Editorial

Feud - The story on the murder of Mickey Thompson
Everyone loved racing king Mickey Thompson...except Mike Goodwin—here’s the inside story on the biggest back-room battle in motor-sports history
 
by Jan Golab

 February 23, 2005 (Originally written July, 1988)

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As readers of AutoRacing1.com know, we have been following the murder trial of Mickey Thompson closely.  We don't know what you actually know about the background to the murders so we contacted Jan Golab, a west coast writer, who wrote about the lead up to the murders right after they took place. This article was published in the July, 1988 issue of Los Angeles Magazine.  Jan gave us permission to reproduce the article.


When worlds collide:
(L) Stadium-motocross promoter Mike Goodwin  (R) world-renowned racer Mickey Thompson.

Mickey had been talking about death threats to anyone who would listen for months. So he probably knew from the moment he walked out the side door of his garage in the early morning of this past March 16. Before his brain could even process the fear, a strange black man, lurking in the bushes, leveled a high-caliber handgun at him and fired. Thompson took four quick shots to the gut, charging forward and screaming, “Just don’t hurt my wife! Just don’t hurt my wife!” Yeah, he knew it was all over, except for the shouting. He clutched his arms in front of him, covering his wounds as he struggled toward his assailant and continued to plead for Trudy’s life. It was the last thing he could do. Two more rounds hit him, and he tumbled to the pavement.

His pleas fell on cold, deaf ears. Trudy Thompson, sitting in the driver’s seat of the couple’s Toyota van, cried, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” while a second gunman fired one round at her through the windshield. The van rolled to the bottom of the drive, and Trudy thrown to the ground. The killer shoved his gun to her head and pulled the trigger. Meanwhile the other hit man administered a similar coup de grace to Mickey. The gunmen then mounted bicycles and slipped silently out of the quiet hillside community of Bradbury (most likely to a vehicle waiting at the entrance to the nearby 210 Freeway), leaving the world-famous racing legend belly down on the driveway in a pool of blood.


Thompson’s body immediately following his brutal murder outside his Bradbury home in March.

That it was a planned “assassination” by professional hit men the police have no doubt. The killers, apparently aware of the Thompsons’ rigid work schedule, were lying in wait when the couple was exiting their exquisite home at 6 am, to head for the offices of the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG) at Anaheim Stadium. Trudy was wearing $70,000 worth of jewelry, none of it touched. The big sparkly diamond on her wedding ring alone was worth 30 grand. The heart-shaped gold-and-diamond pendant with “10,, in its center—a gift from Mickey and her prized possession--was around her neck. She was also carrying $4,000 cash.

A number of witnesses saw the killers drive away. Composite drawings were made: two black males, 20 to 30 years of age, five-foot- 10 to six feet tall, 180 to 200 pounds. A third man, white, with shoulder-length hair and a mustache, who was seen abandoning a bicycle a few miles from the scene, was described as “suspicious” but “not a suspect.”

The racing world, indeed anyone who knew the 59-year-old, renowned race promoter and legendary speedster—the first to break the 400-miles-per-hour barrier at the Bonneville Salt Flats—was shocked. Who would want to kill Mickey Thompson? Indeed, many of the 1,000 plus who attended Mickey and Trudy’s funeral could be overheard voicing testimonials they owed everything, their inspiration, their careers, to Mickey Thompson.

“If it wasn’t for Mickey,” says off-road racer Roger Mears, “we’d all still be bouncin’ around out in the desert. Mickey and I didn’t always get along, we had some real verbal, knockdown dragouts, but if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be racing for a living.”

“I had a lot of problems with Mickey,” says one of the granddaddies of off-road racing, Parnelli Jones, “yet if I ever felt I needed help I could go to Mickey, and he’d give it to me.

