If there ever was a great “life father, like son” story, Danny Thompson wrote it this past weekend.
It took him more than a half-century to do so, but Thompson has returned the title of “The King of Speed” to his family tree.
The son of legendary racer and race promoter Mickey Thompson, the younger Thompson became the fastest driver on land this past weekend at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Danny Thompson, now 66, made two passes down the expansive eight-mile course (the finish line is between Mile 4 and 5), one at 411 mph and the other at 402 mph.
The 66-year-old Thompson’s combined average speed of those two runs – which is what the new record is based upon – was 406.7. That beat his father’s former unofficial mark of 406.6 mph (the first American driver to ever surpass 400 mph at Bonneville), set in 1960, by a mere smidgeon.
Danny Thompson also broke Bonneville’s official national speed record for naturally aspirated, piston-powered, wheel-driven vehicles (392.5 mph, set in 2009). Thompson’s car runs on a combination of nitromethane and alcohol and gets .1 mile to a gallon, he told CNN.
“I’m in the 400 club. I like it,” Thompson told CNN.
Ironically, Thompson made history by utilizing history. He set the new record in Challenger 2, which was built upon the original 1968 chassis of his father’s Challenger 1.
“I wasn’t quitting until it got done,” Thompson told CNN at the finish line. “There has never been any doubt. It was going to happen.”
Danny Thompson dedicated the achievement to the memory of his father, who along with his second wife Trudy, was murdered in the driveway of their Southern California home in March 1988.
The murder went unsolved for nearly 30 years until Michael Goodwin, who had been a business partner of Mickey Thompson’s, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the two murders.
Danny Thompson had previously taken Challenger 2 up to an unofficial record of 419 mph in 2014, but just like his father’s own unofficial record, was unable to come back to make a second comparable run that would have made for an official mark.
“This is what we came here for,” Thompson said.