1: The Return

Welcome to the latest running of the Cannonball Run. Good news for those who prefer the American coast-to-coast race as this will return to that format. More good news for those who are looking for the resolution to Cannonball Run 2008's cliffhanger ending as I am planning to do that as well.
There will be a couple of somewhat controversial subplots ahead. My only reasoning was to experiment with a few new directions to avoid complacency.
I plan to feature every Cannonball Run 2000 character I possibly can as this will be the last fic to take place in the 00's. As such, here's the list of featured characters and the actors they're based on:

J.J. McClure-Jerry O'Connell
Victor Prinsi/Captain Chaos-Horatio Sanz
Pamela McClure-Tara Reid
Dexter Cole-Adam Brody
Kurt Cole-Michael Cera
Jill Rivers-Tinsley Grimes
Marcie Thatcher-Jordana Spiro
Ron Lucas-Brian Baker
Venom-Matt Schulze
Terry Fletcher-Andrew Heckler
Mel Sharp-Anthony Clark
Danny Mitchell-Martin Henderson
P.C. Baker-Jason Gray-Stanford
Rob Falcon-Vince Vieluf
Big Bison-Kenan Thompson
Patrick Bannon-Jamie Kennedy
Tony Basilotta-Seann William Scott
Caesar King-Sharif Atkins
Salvatore Moretti-Roberto Benigni
Guiseppe Venicci-Tony Shalhoub
Mad Dog-Ice-T

And due to the sheer list of cameos, I've decided to list them by the chapter in which they first appear:
Batman-Beck Hansen
Nina Jankowski-Mercedes McNab
Billy DuBois-Mark Kazpryzk
Dolores Ryan-Emma Stone
Jacob Cheng-Eddie Shin
Charlie Holt-Zachary Ty Bryan
Max Cole-Lee Majors
Melanie Burke-Melanie Lynskey
Brutus-Kevin Alejandro
Vinnie Basilotta-Vyto Ruginis
Josephine Basilotta-Catherine O'Hara
Sandy Longmore-Anna Friel
Seymour "The Drake" Drake-Cole Hauser
Brad Compton-Will Forte
Susan Cope-Stephanie March
Chuck Prescott-Will Arnett
Betty Prescott-Amy Poehler
Professor George Weathers-John O'Hurley
Gina-Jennifer Esposito

And here we go:

Brooklyn, 2002...

Five people walked into a bar. There were three men and two women in the group. They took a seat at the closest table.

"Alright." said one man with black hair and an athletic build, J.J. McClure. "Let's hear it for our new mail room chief."

"Please." said a tall, thin man with black hair, Chuck Prescott. "Not the chief. I'm just a clerk."

"I have a feeling he'll be company president before long." said a short, blonde woman, Chuck's wife Betty.

"Yeah right." said a woman with brown hair, J.J's girlfriend Gina. "I don't think that's gonna happen unless he buys the company out."

"Start playing that lottery." said a somewhat overweight man with black hair, Victor Prinsi.

At a nearby table, a tall man with brown hair was looking at a picture of a white '69 Mustang. His name was Terry Fletcher.

"You came all this way to pick up a car?" asked his companion as he played with a small, felt-lined box. He had black, curly hair and was named Mel Sharp.

"You came all this way to pick up a ring." said Terry. "By the way, can I take a look at that? I'd like to see what Linda's getting."

Mel handed him the box and opened it.

"Nice." said Terry. "She'll love it."

A man with grey hair sat at the next table. He was looking over a roadmap of the United States. A waitress walked over. "Can I get you something?" she asked.

"Something non-alcoholic." said the man, Professor George Weathers. "I'd like to keep my head clear."

The waitress turned to return to the bar.

"Wait." said Weathers. "Leave open an option for something alcoholic. I might need it."

Just then, a man and woman walked into the bar. He had finely styled brown hair and designer clothes while she had a white blouse, blue skirt, and black, curly hair.

"I thought we were going back to Miami." said the woman, Melanie Burke, with a vaguely British/Australian accent.

"Flight doesn't leave until tomorrow." said the man, Danny Mitchell, with a similar accent. "I thought we could kill some time before we went back."

"Oh good." said Melanie. "Finally get to see my new place of business. I'm moving up, baby."

"That's the spirit." said Danny as they sat at a table.

At the bar were a black man with short hair and a moustache and a skinny guy with messy blonde hair.

"So, what can I get you two?" asked the bartender.

"I'll have a beer." said the black man, known simply as "Mad Dog". "I just got back from Seattle where they were shooting some racing film."

"Oh, really?" asked the bartender. "What's it called?"

"It's called 'Pedal To The Metal'." said the blonde guy, known as "Batman". "It's a street racing film involving auto theft."

"So, what did you do on it?" asked the bartender.

"Mostly customizing the cars." said Mad Dog. "I had some great designs that we got to implement."

"Who's in it?" asked the bartender.

"Xzibit and Matthew Lillard." said Mad Dog. "Can't reveal too much more."

Two men wearing business suits walked in. One had short, curly hair while the other had straight, brown hair. "This looks like a nice place." said the curly haired one.

"I don't think the clientele will pose much of a threat." said his friend.

"Relax, I picked this place at random." said the curly-haired man. "No one was expecting us to show up here. We're on equal footing."

"Well, I've been on the job for two hours and I'd hate to lose it due to a foolish mistake."

Just then, Terry looked over at Weathers' table. "Planning a trip?" he asked.