But not everyone loved Mickey. And speculation grew among his closest associates over who would want to kill him. The millionaire racing entrepreneur was a shrewd businessman who created and sold some 27 businesses over the years. It could have been a disgruntled ex-partner, associates said, or even some racer or independent contractor he’d alienated while promoting his Off-Road Championship Grand Prix events. Mickey could be abrasive and pigheaded. “He’d run over anybody if they got in his way,” attests one friend.

Those who knew him best invariably describe him as a crusty coot with a marshmallow interior, a generous, big-hearted man. A fair man. “Mickey always expected everybody to live up to their deal,” says Smokey Yunick, a top race-car builder and friend of Mickey’s since the ‘50s. “I never heard of a deal where he was unscrupulous. His word was bond. Of course, he insisted on getting what he bargained for—and what he bargained for might fall into dispute.”

“Mickey always expected everybody to live up to a
deal; he insisted on getting what he bargained for—and
what he bargained for might fall into dispute”

Initial rumors in the press about a suggested drug connection were soon dismissed. Thompson had testified at the 1985 trial of one of two drug dealers who’d murdered his nephew, Scott Campbell. “There were no threats made to any witnesses in that case,” says Sergeant Mike Griggs, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s lead investigator on the case. “Mickey was not even a key witness. And both of Scott Campbell’s killers were out on bail for a long time. If they had felt any need to kill witnesses before they testified, they certainly had the opportunity. At this point, we do not see any connection.”

But the one topic everyone inevitably came back to was the Feud, a long and protracted battle between two racing-world czars, Mickey Thompson and flamboyant stadium-motocross promoter Mike Goodwin, that has been called the most bitter in the history of motor-sport racing. The ongoing legal battle, which was played out in high profile, in public, in the courts for four years, had driven Goodwin into bankruptcy and left him virtually ruined. Numerous friends neighbors, relatives and business associates of Thompson’s informed authorities that Mickey had recently told them of receiving death threats—often mentioning Goodwin. Sports Illustrated quoted Deke Houlgate, a public-relations consultant and longtime acquaintance of Mickey’s, as saying, “He [Mickey] has told anyone who would stand still for 15 seconds that Mike Goodwin had threatened his life.” The Orange County Register even ran a front-page report headlined “Mickey Thompson and Wife Assassinated” and beneath it a story headlined “Promoters Involved in Lengthy Legal Feud.”

But despite the obvious media attention, Mike Goodwin, according to police, is under investigation but is not a suspect. “Mickey and Trudy told family, friends, beauty operators, business associates and everyone else about alleged threats,” says Griggs, “and in some cases they did mention Goodwin. But none of these alleged threats has been documented. Nobody can back it up with any evidence.”

For now, the two bicyclists remain the only suspects in the murders. “We are investigating various people with possible motives—and one of these is Mike Goodwin,” says Griggs. “But the investigation is not just centered on Goodwin. We are exploring all areas of Thompson’s life.”

For his part, Goodwin has remained tight-lipped with the press and investigators, to whom he has refused to speak. “It’s just common sense,” says Ronald Coulombe, one of Goodwin’s attorneys, pointing out that certain aspects of the litigation nightmare between his client and Thompson—now, Thompson’s estate—remain unresolved. “Considerations weigh more favorably for not talking,” he says.

However, the Feud itself—and the continuing litigation—remains a fascinating topic, a fateful story of two willful, driven men. For big-time promoters, live stadium motor sports are the toughest, most demanding events to stage, far more complex than the simple presentation of a rock star. It requires the delicate and often troublesome blend of sport and old fashioned, whoop-de-do show biz. Contracts with venues and dozens of racers, dirt haulers, track builders, security personnel and medivacs all have to be negotiated, sanctioning groups must be coddled and mollified, sponsors must be courted and sold, class distinctions determined and policed, courses laid out, race schedules delicately choreographed and, of course, you have to bring the crowds into your tent.

