SCORE Legends! | Mickey Thompson

The public knew Mickey Thompson as the man who broke the 400 mph land speed barrier driving his Challenger 1

Founder, Innovator, Legend and Visionary

Mickey and wife, Trudy were passionate about developing a off-road series for competitors to follow their dreams

Mickey Thompson

The Beginning of SCORE International

Story by Larry Saavedra. Photo by Kurt Scherbaum and courtesy Danny Thompson
Excerpted from SCORE's "Racing Into History - Vol.1 & Vol. 2"

The story behind the creation of the SCORE International began in 1969, the year of the first Baja 500. Racer and promotor Mickey Thompson decided to compete in his first off-road desert race he heard so much about. Thompson teamed up with Danny “Flyin’ Hawaiian” Ongais in a Bill Stroppe prepared Ford F100 to take on the Baja 1000 that year. While the two were big names in NHRA drag racing Thompson and Ongais had no serious off-road desert racing experience. As his son, Danny Thompson recalled, “He was so excited after racing the Mexican 1000 in ’69 that it was all he talked about. It grew from there.” Four years later, Mickey Thompson would establish SCORE International as a sanctioning body to oversee endurance off-road racing throughout North America.
The public knew Mickey Thompson as the man who broke the 400 mph land speed barrier driving his Challenger 1 in 1960, along with inventing the drag racing “Christmas Tree” starting lights, and setting hundreds of speed and endurance records. Thompson was a novice in off-road desert racing circles in the late ‘60s, however, which made his commitment to form a sanctioning body like SCORE International in 1973 that much more remarkable. 
“It was a massive amount of work to start an organization like SCORE,” Danny Thompson recounted. “My understanding was that the Mexican government had an issue with the former sanctioning body that was running the Mexican 1000, and asked my dad to step in.”
One of the issues that confronted Mickey Thompson was logistics. According to Danny Thompson, his dad took frequent trips to the Baja Peninsula to plan the courses and figure out how to staff a race with, at times, hundreds of people. Through the initial negotiations with Mexican officials, sponsors and the help of his wife Trudy, he made it happen.  “My dad came flying into the offices one day and started shouting about this organization called SCORE and how we were going to race in Mexico,” laughed Thompson. “We had no rule book, no check points, no pit stops, it was a blur for a couple of years. SCORE stood for Southern California Off-Road Enthusiasts and the name stuck.” 
Mickey Thompson also had to find a manager to run SCORE. “My dad wanted to concentrate on being in the driver’s seat of the race cars we built,” said Thompson. “So that meant he needed to find someone to run the business.” 
According to Thompson, his dad tracked down Sal Fish who was the publisher of Hot Rod Magazine, cornered him at Riverside International Raceway, and persuaded Fish to assume managing control of SCORE in 1974. 
“My dad asked me to take Fish pre-running to Mexico so he could get an idea of what the SCORE race course looked like and it was like taking a Girl Scout on a picnic,” said Thompson. “He kept asking where the hotels were located, and I had to finally tell him that there were no hotels in the desert and that we were sleeping on the ground while we mapped out the course.” The experience was eye-opening for Fish, but ultimately he took the reins, allowing Mickey Thompson to pursue more adventures in racing and building vehicles.
Although the Baja 500 officially started before Thompson took it over, many believe that it would not have reached its 50th anniversary without his vision and  Sal Fish’s ability to grow and manage SCORE. While the many stories and legendary drivers that the SCORE Baja 500 race has spawned are often embellished or fade into obscurity, the fact that SCORE International was founded by a unique man with vision, and who took great personal risks to ensure that sanctioned racing lives on in the hearts of those that follow their dreams to the highest levels of off-road motorsports competition.

SCORE Baja 1000 & 500 50th Anniversary Books!

New books celebrating the SCORE Baja 1000 & 500 50th Anniversary. Racing into History Volumes 1 & 2

  • Pictorial Celebrations of Both Races
  • Capturing the Historic 50th Anniversary race weeks from set-up to the finish line.
  • Massive 416 page & 432 page Commemorative Hardbound Books listing all entrants and finishers.
  • Race History highlights of the SCORE Legends.
  • Historic Vehicle Overview.
  • Historical Reference with SCORE Baja 1000 & 500 statistics for the past 50 years.