"Sort of." said Weathers. "I was doing some research into something and now I'm doing some more."

"Can you elaborate on 'something'?" asked Mel.

Weathers thought about his answer. "I'm not sure." he said.

Mad Dog walked over. "Now you got me curious." he said. "You're researching something with a road atlas and you can't tell us. That kind of limits the..."

"It's the Cannonball." said Weathers.

The curly-haired man looked over. "What?" he asked.

"The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash." said Weathers.

"What the hell is that?" asked Danny. J.J's group was looking at him as well.

"I think we should discus this in private." said Weathers.

Minutes later, the group had moved into the back room. Weathers was standing at the head of the class. "First, let me introduce myself." he said. "I am Professor George Weathers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

"M.I.T?" asked J.J.

"Yes, that one." said Weathers. "I am the head of the automotive department."

"M.I.T. has an automotive department?" asked Danny.

Mad Dog stared at him for a couple of seconds. "What kind of accent is that?" he asked.

"New Zealand." said Danny.

"Oh." said Mad Dog. "Steve Millen's home country. I use his parts in most of my vehicles."

"As I was saying before we got into Kiwi territory," said Weathers "recently a student of mine, who has a lead foot, talked with me about the Cannonball Baker yada yada yada."

"Uh, Professor Weathers?" asked the curly-haired man.

"Yes, Mr..?" asked Weathers.

"Drake, Seymour Drake." said the man. "You can call me 'THE Drake.'"

"Very well, Mr. Drake." said Weathers.

"And this is my bodyguard, Ron..." said the Drake before blanking out.

"Lucas." said Ron.

"I'll get it sooner or later." said the Drake.

"In his defense, I've only been working for him for two hours." said Ron.

"He's been a professional bodyguard less time than I've been an American resident." said Melanie.

"Your question, Mr. Drake?" asked Weathers.

"The full name of the event is rather wordy." said the Drake. "Perhaps we can shorten it in future reference?"

"We can." said Weathers. "Anyway, my student asked me about the Cannonball, asking me if such an event could be run today."

"If I recall, they haven't run that since eighty-four." said J.J.

"That's true." said Weathers. "The race organizer discontinued the race out of safety concerns. However, my student said that with today's technology, the race could be run again without much of the danger. A lot has changed within the last eighteen years."

"Cars are safer as well." said Terry. "And don't get me started on the aftermarket. I've made decent use of it restoring vintage muscle."

"What do you put in your rides?" asked Mad Dog.

"Mostly Edelbrock. You?" said Terry.

"Depends on the whip." said Mad Dog.

"Every argument I made against a new Cannonball was met with an argument for it." said Weathers. "When we were done, I was rather convinced that a new Cannonball might be possible. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding."

"What are you saying?" asked Chuck. "Are you asking us to participate in a revived Cannonball race?"

"You've all had some degree of interest in cars." said Weathers. "Mr. Fletcher has been looking at that picture of a Mustang for most of the night. I overheard Mad Dog and the bartender talking about the movie he just worked on. By the way, they're most likely trying to cash in on the success of 'The Fast and the Furious'."

"So am I." said Mad Dog.

"And Mr. McClure knew exactly was I was talking about." said Weathers. "Tell me, how did you know that interesting tidbit?"

"My father was a Cannonballer." said J.J. "Hammering the roads of America in that Trans-Am of his. He'd tell me stories of how it was. But he's gone now."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." said Weathers. "I'm sure he would've liked to see how the new one would have turned out."

"Professor Weathers?" asked J.J.

"Yes?" asked Weathers.

"When do we start?" asked J.J.

"Who else is in?" asked Weathers.

Chuck and Betty raised their hands. Next was the Drake and Ron. Terry and Mel soon followed. Then Danny and Melanie. Finally, Mad Dog and Batman raised their hands.

"Then I'll see you at the starting line." said Weathers.

The Cannonball was revived that year with the folks at the bar and five other teams. Terry and Mel won the race in the Mustang Terry had just bought. Professor Weathers ran the race with two of his students, Jackie Lewis and Michael North. The race was not without consequence as J.J. and his girlfriend Gina broke up during the race.

In 2003, an environmental activist named Arthur J. Foyt discovered the race and attempted to have it shut down. His work with the local police forces succeeded in getting several drivers arrested, including Terry and Danny. However, his own assistant, Pamela Glover, was picked up by J.J. for a trick to bypass police scrutiny. They began dating after the race.

In 2004, the race officals didn't hold the race due to the unwanted attention of the previous year. On a dare from business rival Brad Compton, The Drake started a race of his own in Australia. (Ironicly, Danny was unable to attend despite the race taking place a few thousand miles west of his New Zealand birthplace.) Aside from running afoul of a local mob boss, the race was otherwise uneventful.

In 2005, Mad Dog took over organizing duties and returned the race to the United States. Despite more organized police work, the race succeeded in traversing the country. After the race, Danny went in for a transplant to replace a faulty kidney while J.J. and Pamela got engaged and later married.

Also of note, British race car driver Kenneth Livingston took part in the race with the intention of basing a European version on it.

The 2006 race was mostly uneventful other than an attempted murder for hire plot targeting Chuck Prescott. Following the resolution of that, everything went smoothly.

The 2007 race ended on a bittersweet note for J.J. McClure. Despite winning the race, McClure ended up getting picked up by the police and charged for numerous moving violations. In addition to other penalties, he also suffered a revoked license.