Mickey Thompson and Mike Goodwin both spent over a decade establishing their names as tops in their fields. They were both competitive, ambitious, at times difficult, at once opposites and mirror images. Having conceived their respective events (Thompson’s were cars and trucks, Goodwin’s was motorcycles), both weathered years of struggle and red ink to establish audiences at each new venue they tackled. Few would understand why these two titans would ever attempt to merge and, inevitably, say friends, collide.

“The ongoing legal battle with Thompson, played out
in high profile, in public, drove Goodwin into bankruptcy
and left him virtually ruined”

After Thompson’s murder, the media duly extolled the Speed King’s many accomplishments. But much of Thompson’s greatness, his importance, slipped by those who merely scoured the record books or his long list of inventions and innovations. Thompson’s greatest claim to fame was being the first man to break the 400-miles-per-hour speed barrier on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1960. But the Fastest Man Alive represented far more than a record to those who admired and followed him. He was a shade-tree mechanic, a can-opener engineer with barely a high-school education, a wild-eyed boy without a buck, a hot rodder who nonetheless beat the pants off all those rich British playboys and smug, factory-bankrolled R & D guys in Detroit. His accomplishments with his famed, backyard-built, four-engine Challenger I proved that talent and determination could go wheel-to-wheel with “proper” training and almighty dollars. President Kennedy didn’t invite him to the White House just because he managed to hit 406.6 mph. Thompson was the guy who single-handedly laid to rest the hot rodder’s ID media image, who made them respectable.

As an inspirational figure, he was unmatched in the world of motor sports. He was a believer who did what “couldn’t be done,” a prototype, an original. His “stand on the gas” attitude was revered and emulated by anyone who ever chose to race a vehicle. In many ways, Thompson was to racers what Chuck Yeager is to test pilots—the template at the top of the pyramid.

Thompson was also an extraordinary promoter—not just of racing events but of a whole culture as well. Back in the early days of drag racing, in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, Deke Houlgate recalls, “Mickey was the guy who really took the sport uptown. He made drag racing. He’s remembered as the guy who first went 200 mph in the quarter mile, as the inventor of the sling-shot dragster, but he’s also the guy who put drag racing into everybody’s car radio—the announcers screaming, ‘The killer cars are coming to Lions! Be there!’”

Thompson brought this same flair and dogged determination to off-road racing. He often claimed he spent more than $3 million over the past 10 years to build his stadium races into a viable, big-time spectator sport.
At the time of his death, his long-term investment was finally paying off. But it was a seemingly insurmountable struggle, as Mickey had to virtually create the sport to build his business.

“Mickey pissed some people off,” says Ivan (“Ironman”) Stewart, a top off-road racer, “but by God, he got the job done. He was a mover and a shaker. Whenever something had to be done, you went to Mickey.”

Thompson’s son, Danny, aged 37, himself an off-road racer, points across the pits at the recent Mickey Thompson Off-Road Championship Grand Prix course at the Rose Bowl, noting, “Look at these trucks, these cars, these jobs—my dad did all that. A lot of top manufacturers told him that stadium off-road racing would never work. Whenever you start a new venture, I guess you’re going to have lots of people bucking you.”

As a promoter, Mike Goodwin’s roots were not in racing. He was a top rock-concert promoter on the West Coast in 1969 and 1970, presenting the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. He conceived the idea of stadium motocross (dirt-track motorcycle racing) and presented his first Supercross event at the L.A. Coliseum in 1971, drawing 27,000 fans. Attendance grew every year, and he expanded to new venues, including Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego and Anaheim Stadium. His 1979 Coliseum Supercross drew 74,000, one of the biggest money events ever at that venue, and in 1982 he set an all-time attendance record at Anaheim with 70,205. He often boasted in interviews of being the nation’s biggest promoter of stadium motocross, with an average gate of 57,000 at his events, placing them behind only the Indy 500, Daytona and Watkins Glen in the world of spectator racing.

