Bench racing is the time-honored tradition of telling captivating stories. In drag racing this tradition probably began as soon as the first two machines squared off. Many of us caught the drag racing bug at an early age from listening to the bench races of the generations before us. Jaw dropping stories about feats of incredible engineering, or the legendary driving skills of the pioneers of the drag strip reigned supreme. Whether you were around in the ’70s or just heard the racing stories from the benches, this YouTube video should bring back some good memories. It’s a visual glimpse of the stars of many bench racing stories ripping up the strip east of Los Angeles in Ontario, California.
The video begins by focusing on the late Dick Landy and his Dodge Pro Stock. Landy was one of the early factory Chrysler drivers and was not afraid to experiment. In the late ’60s, Landy raced an altered wheel base Dodge that looked so different that onlookers would often comment that it was a “funny car.” This would end up inspiring an entire drag racing class known as—you guessed it–the Funny Car class. When the NHRA Pro Stock class was created in 1970, Landy quickly became the favorite. Landy continued to race in a variety of classes retiring in the early ’80s.
On the video, the Sox and Martin Plymouth ultimately claimed the pro stock race win in the finals driven by the late Ronnie Sox. Sox ranked 15th on the NHRA Top 50 Drivers, 1951-2000, primarily for his mastery of the four speed. He won five NHRA Pro Stock Championships and was the last man standing in over 59 events.
It was also interesting to see Danny Ongais in a fuel dragster. Ongais was the 1965 NHRA AA Dragster Champion, also known for his long Cart career. Often referred to as the “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” the native Hawaiian Ongais found success in multiple forms of motorsports. In 1977 he raced in six Formula One races before moving into Indy cars, then achieving status as a Cart star in the ’80s. These three legends have inspired many bench racing discussions over the years and if history is any indication, will be the topic for years to come.