Cannonballer Rob Falcon left for Europe to take part in their Cannonball shortly after the race. There, he ran into new competitors including race car drivers Salvatore Moretti and Per Lindstrom and street racer Tony Basilotta.

The 2008 race ended with perennial favorite Marcie Thatcher getting married to her boyfriend of three years, Monkey Matthews. During the Hawaiian honeymoon, they ran across a team of street racers against whom they organized a race across the state. Several other Cannonballer teams took part.

However, they didn't realize their challenge would have serious consequences...


"And the hall?" asked Mad Dog. "Okay." he said. "So, how much is this going to come to?" he asked. "No problem. I'll see you in a couple of months."

He hung up the phone.

"Hotel's all set?" asked Batman.

"All set." said Mad Dog. "This is going to be an all-timer pre-race party."

"Are you sure this will be the last Cannonball of the decade?" asked Batman.

"I ran the numbers." said Mad Dog. "It's going to logisticly impossible to pull off another race by the end of the year."

"What about twenty-ten?" asked Batman.

"We'll see, but it's looking good." said Mad Dog. "What do you say we see what's happening in the other room?"

"You got it." said Batman.

They walked into the meeting room to find a dark-haired man in a suit, Agent P.C. Baker of the U.S. Marshals, talking with J.J. Victor and Pamela, a blonde woman, were also present.

"I'm sure you know what this is about." said Baker.

"Not really." said J.J. "Enlighten me."

"Last year, you were involved with an operation in Hawaii." said Baker. "Unfortunately, your operation interfered with an operation of ours to bring a street racer named Dexter Cole to justice."

"Cole." muttered J.J. "I should have known he was up to something else."

"Auto theft, attempt to sell stolen goods, failing to show for a court date." said Baker. "Real model citizen, this one. We were all set to bring this guy in, then you come along and screw everything up."

"Sorry about that." said J.J.

"Sorry isn't going to cover it." said Baker. "Your operation also cost us an insider."

"Whoa, who?" asked J.J.

"That would be me." said a blonde woman who had just entered. "Nina Jankowski, I believe you were responsible for our break up."

"You had the ditz working for you?" asked J.J.

"First of all, I'm not stupid." said Nina. "Second of all...well, I guess there is no second of all. Anyways, I was merely another attendee at the races until I failed to escape when the police showed up. They made me a deal like Baker's making you a deal. I get close to Cole and report his activity to the Hawaiian police, I get my charges dropped."

"And you're going to do the same for me?" asked J.J.

"You're looking at driving without a license." said Baker. "Worse yet, you and your friends are looking at an obstruction of justice charge. I thought it would be only appropriate if you were to assist in the arrest of the man you inadvertantly let get away. If you can help us bring him in, no charges."

"How do we do that?" asked J.J.

"I have an idea." said Mad Dog. "Is Cole wanted in any states between New York and California?"

"A few including California itself." said Baker.

"Maybe we should invite him to enter the Cannonball." said Mad Dog.

"He'll go for that?" asked Victor.

"Of course." said Nina. "The guy is nothing if not weak on willpower. He never could resist a challenge."

"Yeah, I remember last year." said Batman.

"Let me have his number." said Mad Dog. "I'll make the call right now."

Nina took Mad Dog's cell phone and dialled the number. She then gave it back to him.

In Waimea, Hawaii...

"Look at this." said Dexter Cole as he looked over a customized Honda S2000 with red metallic paint, a Bomex body kit, and Momo Typhoon Silver rims. "When are we going to run this?"

"Anytime would be good." said his brother, Kurt. "Of course, people are going to be surprised when you don't show up with the Mazda."

"Well, how many cars have each of them shown up with?" asked Billy DuBois, the team's interior modifier.

"More than I can count." said Billy's girlfriend, exterior customizer Dolores Ryan.

"That could be a blast." said Charlie Holt, the crew's suspension and brake specialist.

"Guess I'll be using the Mazda until then." said Dexter.

His father Max walked in from the kitchen with a wireless phone. "Dexter, it's for you." he said. "It's one of the guys you raced across the state last year."

"Really?" asked Dexter as he took the phone. "Yeah?"

"Hey, is this Dexter Cole?" asked Mad Dog on the other end.

"Yeah, what's up?" asked Dexter. "How did you get this number?"

"Jill got it from another racer in Waimea." said Mad Dog. "She gave it to me."

"Oh." said Dexter. "So, why are you calling?"

"I was thinking about our little challenge last year." said Mad Dog. "I remembered how you drove and I had a thought. Maybe you'd like to take part in the Cannonball this year. Sounds like it's right up your alley."

"Is that a request?" asked Dexter.

"A request, a dare, a challenge." said Mad Dog. "Whatever you want to call it."

"When does this take place?" asked Dexter.

"July first." said Mad Dog. "The pre-race party starts a week earlier."

"A week?" asked Dexter.

"Last Cannonball of the decade." said Mad Dog. "I wanted to go out with a bang."

"Great, I'll be there." said Dexter.

"Alright, see you then." said Mad Dog. He hung up.

Dexter followed suit. "That was that Mad Dog guy." he said. "He just invited me to take part in the Cannonball this year."

"Sounds to me like you accepted." said drivetrain specialist Jacob Cheng.

"I did." said Dexter.

"You're getting a little more brazen there." said Max.

"What do you mean?" asked Dexter.

"Well, last time I checked, the Cannonball was run on the mainland." said Max.

"Loads of opportunities to get busted." said Billy.

