The Seattle Kingdome was the racetrack and early April 1991 the date. This was the third race in that year’s series, after rounds in San Diego and Anaheim, California. At the end of the second of two Grand National Sport Truck heats that night, a cluster of trucks running in third, fourth, and fifth place collided on a tight left turn, with the result shown here.
Ivan Stewart, who had won the series the previous year, was sporting the coveted #1 plate. In an instant, Stewart ended up on top of Nissan team driver, Roger Mears, Jr., and they sat there for a couple minutes until the cleanup crew got to them. Eventually, Stewart was forklifted off Mears. There was minimal damage, mostly paint, and both trucks and drivers were ready for the main event about an hour later.
This incident was not the deciding factor, by any means. However, helped by incidents like this one in the 1991 season, Walker Evans and his Jeep truck went on to win the class championship.
The famous Mickey Thompson invented the series in 1979. At the time, Mickey was convinced desert races, like the Baja 1000 and Mint 400, were seen “by nothing but cactus and jackrabbits.” Mickey decided a new kind of off-road racing was needed, so a lot of people could see the craziness of the sport at one time. The result was the SCORE Riverside Off-Road World Championship race held at Riverside Raceway. Mickey further refined his thought and decided to put the entire event into a football stadium. His first race was in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1979.
It was such an instant hit the series grew year by year, until at its height, eight major cities from San Diego to Seattle and Las Vegas to New Orleans hosted a Mickey Thompson Stadium event. Thompson was able to see his series grow until 1988. On March 16, 1988, two unidentified gunmen killed him and his wife Trudy as they were leaving home to go to work at Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group race headquarters in Anaheim, California.
Bill Marcel took over running the series at first, and later, Gary Campbell (Mickey Thompson’s brother-in-law). For seven more years, the series thrived with Danny Thompson at the helm of MTEG.
In retrospect, it was easy to see how the series revolved around the Grand National truck class, even though four other classes raced multiple races at each event. Ivan Stewart became the winningest driver in the MTEG series, with a record 17 races won and three class championships to his credit.
The versatile Stewart was as good in the desert as he was in the stadium. In the SCORE desert series, he won an astounding 17 Baja 500s and three Baja 1000s and was awarded the Valvoline Iron Man trophy too many times to count. He retired in 2000, but remains a celebrity to this day, showing up as the Grand Marshall of events like the recent SCORE San Felipe Baja 250.
Vaya con Dios