Danny Thompson Takes the Torture Test to Bonneville
In 2017, the new OPTIMA YELLOWTOP battery was put through the Ultimate Torture Test, enduring a series of challenges such as King of the Hammers, Nürburgring, and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. OPTIMA Batteries PowerPro Ambassador Danny Thompson will be the next racer to put the battery through a torture test.
This week, Danny will compete in the Bonneville Speed Week with the new OPTIMA YELLOWTOP battery in an attempt to break the national land speed record for piston-driven engines, a record that he already beat in 2016 with his father’s dual-engine streamliner Challenger 2, clocking in at 406.7 mph.
Featured in the OPTIMA booth at SEMA 2017, the Challenger 2 was originally constructed in 1968 by Danny’s father, “Speed King” Mickey Thompson. The cigar-shaped streamliner, designed by Kar Kraft and an elite team of California hot rodders, showed extreme promise with trial speeds approaching 400 mph. However, Mickey’s dreams of officially breaking records were cut short after a storm at Bonneville, pull backs from key sponsors, and his own murder in 1988.
All the while, Danny had been making a name for himself in the racing community. After getting his career start in Motocross and winning his first eighteen consecutive events, he switched to cars. Over the years, he won championships in Formula A cars, raced off-road cars, and drove for Chevrolet for seven seasons. The year of his father’s murder, the two had plans to bring out the Challenger 2 for another record attempt at the Bonneville Salt Flats. But, Danny couldn’t bring himself to complete alone what he saw as a family dream, and the Challenger 2 was tucked away in a storage facility.
Danny officially retired from racing in 1995, but something about Bonneville kept calling him back. Starting in 2003, he returned every summer to race on the flats in various classes and vehicles, including one of his father’s small streamliners. In 2010, Danny finally brought the Challenger 2 out of storage to restore it, break the record, and honor his father’s legacy.
Refinished in 2014 by Danny Thompson Motor Sports and a hardworking crew of passionate racers, the restored Challenger 2 was built off the original chassis, retaining the same aerodynamics and same hand-formed aluminum skin, as well. However, the overall horsepower more than doubled, and the Ford 427 engines were swapped out for a pair of dry block nitro-fueled Hemi V8s in an all-wheel drive configuration, among other modifications. In 2016, all the years of passion and hard work paid off. At 406.7 mph, Danny and the Challenger 2 clenched the national land speed record for piston-driven engines at Bonneville Speed Week. To date, the streamliner has reached top speeds of 435.7 mph.
Danny isn’t done yet. Not one to stray from a challenge, he’s looking to beat the official record (his own) again. That’s why he’s taking the new OPTIMA YELLOWTOP battery with him and the Challenger 2 to Bonneville’s 2018 Speed Week. The race is the perfect setting for the next phase of OPTIMA’s Ultimate Torture Test, with cars propelling five to seven miles in a matter of seconds over a fickle, sometimes traction-less ground. But, if anyone is up for the challenge, it’s Danny.