"I think the man's got a death wish." said Dolores.

"Yeah, if I'm going to jail, I'm going in a blaze of glory." said Dexter. "I'm not going to hide out here until S.W.A.T. busts down the gates."

"Hey, if you're going to jail, I'm going to watch you crumble." said Kurt. "I think it'll be a lot of fun watching you get thrown face-first onto your car, maybe get maced or stungunned, all while Johnny Law holds you down."

"Kurt, you just volunteered to go with him." said Max.

Kurt looked at him in shock while Dexter walked over to him and gave the hand sign for "loser".

Mad Dog put his phone away. "He's in." he said.

"Good." said Baker. "I hope I can count on your cooperation, Mr. McClure."

"You have it." said J.J. "However, I have a couple of requests."

"Okay, I'm listening." said Baker.

"First, I want my license back." said J.J.

"Can do." said Baker. "Next request?"

"I want amnesty for myself and anyone else taking part in the Cannonball." said J.J.

Baker had to think about that one. "I think speeding and general weirdness pales in comparison to Cole's crimes." he said.

"Good." said J.J.

Baker handed him his PDA. "Just write those down here." he said. "Think of it as Schindler's List, the Cannonball Edition."

"I can just imagine that in theaters." said Batman.

"One last thing." said Baker. "I just thought that an operation like this cannot be run from the sidelines. I'm going to need to run this hands-on. I'll need to actually be in a race car for this."

"You just want to be in the Cannonball." said Mad Dog.

"Maybe." said Baker.

"Do you want to enter yourself or should I team you with somebody?" asked Mad Dog.

"Teamed with somebody." said Baker.

"Does Danny have a partner?" asked Victor.

"No, I don't think so." said Mad Dog.

"Who's Danny?" asked Baker.

"The guy driving the Land Rover in Hawaii last year." said J.J. as he wrote in Baker's PDA.

A week later in Miami, Danny woke up in his bedroom.

"He emigrated from New Zealand at fourteen." explained Mad Dog. "While still in high school, he took a part-time job at a local nightclub. Shortly after he graduated college, he was given the keys."

Danny grabbed a watch off a dresser. It had been sitting between two clocks, one showing local Miami time and the other showing the time in his native Auckland.

"He was there in two-thousand two when we restarted the Cannonball." explained Mad Dog. "He and his receptionist, Melanie Burke, took part and finished respectably."

Danny put on a polo shirt. He pulled it over a pair of surgical scars on his lower back.

"He was one of the big stories in two-thousand five." explained Mad Dog. "He ran the race while suffering from a kidney infection. Just after the race finished, he went in for a transplant."

Danny walked out to the garage and hit the button for the garage door opener.

"Danny likes his cars a certain way." explained Mad Dog. "European, two-seater, five figures, and silver. Always silver."

The door opened and revealed a silver Alfa Romeo Spider. He opened the door and slid into the driver's seat.

"From what I've been hearing, he's been aiming to win this one." explained Mad Dog. "He's been racing from his house in Coconut Grove to his club in Miami Beach, trying to improve his skills."

Danny started the Alfa and threw it into gear. He raced out of the driveway and into the streets.

Within minutes, he had reached downtown Miami and had turned towards the city's causeways to Miami Beach. He swerved around numerous other cars before making it to the causeway.

Danny threw the gearshift into the next gear as he swerved around a truck. He then swerved back into the fast lane. Shortly after coming off the causeway, he cut into a high speed turn.

After making it down the next street, he cut another turn and raced for his nightclub, the Kiwi Club. He drove into the parking lot and slid into a parking space.

Danny cut the engine and checked his watch. His face dropped and he yelled "Damn!"

Inside the club, Melanie was straightening up. Danny walked in looking very mad.

"So, what was your time this morning?" asked Melanie.

"I forgot to start the watch!" snapped Danny.

"Oh." said Melanie.

"Sorry, I'm just pissed." he said.

He turned to the bar and noticed Baker sitting there.

"Who's this guy?" asked Danny.

"P.C. Baker. I was referred to you by Mr. Mad Dog."

"How can I help you?" asked Danny.

Baker pulled out his badge. "I'm with the U.S. Marshals." he said.

Danny and Melanie put up their hands. "Whoa." said Danny. "Look, both Melanie and I are U.S. citizens."

"Don't worry." said Baker. "We're not connected with the INS."

Melanie stepped closer and took a closer look at his badge. "What did you do to this thing?" she asked. "Looks like you went over it with Brillo."

"What did Mad Dog want?" asked Danny.

"It's a long story." said Baker. "Let's just say I'll need your assistance in a federal case involving the Cannonball. You're not the ones we're after. Don't worry about that."

"What do you need me for?" asked Danny.

"For this operation, I need to be your passenger." said Baker. "My quarry is participating in the Cannonball Run. I saw that Alfa Spider you rolled up in. I thought those weren't coming here for another few years."

"I've got connections." said Danny. "It's Italian spec. Like it?"

"It's nice." said Baker. "Remember the older ones with the gearshift sticking out of the dash?"

"Yeah." said Danny. "Ever see 'The Graduate'?"

"Oh, that was a nice scene. Elaine!" said Baker as he mimed pounding on a pane of glass.

Danny laughed. "Okay, it's a deal." he said.

"See you in June, I guess." said Baker.

Rob Falcon, a young man with black curly hair, pulled up to the attendant's booth for the parking lot at Los Angeles International Airport. He was driving a black Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8. In his passenger seat was a heavyset African-American, his bodyguard Big Bison.

