Mickey Thompson First American to go 400 mph.

Mickey Thompson, nicknamed "The Speed King", was born in Alhambra, California in 1928. In his early twenties, he worked as a pressman for the Los Angeles Times newspaper while pursuing a lifelong love of Hot rodding. Raising his sights, he became involved in the new sport of drag racing.

Mickey Thompson First American to go 400 mph.
Mickey Thompson and Challenger 1

Mickey Thompson and the Challenger 1, at Bonneville Salt Flats 1960 

Mickey Thompson racing career.

Tireless and innovative, he found success both as a championship driver and an instinctive automotive technician he worked tirelessly to make his race cars unbeatable. Thompson is credited with designing and building the first slingshot dragster, in 1954, moving the seat behind the rear axle to improve traction when existing racing tires proved unable to handle the output of increasingly powerful custom engines. A change so momentous would not happen again until Don Garlits introduced the rear-engine digger in 1971. Thompson also was noted for being the first manager of Lions Drag Strip near Long Beach, California, in 1955.

In addition to being a drag racing champion, over the course of his career Thompson set more speed and endurance records than any other man in automotive history. Mickey even had an oath to speed racing. "I hereby solemnly swear, to stand on the gas and leave all others in my dust, undisputed, forever, until the end of time".

 

Over the course of his career Mickey Thompson had two speedboat crashes and 27 hospital stays for broken bones (that includes breaking his back four different times) and other injuries.

Mickey Thompson, Challenger 1, speed record 1960

Determined to set a new land speed record Thompson achieved international fame when he drove his four-engine Challenger 1 past 400 mph in 1960 at the Bonneville Salt Flats, becoming the first American to break that barrier and setting a new one-way mark of 406.60 mph, surpassing John Cobb's one-way high of 402 mph. Due to a busted driveshaft in the Challenger race car, Mickey was unable to complete the second of the 2 run requirement for the world land speed record. 

In 1965 Thompson published "Challenger: Mickey Thompson's own story of his life of speed." In 1968, he redesigned the funny car, and went on to win the 1969 NHRA Spring Nationals and NHRA Nationals with driver Danny Ongais. In his long career, Thompson raced everything from stock cars to off-road vehicles and engineered numerous competition engines. He went into the performance aftermarket business in the early 1960s and then, in 1963, he created "Mickey Thompson Performance Tires" that developed special tires for racing including for Indianapolis 500 competitors.

Mickey and Trudy Thompson murders.

On March 16, 1988, Thompson and his wife Trudy were killed by two hooded gunmen outside their home in Bradbury, California in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountain. An intense police investigation failed to uncover either the identity of the mystery gunmen, or a motive for the crime.

Mickey and TrudyThompson

It remained a dead-end until 2001, when former Thompson business partner Michael Frank Goodwin was charged in Orange County, California with the murders. On June 8, 2004, Goodwin was formally charged with the murders in Pasadena in Los Angeles County. In October 2006, a Pasadena Superior Court judge ordered Goodwin to stand trial.

During the trial, a long series of witnesses reported hearing Goodwin threaten to kill the Thompsons. “I’m going to kill that son of a bitch. I’m going to kill that motherfucker. I’m going to take out Mickey. I’m too smart to get caught. I’ll have him wasted. He’ll never see a nickel. I’ll kill him first. Mickey doesn’t know who he is fucking with. He is fucking dead. Although the prosecution did not establish a direct connection between the murderers and Goodwin, the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to convict him. On January 4, 2007, a jury found Goodwin guilty of two counts of murder in the death of Thompson and his wife. Goodwin was sentenced to two consecutive life-without-parole terms.