LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Dec. 14, 2001)—Police have arrested a former business partner in connection with the 1988 murder of auto racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife, “Trudy.”
Along with Mr. Thompson´s many accomplishments on the race track, he also was a co-founder of Max-Trac Tire Co., a Stow, Ohio-based company that does business as Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels.
Arrested Dec. 13 was Michael Frank Goodwin, once known as the "Father of Supercross" for his 1980s dirt bike competitions at California´s Anaheim stadium. He is charged with two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the nearly 14-year-old case. The two actual gunmen in the case are still unidentified, according to police.
Mr. Goodwin, 56, has denied involvement in the shootings. He is being held without bail in Orange County jail.
The couple was shot to death March 16, 1988, in the driveway of their Bradbury, Calif., home as they were leaving for work. Authorities at the time ruled out robbery as a motive after finding $70,000 in jewelry and cash untouched in the couple´s home after the shootings.
In subsequent years, the unsolved murder case has been featured more than once on the Fox Network television program, "America´s Most Wanted." A $1 million reward for information leading to the killers´ arrest also was offered by the family of the victims.
Earlier, in August, Mr. Goodwin was taken into custody and later released after appearing in a police lineup. Mr. Goodwin's attorney, Jeffrey S. Bernice of Irvine, Calif., was quoted in news articles as saying his client was identified by two witnesses. Mr. Bernice said Mr. Goodwin at that time expected to be indicted for the shootings, but believed he ultimately will prevail in court.
The focus of a recent Orange County grand jury investigation into the killings, Mr. Goodwin once had a business partnership with the victim that ended in bitter breakup and a $514,000 court judgment in Mr. Thompson´s favor. Mr. Goodwin later filed for bankruptcy.
Contacted for his reaction to Mr. Goodwin's arrest, Max-Trac President Lee McMannis said he is looking forward to a resolution of the case. A former business partner and personal friend of Mr. Thompson, Mr. McMannis said Max-Trac was founded in 1963 by the racing legend and Mr. McMannis´s father, E.E. "Gene" McMannis, in order to market drag racing tires made for them by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
Mr. McMannis said the company´s founders met in Mexico during the 1950s at the Pan American Road Race there. He said his father, at that time, was employed as a tire design engineer by Goodyear. There he helped design the tires used by Mr. Thompson a decade later to become the first person to achieve a record-shattering 406 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Unfortunately, mechanical problems prevented Mr. Thompson from making the obligatory return run on the salt flats. So he never got to hold the “official” two-way land speed record.
Mr. McMannis said that prior to Max-Trac's founding, the race driver was marketing his own line of auto racing components under the name Mickey Thompson Enterprises and wanted to expand his operations to include tires.
Max-Trac, after being founded by the pair, ultimately widened its scope beyond race tires to introduce progressively what Mr. McMannis believes respectively were the North American replacement market´s first 70-series (1966), 60-series (1969) and 50-series (1971) passenger tires.
Some years later, Mr. McMannis became a partner in the company and a close friend of Mr. Thompson. “I could always count on receiving a call from him every Sunday to see how the business was going,” said Mr. McMannis, who later purchased Mr. Thompson's interest from the couple's estate after their untimely deaths.
Max-Trac markets Mickey Thompson brand auto and light truck tires for both street and racing use as well as custom wheels bearing the auto racer´s name. It also markets off-the-road passenger and light truck tires under the Dick Cepek label.
Marion Lee "Mickey" Thompson gained renown during the 1950s as the "Speed King." In all, he held more auto speed and endurance records than anyone in history, according to the Motor Sports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich.
During his career, he took part in more than 10,000 races and drove over 1 million race miles, winning at least one championship in such diverse vehicle categories as midget cars, sprint cars, off-road vehicles, stock cars, dragsters and sports cars.
Mr. Thompson also is credited in racing circles with developing such innovations as the:
*slingshot dragster, recognized by its smooth massive rear tires coupled with thin, bicycle type fronts;
*first wide, low-profile tires used at the Indianapolis 500 race (1964);
*signal starting and foul light systems now used at dragstrips;
*first nitrogen gas shocks used in the U.S.; and the
*hydro-barricade—a water safety wall now used both on the race track and public highways.