The Hollywood community is in mourning once again, after another icon passed away, and although you may not know him by name, you'll most likely know what he created. Brock Yates, a legendary automotive journalist and writer who created the iconic Cannonball Run cross-country road race, died earlier today at the age of 82. The writer passed from complications due to Alzheimer's Disease.
Deadline reported on his death earlier today. Brock Yates was born October 21, 1933 in Buffalo, New York, the son of author Raymond F. Yates. He started writing about the automotive industry at the age of 16, when his first articles appeared in Science and Mechanics Magazine. After graduating from Hobart College and serving in the U.S. Navy, he started his career as a journalist with Car & Driver Magazine, where he held various editorial titles. He has also served as a TV commentator for NASCAR's Winston Cup races, but he is perhaps best known for creating the real-life version of the Cannonball Run.
In 1971, Brock Yates teamed up with his Car & Driver colleague Steve Smith to create the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. The race was named after Erwin "Cannonball" Baker, who had set several cross-country race records, with Brock Yates creating the race to protest stricter traffic laws being enacted all over the country. The first race was held on May 3, 1971, with just four entrants, Brock Yates, his son Brock Yates Junior, Steve Smith and Jim Williams, a friend to Yates and Smith.
Between 1971 and 1979, there were five Cannonball Run races, the last of which on April 1, 1979, featured 46 teams competing. Brock Yates began working on his screenplay for a Cannonball Run movie in the mid-1970s, but the movie didn't move forward until he teamed up with director and legendary stuntman Hal Needham. Brock Yates worked with Hal Needham on the script for Smokey and the Bandit II while working on Cannonball Run, which they had envisioned Steve McQueen starring in the lead role of J.J. McGlure. The actor was diagnosed with cancer and couldn't star in the movie, leading to Burt Reynolds stepping in.
Cannonball Run became a box office hit with $72.1 million from a $16 million budget, which ranked as the sixth highest grossing movie of the year in 1981. When adjusted for inflation, Cannonball Run's total would equate to a $224.8 million movie today. Brock Yates was also the author of 14 books such as Cannonball!: World's Greatest Outlaw Road Race and Outlaw Machine - Harley-Davidson and the Search For the American Soul. Brock Yates is survived by his wife Pamela Yates and his son Brock Yates Junior.