"Hi, I'm here to pick up an arrival." he said. "I'll need to park short term."

"We've only got one parking space left." said the attendant as a gold Kia pulled up in the next lane.

Rob looked across the parking lot to see the space in question, then to the woman in the Kia. They traded glares, then both took off.

The smaller Kia took a quick lead. Rob tried to catch up.

"You're losing her." said Bison.

"Got a trick up my sleeve." said Rob. He quickly turned down an aisle. The space was right in front of him on the other side of a gully.

"I hope you got the four-wheel-drive set." said Bison.

"It's permanent." said Rob.

"Oh, that's good." said Bison. "Wait, didn't they take the off-road stuff out of this thing?"

Rob then hopped the curb and drove into the gully. Luckily, he was able to traverse it with little trouble. He then bounded into the parking space just seconds before the Kia got there.

He and Bison got out and headed for the airport. The woman in the Kia yelled "Jerk!"

Inside the airport, Irish skateboarder Patrick Bannon, a young man with black hair, had just gotten off the plane from Dublin and was now waiting on his luggage.

"Hey, Patrick!" yelled Rob.

"Hey, what's up, lads?" asked Patrick.

"The Cannonball is waiting." said Bison. "As soon as your baggage arrives, we're off."

The trio then left the terminal. Rob and Bison were walking while Patrick was on his skateboard.

"Wish I hadn't left mine at the house." said Rob.

"We'll pick it up on the way there." said Patrick. "What's another hour or so?"

"Holy cow, she's still there!" said Bison.

Sure enough, the woman's Kia was still parked by the space.

"Whoa, she looks pissed." said Patrick.

The skateboarder crew started to get back into the Jeep.

"Hey, when we get to the hotel in New York, I've got something to show you." said Patrick.

"If I miss my plane, I'm gonna sue." said the woman.

"Bring it on." said Rob as he closed his door. He started the truck and pulled out of the space.

As he passed the Kia, the woman pulled into the parking space. However, she steered so that she sideswiped the Jeep in the process.

Rob and Patrick leaned out of the windows to take a look. "Well, there's your first racing stripe." said Patrick.

Later that night, street racers lined up for the evening's competition.

A blonde woman, Jill, leaned against a pearlescent white Nissan Altima Coupe. The car was equipped with an Extreme Dimensions GT Concept body kit and blue and purple splash graphics. She played with the diamond ring on her finger.

A redheaded woman, Marcie, finished talking with a group of racers then walked over to Jill.

"So, what's the deal?" asked Jill.

"Ted wants a go at you." said Marcie. "He's saying you're a traitor to Honda and must be stopped."

"A little melodramatic, isn't he?" asked Jill.

"Yeah, well I think you'd better shut him up." said Marcie. "I'd go at him, but I'm the wrench here. Besides, high speeds make me nauseous lately."

"That should subside by next month." said Jill. "Good thing since that's when the Cannonball takes place. You sure you're up to it?"

"Absolutely." said Marcie. "So what? Are you going to take on Ted or not?"

"Watch me." said Jill.

Jill got into the Nissan and started it. She then drove out to the street. A white '99 Prelude with a poorly fitted body kit was waiting. A young man dressed like a gangsta rapper was leaning against it.

"Hey yo, you ready to pay the piper?" he asked.

"You're on." said Jill.

Ted got into the Prelude and started it. Meanwhile, a black Hyundai Genesis Coupe pulled into the scene.

Jill and Ted revved their engines as a man walked out in front of them. He pointed to Jill and Ted and raised his hands. After a couple of seconds, he dropped his hands and the two cars took off. Actually, the Nissan took off while the Honda barely approached the speed limit.

The Altima raced across the finish line. Several seconds later, the Honda followed.

"He never learns." said Jill.

She pulled over and got out. Marcie was waiting for her.

"Nice one." said Marcie.

"Yeah, too bad it was Ted." said Jill. "I thought we'd be showing this off against a real challenge."

"Well, maybe I can help you there." said a hispanic man as he walked over.

"How you doing, Brutus?" asked Marcie.

"Pretty well for myself." said Brutus. "Got the new Z-Car." he added as he pointed to a silver Nissan 370Z. "What do you say?" he asked. "Nissan versus Nissan?"

"Maybe another time." said Jill. "I only came to show off the car."

Brutus' cell phone beeped. He checked it and read a text message. He then looked to the Genesis that had pulled in. "This guy wants to go once around the block." he said.

"Good luck." said Jill.

"You got it, chica." said Brutus.

Brutus got into the 370Z, started it, and drove over to the starting line. The Hyundai pulled up next to him.

"Hyundai's come a long way." said Marcie. "Hard to believe one would have been laughed out of the race twenty years ago."

The Nissan and the mysterious Hyundai revved their engines. The flagman dropped his hands and the two cars took off.

The Nissan took the lead as they approached the first turn. They then went into the turn. The Nissan failed to hold the turn and went wide. The Hyundai managed to keep its footing and take the lead.

Brutus tried to catch up before they hit the next turn. He failed and dropped further behind. A spectator used his cell phone camera to send footage of the turn to those at the finish line.

"Brutus doesn't seem to be handling the turns very well." said Jill.

"Yeah, and it looks like his opponent knew that." said Marcie. "It's almost as if he knows what Brutus has way."

"What?" asked Jill.

"I think I know who his opponent is." said Marcie.