Over the years, Goodwin’s flamboyant, full-throttle style garnered as much attention as his success as a promoter. He sported full-length mink coats, drove fancy Lincoln Clenets, threw promo parties on rented yachts and, until recently, wheeled and dealed from an office in his million-dollar ocean-view Laguna Beach home. Said to be a gifted salesman and financial wizard, he often bragged of millions made in real estate—his primary source of income—and dabbled as well in oil wells, art and antiques.


Thompson and partner-wife Trudy: “I’ll believe anything. But my wife, she knew, she knew.”

An athletic 43; at six-foot-three, 200 pounds, Goodwin is also known to relax fast. He’s an accomplished professional underwater photographer who holds awards for shots taken off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and in the Red Sea, the South Pacific and the Sea of Cortés. He holds world records for spear fishing—without an air tank—for the likes of stingray (114 pounds) and amberjack (127 pounds), a sport from which he has twice ruptured a lung. He also holds big-game records, hunts Kodiak bears in Alaska with a .44-caliber handgun and spears wild boar in Tennessee—adventures chronicled on the sports pages. He races expensive sports cars, motorcycles, off-road racers and has blown thousands to wreck vehicles. After one 130-mph motorcycle crash that ground his butt into hamburger, he ran one of his Super Bowl of Motocross events while barking orders from a stadium control booth, lying facedown on a stretcher. “He’s a real Rambo kind of guy,” says his attorney, Ronald Coulombe. “He’s really quite a character. He’s a genius, no doubt about it. A multitalented, incredible guy.”

Goodwin also has a reputation for conducting his business in a style gleaned from the pages of Winning Through Intimidation: He’s a voluminous and irate corresponder, litigious and acrimonious. Invariably, he’s described by those who’ve dealt with him as “a compulsive overachiever” with an “overwhelming” and frequently insufferable ego. “Half the people I hire are gone in three days,” he stated in one interview. “I must be a bastard to work for.”

Goodwin once told Dirt Rider magazine, “I have an absolute passion for being the best. Maybe it’s an affliction. I can’t stand to be second. It’s an all-encompassing attitude of mine. I just can’t stand the concept of not being the best.”

Early in 1984, Thompson became concerned over problems Trudy was having with an inflammation in her knee. Orthoscopic surgery provided no relief, and doctors advised she had to spend less time on her feet or risk a crippling disability. Mickey practically worshiped Trudy, his second wife, whom he married in 1971. He had good reason. Life with Thompson could be a harrowing adventure, and it took a special woman to ride with him. Trudy was an ever-faithful sidekick who protected Mickey from himself when necessary. He could be quick-tempered, always a battler, and Trudy helped him maintain his perspective. Thompson was a whirlwind who hardly ever slept. “My father was the type of guy who belonged in one of those think tanks,” recalls son Danny. “He needed about 100 people to carry out the ideas he came up with.”

The Thompsons were inseparable, working from the early morning to late at night at the MTEG offices or flying off in their Cessna to mark a race course, check out a new stadium or compete in some desert race. (Trudy would often ride with Mickey in his pre-runs). They flew a lot, as Mickey was constitutionally incapable of observing the speed limit. His driving record read as long as Gone With the Wind. Thompson was as rough on planes as he was on vehicles, and his airborne adventures were infamous. Once, he bounced one off a cliff down in Baja. Another time, he had to stick Trudy in the pilot’s seat while he crawled outside the plane to fix a malfunctioning landing gear.

“A lot of people warned Mickey about Goodwin, but he
was so concerned about Trudy’s health it was worth the gamble
to go into business with the guy”

Trudy didn’t like the fact that Thompson refused to quit the grueling off-road desert races, even though he was twice the age of most competitors. But she accepted it and did what she could to keep him alive. She smiled and tried not to worry too much when he broke down and got lost for two days in the middle of nowhere during the Parker 400 in Arizona, weathering a dust storm and a freezing cold night in a rusty trash can before walking50 miles back to civilization, or when he had an altercation at Baja

with a 14-foot saguaro cactus and wandered wild-eyed back to town with hundreds of stickers embedded in his flesh. And then there was the time in the Baja 1,000, which he won in 1982, when he found himself stuck in a muddy tide pool with the engine flooded. So he poured gasoline on the engine and set it afire to dry it off. Then he jumped in the car and got it up to 100 mph to blow out the flames. He figured he’d either get the ignition dry or blow up the car—and himself. “It was kind of a desperate thing to do,” Thompson later told Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times, “but that’s how you survive in Baja.”

