He was known as the “Speed King” for good reason.
Mickey Thompson was well known at the time of he and his wife Trudy’s death as one of the top drivers and innovators in the motorsports world—not just in off-road racing.
As if his 1982 overall win at the Baja 1000 wasn’t a big enough accomplishment, and in which he codrove with David Kreisler after his “retirement” from racing. Mickey was well known for his wins in drag racing, land speed record racing and hydroplane boats. He also was the first to build a rear-engined car for Indianapolis in 1962 for Dan Gurney to drive to 9th place in Gurney’s rookie debut at Indy.
He was posthumously inducted to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and to the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2009.
Mickey and Trudy were inseparable. They did everything together, including working together at the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG) offices in Anaheim, California. On March 16th, 1988, as they left their Bradbury home at around 6 a.m., two gunmen ambushed them in their driveway. Neighboring witnesses described how they shot Trudy as she pulled her Toyota minivan out of their garage and then shot Mickey, who was pleading for Trudy’s life. It was a brutal assassination, not unlike the Manson family murders some 19 years earlier. The gunmen escaped on bicycles and were never seen again.
The murders created headline news around the nation.
Mickey had created SCORE International in 1973 and handed over the leadership to Sal Fish. He was always starting up new ventures, one of which was MTEG, which started off-road stadium racing in Pomona in 1982. He soon realized that he could save a lot of money if he worked with other promoters and shared the expense of moving the vast amount of dirt into and out of a particular venue.
He entered into a partnership with Mike Goodwin, who ran the motorcycle Supercross series. That was the beginning of a fatal relationship. The two ran into a disagreement over money (what else?), and Mickey won a huge-dollar settlement from Goodwin. After that decision, Goodwin started threatening, to the point that Mickey’s friends shared their concerns with Mickey, who said he wasn’t worried.
Eventually, witnesses came forth and identified Goodwin as the person who was watching the Thompson compound a couple days before the murders. Mickey Thompson’s, sister, Coleen, was relentless and never gave up looking for the murderers, keeping the case before the press and the public. Her efforts eventually paid off.
After years of legal wrangling, a judge ordered Goodwin to stand trial in Pasadena, Calif. In 2007, a jury found him guilty and at the sentencing hearing, gave Goodwin two life terms for his misdeeds. Subsequent motions for a retrial have all been denied.
Whatever happened to the gunmen? The reward money for their capture got up to $175,000, likely many times what they were paid for their services. Many criminal experts have surmised that they were also eliminated to keep from them “singing” and now “swim with the fishes.”
If you are ever in the neighborhood, along the 605 Freeway in Whittier, California, at Rose Hills Cemetery, you can visit the gravesite of Mickey, Trudy, and their pets laying beside them.