The two cars went through the third turn with no change to the order. They raced for the final turn with Brutus still playing catch up.

The cars went through the final turn and raced for the finish. Brutus gave it his best, but the Genesis had an insurmountable lead and crossed the finish line first.

"Damn, he's good." said Brutus as he crossed the finish line.

The Hyundai pulled over and the driver's door opened.

Jill and Marcie walked over to it. "Nice driving, Tony." said Marcie.

A young man with brownish blonde hair climbed out. "How'd you know it was me?" he asked.

"Who else has access to the technical specs of other drivers' cars?" asked Jill. "Does your dad know you use that to your advantage?"

"Occasionally." said Tony.

"Caesar come with you?" asked Marcie.

"Sure did, Marcie." said an African-American man as he walked out of the crowd.

"You guys up for another race?" asked Tony.

"Actually, we're done here." said Jill. "You guys want to grab a late dinner?"

"I already ate, but I could go for something." said Caesar.

Half an hour later, they had gone to the burger joint where Jill worked as a waitress and gotten themselves some fries.

"You did some great driving tonight." said Marcie.

"But you should really do some custom work on that thing." said Jill. "That way, it won't look like you're driving your mom's car."

"So, how have the races been going for you, Miss Boyd?" asked Caesar.

"Pretty well." said Jill. "And it's Mrs. Rivers now."

"No way, you and Pete?" said Tony.

"Four months now." said Jill.

"I'm coming up on my first anniversary myself." said Marcie as she showed off her own wedding ring.

"Congratulations." said Caesar. "So, what's his name?"

"Monkey." said Marcie.

Tony and Caesar stared at her for a second. "Look, if you don't want to tell us, just say so." said Tony.

"And if that's not enough, we're also talking about going pro." said Jill.

"You're kidding." said Caesar.

"She's not." said Marcie. "She's taking a look at the various compact racing circuits seeing which ones she can get into."

"Wow, and we can say we knew you when." said Tony.

"Well, we're not going pro just yet." said Jill. "I thought I'd like to try starting a family first."

"We both did." said Marcie.

"So, when are you going to start churning out kids?" asked Caesar.

"Pete and I thought we'd wait until we finished the Cannonball next month." said Jill.

"And Jill suggested that Monkey and I try then as well." said Marice. "Unfortunately, before I discovered this plan of hers, I kinda jumped the gun."

Tony and Caesar looked at her in shock. "You mean?" asked Tony.

Marcie, beaming, shrugged and said "I'm three months pregnant!"

"No way!" said Tony.

"Sweet!" said Caesar.

"So, what's new with you guys?" asked Jill.

Tony and Caesar looked to each other and then back at her. "Let me get back to you on that." said Tony.

Somewhere in Kentucky, Mel paced around a garage. Nearby, a black '69 Pontiac Trans-Am was parked. The car was outfitted with Centerline Matrix rims and a golden bird decal adorned the hood.

A red Ford Taurus pulled up in front of the garage. Terry climbed out looking rather worried.

"How is she?" asked Mel.

"Not good." said Terry. "She's in ICU now. Doctor says her chances are extremely slim."

"Sarah didn't come back with you?" asked Mel.

"No, she decided to stay with her mom." said Terry. "She told me there was nothing I could do and that I shouldn't let that prevent me from taking part in the Cannonball."

"I'm sorry." said Mel.

"Yeah." said Terry. "Anyway, maybe we should change the subject. Did you test out the Trans-Am?"

"Sure did." said Mel. "Took her for a test drive a few days ago."

"How'd she run?" asked Terry.

"Does this answer your question?" asked Mel as he handed over a speeding ticket.

Terry took it. "Wow, a hundred in a sixty?" asked Terry. "Was that as impressive as it sounds?"

"I think she had a lot more to give out." said Mel.

"Nice." said Terry.

"I think we can go as soon as you take care of that." said Mel.

"Take care of what?" asked Terry.

"The ticket." said Mel. "I was testing out your car when I got that."

"I'm not paying this!" snapped Terry.

Tony drove back to his house in Huntington Beach. Caesar was with him. Both were silent.

"Anything you want to talk about?" asked Caesar.

"Not really." said Tony.

"Is it about Marcie's baby?" asked Caesar.

"Part of it." said Tony.

"And the rest?" asked Caesar.

"Do you ever feel like you're wasting your life?" asked Tony.

"What, racing all the time?" asked Caesar.

"While I'm racing on the streets of London, my friends back home are actually doing something." said Tony. "Seeking professional careers, getting married, having kids. What have I done?"

"Hey, the shop's still profitable." said Caesar.

"That's true." said Tony. "But I want to do more than that. I want a life."

"You want to get married, have kids." said Caesar.

"I think it's time to take the next step." said Tony.

"Alright." said Caesar. "We're at your place."

Tony turned the wheel and entered the driveway of his somewhat large house. He parked and shut off the engine.

A couple of minutes later, he and Caesar walked into the house. Tony's father Vinnie was waiting for them.

"So, how were the races tonight?" he asked.

"Not bad." said Tony. "I managed to win a race against Brutus Ortiz."

"See any of your other friends?" asked Vinnie.

"Saw Jill and Marcie." said Tony. "Both married now. Can you believe it?"

"Wow, that's amazing." said Vinnie. "Neither of them said anything about it when they came in for parts for that Altima."

"Yeah, I saw that." said Tony. "Hey, is Mom still up?"

"No, she turned in ten minutes ago." said Vinnie.

