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The killer promoter: Mike Goodwin – Supercross founder

Submitted by on August 18, 2009

Mike Goodwin is the guy who invented Supercross. His background was in the rock concert business and he brought everything he learned in that business and created a new sport. He brought in sponsorship from outside the traditional motoring brands, he marketed events properly with big television commercials and partnerships with radio stations. He named every obstacle on the track to excite the fans.

He was a showman who wore fur coats, drove lairy American cars, dined on foie gras and when riders complained about sections of the track being too hard, he jumped on a bike and rode through them himself, despite the fact he could hardly ride. He organised for CBS to pay to broadcast Supercross races and he set records for the packing stadiums in California that had previously only hosted NFL events.

He is also a murderer convicted of killing his ex business partner, American off road racing legend Mickey Thompson. During his career, Thompson set 395 different speed records including being the first person to drive at 400mph in a piston driven vehiclen at the Bonneville Salt Flats. He was an American hero.

According to the LA Weekly “Goodwin had the the idea of putting on a motorcycle show in a stadium in 1972.  He persuaded the manager of the Los Angeles Coliseum to rent the stadium to him for an event Goodwin called “the Superbowl of Motocross.” Goodwin trucked in hundreds of tons of dirt, built all kinds of jumps and turns, and advertised it heavily. Celebrities like Steve McQueen came to watch. There were scantily dressed women, and prizes for the fans. But the big attraction was the famous peristyle jump. The riders rode a dirt ramp up through the stands and disappeared into one of the smaller side peristyle arches. Then, a moment later, they’d come flying back into the stadium through the big central arch, sailing 100 feet through the air before hitting the downhill ramp. It was “fantastically suspenseful,” and “The fans went wild.”

Goodwin’s shows made money virtually from Day One. He was soon running what are now known as Supercross events not only in the Coliseum but at the Rose Bowl, San Diego, Anaheim and other places around the country. Anaheim was the big cash cow, and every year, the show got bigger.

Meanwhile Thompson had been putting on races in stadiums with pickup trucks and Baja buggies, much as Goodwin had been doing with motorcycles. “He took a hunk of Baja and put it in [a stadium],” Danny Thompson said at the time. “He would lay down 1,100 sheets of plywood to protect the field and cover that with 25 million pounds of dirt.” Then, to keep the spectators from being bored, he ran off something like 18 off-road truck and buggy races in three hours.

But even though the shows ran like clockwork, they still didn’t make any money. Sometimes, Thompson lost hundreds of thousands in a single night. So Thompson decided his best course of action was to merge his company with Goodwin’s.

On April 1, 1984, Thompson and Goodwin signed the merger agreement, which called for what Goodwin would later describe as an 18-month “engagement” period, followed by a full merger after that.

Unfortunately, their first combined production, a race in Indianapolis in the summer of 1984, lost money, and their second event, at the Pontiac, Michigan, Silverdome, went broke before it started.

From there the relationship quickly deteriorated into a series of lawsuits which Thompson eventually won, but Goodwin never paid up. This outcome enraged Goodwin, who unleashed a tirade of threatening verbals against Thompson to anyone who would listen. This “evidence” would eventually sink him.

“I’m going to kill that son of a bitch. I’m going to kill that motherfucker. I’m going to take out Mickey. I’m too smart to get caught. I’ll have him wasted. He’ll never see a nickel. I’ll kill him first. Mickey doesn’t know who he is fucking with. He is fucking dead.” These were some of the quotes witnesses claimed Goodwin used in relation to Thompson.

Thompson’s career and life came to a shocking end in 1988, when he and his wife, Trudy, were shot and killed outside their home in California’s San Gabriel Mountains.

The case has been an 18 year murder mystery that captivated the American public with episodes of Americas Most Wanted, Unsolved Mysteries and 48 hours broadcasting segments about the story.

Finally, due to the persistence of Thompson’s sister Colleen and despite no physical evidence linking Goodwin to the murders, on January 4,  2007, Goodwin was found guilty of two counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

There is a vast amount of information on the case below:

A fascinating, yet typically trashy series of six videos on YouTube from 48 hours program, the first part is featured at the top of the post.

part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

LA weekly has an in depth story here

Auto1racing has a story here

CBS has a story here

Mickey Thompson “fan site”

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