Video: A Look at How Mickey Thompson Changed Racing

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Danny Thompson shares how his dad went on vacation with his family as a kid to the Bonneville Salt Flats. It was then, as a 7-8 year old kid, that Mickey decided that racing on those Salt Flats was what he wanted to do with his life.

When he grew up, he met up with Fritz Voigt and they wants to beat the Brits in landspeed. They went on to buy junk yard parts and engines and put them together to make them all work as one. Danny recalls how his mom would pull valves and parts from these engines for Mickey while he was at work so they’d be ready to work on when he got home everyday.

Even with the four fuel injected, nitromethane engines, they couldn’t get their car to the goal of 400mph. They went back the next year with superchargers on their engines and trapped a 406mph speed.

It was in 1962 when Mickey Thompson first showed up at Indianapolis with his own car. He went back there in 1963 with
an innovative car that was made to maximize air flow, and a radial set of tires. The officials regulated the weight shortly after so his 1,000 pound car was no longer going to cut it.

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When Mickey Thompson got into drag racing, he really found his calling. It was actually Mickey who came up with the idea of replacing the flag drops with the now standard Christmas Tree starting lights. He also introduced segmented timing so you can study your performance going down the track.

Early on in off-road racing, Mickey Thompson started building his own off-road vehicles to make sure he could make the best. It was there where he invented the sidebiter tire design to keep vehicle’s from getting stuck in the sand — a design still use today.

After years in Baja racing, Mickey Thompson wanted to share this experience with people who didn’t want to drive out to the middle of the desert, so he brought it to stadiums before anyone else did.

Although his name is most commonly associated with tires nowadays, Mickey Thompson is perhaps the most innovative auto sport influencer that ever was. As an individual, he has done more for auto racing than any other singular person. No matter what your poison is, Indy, off-road, drag, etc. you’re likely seeing Mickey Thompson’s handy work around without even realizing it!

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