"Oh." said Tony as he handed over the keys to the Hyundai. "Well, tell her she can have her car back now."

"Will do." said Vinnie.

"By the way, is Sandy still up?" asked Tony.

"I think she is." said Vinnie. "I think she's still running on London time."

"Thanks." said Tony. "See you in the morning, Dad."

"Hey, Mr. B." said Caesar. "Can I sleep in the guest bedroom?"

"That's what it's there for." said Vinnie. "But why can't you sleep at your parents' house?"

"They moved." said Caesar.

Upstairs, Tony knocked on the door of a bedroom where a brown-haired woman was laying in bed. "It's open." she said with a British accent.

Tony stepped inside. "Hey, sweetie." he said.

"My knight in shining...metallic paint returns." said Sandy.

Tony dropped himself on the bed next to her and sighed.

"Racing didn't go brilliantly I suppose." said Sandy.

"No, it went fine." said Tony. "I ran into a couple of friends of mine."

"Oh, how are they?" asked Sandy.

"Married and one's having a baby." said Tony.

"Oh, that's great." said Sandy.

"Yeah, but it's got me thinking." said Tony. "I'm not sure if I can keep living my life like this just being content with what I have. I think I need to start moving forward. But you know I don't want to move forward if you're not there."

"What are you saying?" asked Sandy.

"What I'm saying is I think it's time for us to take the next step." said Tony.

"Really?" asked Sandy.

"Absolutely." said Tony.

The next morning in Chicago, the Drake's butler led businessman Brad Compton into the Drake's mansion. "Right this way." he said.

The butler led Brad to a bedroom on the second floor and opened the door. "Thank you." said Brad. He entered the bedroom and said "Drake, my good...oh."

The Drake was laying in bed in his pajamas while strapped to a back board. Cuts and bruises adorned his face. Also in the room were Ron, the Drake's mother, and Susan Cope, the Drake's former financial advisor and Brad's ex-wife.

"Brad, nice to see you." said the Drake. "I'd get up and shake hands, but you can see that's not possible."

"My God, what happened?" asked Brad.

"It was a practice accident." said Ron. "Mr. Drake was on Lake Shore Drive practicing for the Cannonball when he blew a tire and slammed into a guardrail. He injured his back pretty badly."

"I decided to invite you here personally to cede victory in our annual wager." said the Drake.

"Well, as I'm not driving this year, the wager is off I guess." said Brad.

"What, you're both going to give up just like that?" asked Susan. "I don't get you two. You practically try to kill each other year after year and now you just lay it down."

"Well, it's a little hard to want to hurt someone in traction." said Brad.

"Can't get hurt much more." laughed the Drake.

"You know, you two are at your best when you're competing with each other." said Susan. "Maybe another competition will lift your spirits."

"Susan, how are we going to compete?" asked the Drake. "It's not like I can just get up and walk around."

"Maybe you can sponsor a Cannonball team each." said Ron. "Brad picks one and manages it. You pick one and manage it."

"Not a bad idea." said the Drake.

"I'll go get Vernon." said Mrs. Drake.

"Who?" asked Brad.

"Vernon Norman, Seymour's guest." said Mrs. Drake. She then walked down the hall.

"Who's Vernon Norman?" asked Brad.

Ron started to answer, but Susan beat him to it. "He's a friend of the Drake's. He and Ron were to join forces and race the Cannonball together."

"How come I've never met him before?" asked Brad.

Mrs. Drake returned with a scruffy, bearded man in blue jeans and a heavy metal T-shirt. Everyone in the room knew him better as "Venom".

"You have." said the Drake.

"Vernon?" asked Brad.

"You try scaring people with it." said Venom.

"Here's the deal." said the Drake. "The team I sponsor will be Ron and Venom. Brad, you may attend the start and pick your team."

"Very well, I will." said Brad.

"Ron, Venom, I suggest you go practice." said the Drake. "There's a car in the garage. I was going to give it to Ron as a gift for seven years of service, but you need it now."

"We'll go do that." said Ron. "Meanwhile, you get well."

He and Venom started for the door.

"Oh, on your way out," said the Drake "could you please set the satellite radio on the classic rock station?"

"What channel is it?" asked Ron.

"Forty-six." said the Drake.

Ron pushed the buttons and "Carry On, Wayward Son" by Kansas started playing.

"Thank you." said the Drake.

Ron and Venom walked outside to the garage.

"Who do you think Brad is going to pick?" asked Venom.

"He's not stupid, just crazy." said Ron. "He'll pick someone who can compete."

"Yeah, that's right." said Venom. "So, what kind of car is this?"

Ron pushed the button to open the garage door. "Knowing the Drake, it's probably a BMW." he said.

The door opened and revealed he was right. It was a black BMW 135i.

"Or at least it will be once it grows up." said Ron.

"Well, look at it this way." said Venom. "It may be a baby Bimmer, but it's still a Bimmer, baby."

"Let's give it a go." said Ron.

Venom walked over and opened the passenger side door. Meanwhile, Ron opened the driver's side door and flipped the seat forward.

"What are you doing?" asked Venom.

Ron pondered his question, then realized what he meant and laughed. "Force of habit." he said as he flipped the seat back.

In Los Angeles, the Basilotta household was preparing for breakfast. Sandy and Tony's mom, Josephine, were in the kitchen.

"So, let me get this straight." said Josephine. "In England, the hood is called a bonnet, the trunk is called a boot, and NEE-sahn is pronounced Niss-AHN?"