Back in 1984, Trudy’s involvement in MTEG was all consuming. She was an MTEG linchpin, a forever calm and smiling organizer who kept everything stable amid perpetual crises. But her knee kept getting worse and worse. Thompson decided it was time to phase out their taxing involvement in staging MTEG’s stadium shows and get Trudy off her feet.

That’s when Thompson began talking with Mike Goodwin about a possible merger. It seemed to make sense. Goodwin dealt with a lot of the same variables-—only with motorcycles instead of cars and trucks. He knew all the complexities involved in building a dirt track inside a stadium—which is no mean feat. Many of those close to Thompson, however, warned him it would be a marriage made in hell.

“I told Mickey, ‘There’s no way. You guys are going to eat each other alive!’” recalls Sal Fish, who had been Mickey’s partner for 13 years in SCORE (Short-Course Off-Road Racing), an organization that promotes desert races. Fish explains that while the Wildman and the Playboy had radically different styles, he feared they were also too much alike. “Mickey was the type of guy you’d run into, and his clothes would be a mess, he’d be spitting a hot dog out of his mouth, excitedly telling you about how he’d been up for 48 hours and gone through fire doing some project and had just lost a million dollars—but he didn’t care and was going to do it again! Goodwin, on the other hand, would be wearing his fur coal, driving his Clenet, telling you about the new Rembrandts in his art collection, about how he’d just made a few million on his latest deal. But they both were the type who wanted things to go their own way. You can’t merge two immovable forces. Later, I knew Mickey wouldn’t quit until he had everything—and neither would Goodwin. But Mickey could always outlive the other guy.”

Bill Marcel, production vice president for MTEG, recalls, “Mickey told me a lot of people warned him about Goodwin, but he was so concerned about Trudy’s health. He felt it was worth a gamble to go into business with the guy.”

Thompson and Goodwin entered into an agreement, effective April 1, 1984, to merge Goodwin’s company, Stadium Motorsports Corporation (SMC) with MTEG. The contract called for the two parties to split ownership—and expenses—of both companies, 70 percent to Goodwin, 30 percent to Thompson. Although the companies would be dually owned and operated, each would retain its respective name and events. Few were surprised when just a few months later the deal nose-dived into a labyrinth of litigation.

In July 1984, MTEG ran off-road races at the Indiana Hoosierdome and the Pontiac Silverdome. While preparing the Indiana event, SMC told Thompson it needed $60,000 to pay some bills. Thompson complied, assuming Goodwin would put up his 70 percent. Then, at Pontiac, SMC again put the touch on Thompson for $107,000. Thompson talked to Goodwin about it, but Goodwin allegedly refused to come up with any money. Concerned about his people getting paid, Thompson put up the cash. Then he contacted his lawyers.
Thompson’s attorneys urged Goodwin either to live up to his agreement or unwind the merger. Goodwin refused, claiming the contract did not call for the two parties to split expenses until after the end of an 18-month trial period—which was not at all the Thompson camp’s understanding of the deal. Goodwin also argued that he had begged Thompson to cancel both the Michigan and Indiana events, predicting that they would lose money—which they did. In September 1984, Thompson filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. Goodwin quickly filed a countersuit. The war was on.

