Danny Thompson Sets Land Speed Record 50 Years In The Making

After an incredible two-way average run of 448.757 mph during Speedweek at the Bonnevile Salt Flats, Danny Thompson, 69, shattered the piston-powered, wheel driven land speed record and accomplished a goal started by his father Mickey more than 50 years ago.

“We did it!” Thompson wrote on the team’s website. “On Sunday morning, eight years of hard work culminated in a 450.909-mph return run. Averaged with yesterday’s speed of 446.605 mph, we achieved a new two-way AA/FS record of 448.757 mph, enough to make us the world’s fastest piston-powered car.”

Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels supported Danny’s journey to the record books since he first decided to resurrect the Challenger II in 2010 after sitting idle for more than 40 years in in his Colorado garage.

“Danny called me up and told me about his plan to restore the Challenger II and get it ready to try for a new record at the Bonneville Salt Flats,” recalled Ken Warner, Vice President of Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels. “He wanted to bring it back to life and finish what his dad, Mickey, started five decades ago.”

In 1968, Mickey took the Challenger II to Bonneville in an attempt to break the piston-powered, wheel-driven record. However, due to heavy rain on the salt flats, Mickey never got the chance to test the Challenger II and go for the record.

Mickey’s first land speed racing vehicle, the Challenger I, accomplished a 406.7 mile per hour run at Bonneville 10 years prior in 1958. That historic run landed Mickey in the record books as the “first man to reach 400 miles per hour.” But the Challenger I was not able to complete the second run needed for an official Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) record due to mechanical issues.

Mickey never got the chance to take the Challenger II back to Bonneville and try for the record again. But Danny was determined to give the the Challenger II another shot on the salt flats.

First, he needed to get the Challenger II from his Colorado garage to the Huntington Beach, California speed shop set up to restore the 1968 land speed racer. Warner sent the Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels motorsports trailer to Colorado and transported the Challenger II to southern California so work could begin.

Warner and Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels continued to support Danny and his team as they brought the car up to specs over the next two years. After a promising test run at Bonneville in 2014, two years of heavy rain on the flats forced the Challenger II to stay in the garage, waiting for the right conditions to attempt to break the record.

“In 2017, when there was a good year on the salt, Danny finally got the chance to run the Challenger II during SCTA’s Speedweek,” said Warner. “That’s when Danny set the two-way world record with a 406.8 mph average speed.”

The record was one-tenth of a second faster than his father’s historic run in 1968.

But Danny wasn’t done yet. A couple months after Speedweek 2017, Danny went back to Bonneville to attempt the FIA world record. But after crashing the Challenger II, Danny, who wasn’t injured, announced his Land Speed Racing career was done. He had decided to retire.

Congratulations to Danny and his team on their incredible, record-setting weekend at Bonneville. For the land speed record to be set in the same car Mickey built and on the same tires he and McMannis developed decades ago is an amazing end to this family’s quest to be the fastest racers on earth. – Ken Warner, Mickey Thompson

That is, until excellent conditions at the Bonneville Salt Flats this year were too much for Danny to resist.

Danny’s record setting 448.757 mph two-way average run at Speedweek 2018 was the culmination of eight years of hard work, dedication, and the support of manufacturers like Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels.

“Congratulations to Danny and his team on their incredible, record-setting weekend at Bonneville,” said Warner. “For the land speed record to be set in the same car Mickey built, and on the same tires he and McMannis developed decades ago, is an amazing end to this family’s quest to be the fastest racers on earth. We are proud to be the official tire of the Southern California Timing Association and Speedweek.”

In addition to the Challenger II, many of the fastest LSR cars in the world rely on Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels’ LSR tires. The company currently manufactures three LSR tires, including the 590-mph rated tires Danny drove in to the record books. Previous LSR record-holder George Poteet and his “Speed Demon,” as well as Team Vesco’s “Turbinator” both also utilize Mickey Thompson LSR tires.

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