"That's about the size of it." said Sandy.

"Good thing Vinnie sent Tony to do the research." said Josephine.

In the dining room, Tony and Caesar talked.

"So, what did you get up to last night?" asked Caesar.

"We talked a little." said Tony. "We discussed our relationship and I think we've gone on to the next step. So, I think we're officially going steady. I think it's time I got serious."

"Not doing the Cannonball anymore?" asked Caesar.

"No, I'll still do it." said Tony. "In fact, I was thinking of entering the American Cannonball as well. I think Dad would like that."

"Oh, that is sweet." said Caesar.

The morning calm was shattered by a deafening roar.

"What the bloody hell was that?" asked Sandy.

"Hey, Tony. Your friends are here." said Vinnie.

Everyone walked out to the driveway. Tony waved and said "Hey." Caesar's jaw dropped with him gasping in shock.

In front of them were two men with black curly hair and a yellow sports car from the late 60s. "Buon giorno!" they both exclaimed.

"What's up, guys?" asked Tony as he ran out to greet them.

"Just warming up for the big one." said the taller one with an Italian accent.

"Care to introduce us?" asked Josephine.

Tony held out his hands to the taller man and said "Oh, guys. This is Salvatore Moretti, Italian Formula One racer." Then then held out his hands to the shorter one and said "And this is his cousin, Guiseppe Venicci."

"Welcome." said Vinnie. "A friend of Tony's is a friend of mine."

"Nice to see where he gets it from." said Salvatore.

Vinnie then told him something in Italian.

"What did you just say about my mother?" asked Salvatore.

Vinnie looked at him in shock.

"I'm just kidding!" laughed Salvatore.

Everyone involved let out a sigh of relief.

"Would you like to come inside?" asked Josephine. "We just made cannolis."

"Of course." said Salvatore.

"You should see how my mom makes them." said Tony.

Guiseppe started to join them, but noticed Caesar still looking over the car. "Quite an impressive machine, huh?" he asked.

"That's a Lamborghini Miura!" said Caesar.

"Sixty-nine SV." said Guiseppe. "Salvatore wanted to really make a splash in the American Cannonball."

"Oh, he will." said Caesar.

Within minutes, the group was eating breakfast.

"So, what are you doing here, Salvatore?" asked Vinnie.

"Well, next month is the Cannonball Run." said Salvatore. "Guiseppe and I thought it would be a good idea to take a ride across the country and see what America's all about."

"Sightseeing is a little difficult at a hundred and fifty." said Guisepppe.

"In fact, I was thinking of entering myself." said Tony. "Maybe we could be sponsored by the Zone, you know?"

Vinnie thought about it. "Ah, why not?" he said. "Definitely good publicity if a Zone-modified car can hack the Cannonball."

"What's this Zone you're talking about?" asked Guiseppe.

"Speed Zone." said Josephine. "It's Vinnie's chain of performance parts shops across the country."

"And in London." said Sandy.

"Yeah, we're international now." said Caesar.

"So, what's new with you guys?" asked Salvatore.

"Well, we're thinking of opening..." said Vinnie.

"Tony and I are engaged!" blurted out Sandy.

Everybody looked at her in shock, especially Tony.

"When did this happen?" asked Vinnie.

"Last night." said Sandy. "Tony said we should take the next step."

Salvatore and Guiseppe cheered.

"Clear the dance floor." joked Caesar.

Josephine got up and hugged her son. "Well, this is a surprise." she said.

"Yeah, I know." said a very shocked Tony.

Victor drove the tow truck back from Kingston. J.J. sat in the passenger seat and inserted his new license in his wallet.

"So, how does it feel to have your license back?" asked Victor.

"Wonderful." said J.J. "Now, driving without a license will not be one of the moving violations I commit in the Cannonball."

"Guess you'll have to settle for speeding and reckless driving." said Victor.

"I'd like to see if I can still do those in your Challenger." said J.J.

Victor pulled into the driveway for the garage. They both stared at an empty space next to the garage.

"Speaking of the Challenger, isn't that where we left it?" asked Victor.

J.J. jumped out and ran over to the empty space. "Who did you give the keys to?" he asked.

"I have them." said Victor. "Although I gave a spare set to Lisa for safekeeping."

"And she gave them to us."

J.J. and Victor turned around to see who it was. It turned out to be Chuck and Betty. Three years earlier, the mailroom clerk turned lottery winner.

"What did you do with the Challenger?" asked J.J.

"Yeah, trying to give yourself a little advantage?" asked Victor.

"No." said Betty. "We're not even taking part this year."

"Yeah, when we started taking part, we decided to stop when we won." said Chuck. "As you are aware, that was last year. We might come back someday. For now, we'll let you run in our place."

"Yeah, you'll come back someday." said Victor. "They always come back. Mel did."

"Um, where's the car?" asked J.J.

"California." said Betty. "Someone very prominent in the car customization world, who shall remain nameless, is working on your car."

"He's taking his time to do it right." said Chuck. "It should be finished by Independence Day."

"We're going to need it a little sooner, like Canada Day." said J.J.

"Actualy, you're not." said Betty.

"We're letting you run with this." said Chuck as he walked over to the garage door. He grabbed the handle and yanked it open.

J.J. and Victor looked into the garage and stared in awe. Inside was a brand new yellow Chevrolet Camaro SS with black rally stripes.

"Bitchin'!" said J.J.

AN:Please review.