“I’m not a people person—all I care about is results,
and if somebody has a contract with me and doesn’t perform,
I’ll take their legs off to get them to perform”

The following month, a court order returned control of MTEG to Thompson, even though the company was still saddled with debts acquired during the merger. According to a noncompetition provision in their merger contract, MTEG had agreed not to run motorcycles at future events, while SMC had agreed not to run cars. But Goodwin would start running cars during halftime at a Supercross in an apparent breach of the agreement. Thompson countered by running cycles at an Off-Road Championship Grand Prix, which led Goodwin to try to torpedo the event with press releases. Thompson, in turn, filed for and won an injunction.

In December ‘85, both sides agreed to refer the original suit to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Lester E. Olson. In May of the following year, the court entered a verdict against Goodwin and SMC for $514,000 plus costs and attorneys’ fees, which brought the total judgment to $750,000. Goodwin filed an appeal and began making efforts to post a bond in order to prevent Thompson from collecting. But rather than going to a bonding company, Goodwin sought to put up personal pledges of $1 million from his wife and friends. In August ‘86, however, after a lengthy hearing, the judge rejected the plan.

“It’s obvious the judge decided I was the guy with the black hat on,” Goodwin was quoted in the Los Angeles Times in September 1986. “He decided I screwed Mickey real bad, and I have to pay for it. I’m not a people person. All I care about is results. If somebody has a contract with me and they don’t perform, I’ll take their legs off if I have to to get them to perform.”

“I’m a dumb Irishman,” Thompson was quoted as saying at the time. “I’ll believe anything. But my wife, she knew, she knew. This is the first time in my life I’ve been involved in something like this. But I’m not going to give up.”

Thompson’s attorneys tried to collect on the judgment. But in September, SMC changed its name to Entertainment Specialties, Incorporated (ESI), and went into bankruptcy, getting automatic protection in bankruptcy court. Thompson’s attorneys tried to collect on Goodwin personally, but 30 days later Goodwin himself filed for bankruptcy. With both Goodman and his company in bankruptcy, Thompson was effectively stymied. Goodwin told business associates and sent out press releases stating that he expected to be vindicated on appeal, that like Texaco and other big corporations, he was merely taking these actions to prevent Thompson from destroying his business.

In December ‘86, the assets of ESI, primarily its mailing list and contract with the American Motorcycle Association (AMA), were put up for bid in bankruptcy court. The successful bidders were Goodwin’s wife, Diane, and a Goodwin associate, Chuck Clayton. Fronting for Goodwin under the new corporate banner of SXI (Supercross, Incorporated), they purchased ESI’s assets for $625,000. Clayton and Diane immediately hired Mike Goodwin to run the new company at a salary of $240,000. Goodwin “laughing,” told the L.A. Times in a January 22, 1987, article, “Nothing’s changed, really. Only now I’m getting money from my wife instead of the other way around.” Goodwin had effectively transferred his assets to a new corporate entity that could not be touched by Thompson.

Then in the summer of ‘87, Anaheim Stadium accepted bids from Goodwin, Thompson and Houston-based Pace Management to promote motor-sport events at the venue. When the smoke had cleared, Thompson had won out. Anaheim granted Thompson an exclusive contract to promote all motor-sport events at that facility in 1988. Officials at the stadium wanted one promoter to handle all the events—truck-and-tractor pulls and mud-bog competitions, off-road racing and motocross. Stadium execs felt that MTEG was best equipped to handle such a broad range of events. Thompson had beefed up MTEG with new, experienced personnel and was proceeding with his plan to phase out his and Trudy’s involvement. Anaheim officials were impressed with his organization and his bid.

Goodwin attempted to have an unfair-competition suit served on Thompson during a press conference to announce the Anaheim decision. Thompson, however, sniffed out the process server outside the stadium and demanded the papers before he could execute a grandstand play. The suit was later dismissed. MTEG brought Challenger 1 out to the stadium for a photo opportunity on the day of the press conference.

“Mickey was so proud that day,” recalls Phil Bartenetti, Thompson’s attorney. “Something he always visualized had come to pass. MTEG had really established itself as the moving force in stadium motor sports. That was a very important day for him.”

