By Geoff Stunkard
My time with the Landy family was over too soon, but not before I had a chance to head up over the mountains to a well-known historic drag race in Bakersfield, California. Started back in 1959, this race has more recently become one of the largest gatherings of historic drag cars at one time. Once again with Robert Landy riding shotgun, I put the HEMI® V8 in our 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack through its paces as we rolled down into the valley to witness nitromethane-fueled action.
Dick Landy had written some of his legacy right here. Exactly 50 years ago, back in 1965, when Dodge had built the first funny cars, Dick had won a special race and had clocked a 10.26 time—almost unheard-of for a “stock” car at that time. In 1970, he had scored Challenger’s big event win when he again won his class here, which was now called Pro Stock. As we walked the pits with the family, I saw many Dodge vehicles that were continuing the legacy that Dick had started. My Challenger was tucked away with friends on the manufacturer’s midway as I watched the action.
The next morning, we had breakfast with Mike Landy, Dick’s brother and perhaps the most integral member of the team. Other than an expense-paid trip with the Army thanks to Uncle Sam back in the late 1960s, Mike had seen it all. Mike’s recollections about projects they did for Chrysler – cylinder head modifications, testing program, promotions – again showed me why the relationship between the company and the Landy team had been so strong.
But my trip out west was winding down. After saying goodbye, I filled the tank with high-test, awoke before dawn and pointed east to start back across the nation. Unlike the ride out, when I had taken time to enjoy the Petrified Forest and watch trains blaze cross the Mojave desert, there was a more serious schedule. This time, the ride would take me across the southern tier on I-10 – Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans. After all, I had to be in Gainesville, Florida, in just a few days for a big drag-racing event, and I was planning on staying with some Challenger racers for the weekend.