Mickey Thompson: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of a Racing Legend

By Erik Arneson

Henry Ford. Samuel Colt. Babe Ruth. 

What do these people have in common? Nothing but the fact that, regardless of brand or team affiliation, these were game changers. Everything was different after they were done making their mark on their field or industry or sport. If anyone deserves to be on this list though, it’s Mickey Thompson. No one has left their mark on as many diverse forms of motorsports as Thompson. Drag racing, land speed records at Bonneville, off road racing, stadium racing, the Indy 500; wherever Mickey Thompson’s insatiable curiosity landed, wherever he saw a challenge, he would devote himself to that area until he’s changed it forever.

It’s this very larger than life figure that Erik Arneson has chosen to portray. Taking as his starting point the brutal murder of Mickey and his second wife Trudy, Arneson spirals back to the earliest days of Mickey’s life, touching on his street racing youth, his romance with and marriage to first wife Judy, and then delving deep into the remarkable life that followed, before finally coming full circle to explore his death at the hands of a business rival. Starting with the end of the story may seem nonsensical, but as Mickey’s story unfolds, it becomes all too clear that his death was,perhaps, an inevitable outcome of a man who believed in honesty and always standing up to enemies doing business in a world full of dishonesty and cowardice.

Arneson has a great and rare gift among biographers; the ability to know when to let his subject’s story tell itself. And he has an even rarer gift: a subject whose life was interesting enough to stand on its own. Of course, Mickey’s friends and family are along for the ride too. Arneson performed extensive interviews with the people who knew Mickey, his family, his friends, his co-workers, his employees, even his rivals, and the result is a picture of a man who could have made his impact in any field that captured his attention. Anyone who’s a fan of racing, casual or hardcore, whether drag racing, open wheel, off-road, even boat racing, should be grateful that it was racing that made Mickey’s day.