And an equally bleak one for Goodwin. In a July 3 article, Los Angeles Herald Examiner motor-sports writer Chic Perkins declared, “The Anaheim Stadium decision is the one that may finally bury Goodwin.” The story quoted Goodwin as saying, “A company like ours cannot profit without Anaheim. The Anaheim Supercross event subsidizes the rest of our events.” In an article that appeared the following August, Perkins proclaimed, “Not since the infamous USAC-CART war over control of Indy-car racing back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s has there been a motor-sports-related feud as bitter and prolonged as that between stadium promoters Mickey Thompson and Mike Goodwin.”


Reward poster issued after the Thompson murders, showing composite drawings of the three suspected hired killers

Meanwhile, the original judgment against Goodwin had been affirmed by an appellate court, and Goodwin filed a petition to the Supreme Court. In January 1988, that petition was denied. Goodwin had finally exhausted all avenues through the courts. Goodwin claimed, as he had in bankruptcy court, that his legal fees had topped $1 million, more than the amount of the judgment itself. According to Bartenetti, Goodwin went through 14 attorneys in the course of the legal war. “The foolishness of it is that he [Goodwin] could have settled this back in June of ‘86,” adds Bartenetti, “but he wound up spending even more on attorneys fees.”

All along Goodwin maintained that Thompson was out to destroy him, telling the L.A. Times in September ‘86 that “his [Thompson’s] people have told me that 50 percent to 80 percent of their time is spent trying to figure out how to destroy Mike Goodwin.” But that wasn’t true, according to Bartenetti: “Mickey knew he had to go the course. He told me, ‘I just want to collect what’s due me, do whatever is necessary to get it done.’ He was prepared to go the whole nine yards. Meanwhile, Goodwin wanted to prove a point—that he was right and Mickey was wrong. He believed it was a win/lose situation, but he kept it up until it became a lose/lose situation.”

There’s little doubt that Goodwin was bitter. According to one racer close to Goodwin, “Mike just couldn’t stand the idea of losing to Mickey. His ego is so big he just couldn’t take it. It drove him crazy.” Adds Sal Fish, “I don’t know how anybody could handle what happened to Goodwin—because he lost everything.”

Whether or not Goodwin was truly ruined by the war is a matter of some conjecture. On May 2, Supercross, Incorporated, sent out a press release stating that the company had applied to Anaheim Stadium for a 1989 date and quoted Goodwin as saying, “We hope to bring quality AMA Supercross back to Anaheim Stadium and elsewhere in 1989.” Insiders call the release “wishful thinking.” Goodwin’s financial and legal problems, they say, have hurt his reputation in promoting motor sports. Goodwin’s attorney, Ronald Coulombe, admits that Goodwin “had a disastrous 1988, mostly due to the lawsuits filed in federal district court concerning his rights under the ‘in sport’ agreement with the AMA, which had refused—unjustly, in our view—to grant him a sanction for the events he planned that year.

One longtime employee of Goodwin’s now works as an executive at MTEG. He says that Goodwin was far from happy about his defection to the opposing camp. “Mike and I had a difficult time. I’ve seen him fly off the handle quite a bit. If something made him angry he would scream, rant and rave, throw a fit. He had a hard time dealing with situations when a lot of things went wrong at one time. The guy would just go crazy.
“He couldn’t handle losing. He once said to an associate, ‘If I go down, Mickey’s going down with me.’ That’s a matter of record. I’ve reported it to the sheriff’s department. I’ve also told them that I received a death threat from Mike. He called me at 1 o’clock in the morning and threatened to kill me. It was right after I started working with Mickey, when the litigation was getting really serious. He was upset, sounded really wild, swearing, cussing, calling me names, saying, ‘I’m gonna kill you, you’re a dead man,’ on and on. Mickey got similar threats from Mike, which he told me about.

