Way Back When... 1979

For years, the Lock Stock and Barrel bar in Darien was the starting point for the Cannonball Baker, a race made famous worldwide by a 1981 Burt Reynolds movie “Cannonball Run.”

The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, widely known simply as the Cannonball Baker or Cannonball Run, was an unofficial, unsanctioned automobile race run five times in the 1970s from New York City and Darien, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, Calif.

The object of the Cannonball Baker was to leave the Red Ball Garage on East 31st St. in New York City which in the last few years of the race switched to the Darien venue located in the Goodwives Shopping Center, usually after midnight, and drive to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach in the shortest time possible. Those were the only rules.

Nothing was specified as to the route, type of vehicle, the number of drivers or crew, or maximum speed permitted. There was a gentlemen’s agreement that the vehicle entered would be driven the entire distance, not having it transported on another vehicle, nor having an identical second vehicle hidden near the finish, etc. Speeding citations received along the way were the driver’s responsibility and did not disqualify the vehicle, although having to stop to receive a ticket increased the vehicle’s overall time.

The screenwriter was automotive journalist Brock Yates, who had conceived the real-life Cannonball Baker event. Yates had originally proposed the race as a writer for Car and Driver magazine.

George Lysle IV, who died on March 22, 2015, in Jupiter, Fla., was the owner of the Lock Stock and Barrel in Darien. According to his obituary, during his career, after a brief tenure on Wall Street, he decided to take on the challenge of managing the careers of the most notable names in the auto racing industry at his friend, Mark McCormack’s company, IMG.

Additionally, he worked for ABC sports as an announcer for many car races over the years.

In recent years, documentary filmmakers have been searching for footage from the race for a movie. If you have a tip, you can email gh@motorreporters.com.