Danny Thompson was not a total stranger to me, since Dave Sarna, the driver of our Bonneville car, and myself had called him about a year ago to discuss an idea we had about making a Mickey Thompson movie. Dave and I attended a "Save the Salt" meeting at the 2015 Performance and Racing Industry Trade Show (www.prishow.com) in Indianapolis and we thought that a movie might be a way to raise money to finance the salt erosion fight at Bonneville.
Members of the Save the Salt Coalition were at the 2016 SEMA Show to enlist support for their cause. Mining operations have depleted the salt level.
Although Danny Thompson has old movie footage of his dad's races and speed runs, he told us that making a movie isn't a practical idea. None other than Jay Leno later backed up his feelings on this, during a second phone call we did. However, Dave and I couldn't get the movie idea out of our minds. We kept thinking someday we'd meet Danny Thompson to discuss it more.
With thoughts of this floating around my head, I set out for the 2016 PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis, but found out there were no plans to hold a Save the Salt meeting there this year. I was enjoying other aspects of the show, when my stomach started growling. I grabbed a hot dog and Coke at a food stand and spotted an empty seat in the lobby. A thin man dressed in black was sitting next to me. I asked, "Where are you from?" He answered, "Colorado." Was he into racing I asked. "Yes," he said. "We're into land speed racing." So, I said, "You must know Danny Thompson," to which he replied, "I am Danny Thompson!"
The well-known Bonneville streamliner of racer Don Vesco was exhibited at this year's SEMA Show to draw people into the Save the Salt booth.
This streamliner was also at SEMA to drum up interest in the natural threats to automobile racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
I immediately asked Danny Thompson if I could interview him for Second Chance Garage.
SCG: Tell us why you're here Danny.
Danny: We're just roaming around seeing what kind of new products are out; seeing what we can find. Anything that will help our streamliner project. And looking for sponsorships, always the ever-elusive, hardest thing in motorsports. Finding the money to keep running.
SCG: Now, you just made a big splash. You're on the cover of Hot Rod magazine. You'd think potential sponsors would be knocking on your door.
Danny: Yeh, it's pretty cool when you walk through an airport and see the cover of Hot Rod magazine sitting there and you're on it. You walk through just smiling. That's really cool. You know, we've had a lot of exposure. We had good exposure in Hot Rod, we had good exposure in Roadkill.com and we had good exposure in Racer magazine. We've even done some television stuff and some commercial stuff, but, we're still looking for that elusive big sponsor.
SCG: Tell us about the car you're running.
Danny: Well, it's the car my dad, Mickey Thompson, drove in 1968. The car is 48 years old. It will be 49 years old this coming year. When it ran in 1968, my dad did about 360 mph with it and then it sat for, you know, 46 years. I got it all back running. Mostly it's the same as it was. The basic shape is the same. It's about two feet longer and has a couple of little aero tweaks. The air intakes from the front to rear engines are placed differently. It has a different engine and transmission combination. But, the basic car is the same one that ran in 1968.
SCG: How fast do you go out there at Bonneville?
Danny: We set a record at Bonneville Speedweeks 2016 at 406.769 mph, so that's pretty cool, but we're still gunning for more. We were going to retire the Challenger 2 after the FIA race, but then we ran into some problems and hurt the car pretty badly. So, now I've decided that I left too much on the table and now we want to go back and run in 2017.
Danny: It was at Bonneville. It was in September so it's Mike Cook's effort. It falls the week after "World of Speed" and the week before "World Finals."