“After the murder Goodwin told people that he feared for his life, that mobsters were after his and Mickey’s businesses, and he might be next. That’s total bs. We’ve never had anyone approach us wanting our business—mobsters or otherwise.


Thompson’s sister Collene, and friend Ernie Alvarado at the murder scene

Ironically, Thompson’s business is better than ever. The executive notes that this year will be the first that MTEG turns a profit. And the future is bright. “We’ll do 10 cities next year, 12 after that, and I already have dates booked in 1991. Toyota alone is spending a million and a half on its team this year. And it’s all because of Mickey Thompson, all due to his foresight. We will make his dream continue—without a doubt.”

Bill Marcel, recently appointed president of MTEG and a longtime friend of Thompson’s as well as a former mechanic who worked on his Indy cars back in the ‘60s, says he is committed to the continued development of a number of unfinished projects, including a Thunderdrag stadium series and, most importantly, the proliferation of one of Thompson’s inventions, hydro-barricades—portable, plastic, water-filled barriers that are rapidly replacing less-safe concrete walls at races.

In the midst of it all, however, continuing now even after Thompson’s death, the Feud goes on. The judgment against Goodwin still stands, and Thompson’s attorneys are currently waiting for Goodwin’s attorneys to propose a plan to make payment. However, according to Goodwin’s attorney, Coulombe, “Mike Goodwin and the Thompson camp have commenced a comprehensive, meaningful, global settlement of all litigation existing between them. Those negotiations were commenced long before the homicides. One of the things we have had to deal with is the high level of emotion that was tainting every decision in the case. The homicides were a very unfortunate thing for us. They sparked a new fire. We were talking, agreeing on things for once. All of a sudden, communications were cut off for a while because their energies were directed toward this unfortunate family tragedy. Now, instead of dealing with Mickey, we are dealing with the estate of Mickey Thompson, a whole new cast of characters who come to the table with a whole different mind-set than before, so we’ve had to adjust the settlement.”

The main “character” is Thompson’s “little” sister, Collene Campbell, the executor of Thompson’s estate, who has picked up the flag and is pressing her brother’s battle. According to Bartenetti, Collene’s mind-set is no different from Mickey’s. “She feels a judgment was made and believes it should be paid, 100 cents on the dollar,” says Bartenetti.

Like her brother, Campbell shares the Thompson tenacity. After her son, Scott Campbell, was murdered in 1982, allegedly thrown out of a plane over Catalina by drug dealers, the search for his killers quickly hit a dead end. So Campbell herself embarked on a five-year-long campaign, hiring private investigators and lobbying with police and prosecutors, until the culprits were finally apprehended, tried and convicted.

Campbell intends to carry on her brother’s fight with the same energy. “They are not dealing with anybody but me,” she says. “I feel exactly the way my brother did. Nothing has changed. The settlement is not going to be handled any differently now than when Mickey and Trudy were alive. I believe it should be paid in full, and we are going to take it as far as we can. He [Goodwin] cheated Mickey, and whatever he owes is what we want to get.”

In the months following her brother’s murder, Campbell has been wading through his personal possessions as well as a slew of requests. “The Smithsonian wants Challenger, and others are calling for his cars, but I’m going to try to keep the entire stable together—it spans generations of racing history.” Thompson, in fact, had a 13-car garage at his Bradbury home, crammed to the rafters not only with race cars and motorcycles, but “millions of feet” of racing-film footage, a mountain of clippings, photos, keepsakes, trophies and mementos. Campbell hopes to eventually establish a museum. “It was important to Mickey to be an inspiration and example to kids,” she says.

For now, however, the memories are tied up in attorneys’ briefs and court documents in a bizarre feud that has survived at least one of its antagonists and taken on a life of its own. “I don’t know him,” Campbell says, speaking of Goodwin. “I only know that in all the time I spent with my brother, which was my whole life, he never had problems dealing with anybody. This was the only business deal I can recall that ever caused him to say he feared for his life.”

END

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