There have only been 12 people in the world who have gone over 400 miles an hour in a piston-powered car. One of them was legendary racer Mickey Thompson in 1960, when he became the first American to exceed 400 mph. The twelfth man to do it was his son Danny Thompson, who broke his father’s speed of 406.6 miles last week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
At Bonneville you have to make the trip twice to enter the record books. You go straight out, foot to the floor, for 5 miles or more on the first day -- the down run. Then you do the same thing again on the next day: the return run. Your official time is the average of both speeds at the 5-mile mark.
Mickey Thompson was never able to accomplish that. His car broke down on the return leg. He tried in 1968, but rain stopped him. He was going to try a third time in 1988, this time teaming up with Danny, when a bullet stopped him forever.
Danny couldn't bear the thought of continuing the project alone, and so he put Challenger in storage. Half a century after his dad broke 400, he decided to go for the official recognition that comes with two successful runs. He spent nearly seven years working on the car, getting it just right.
Danny Thompson’s speed was 411.191 on the first run and 402.348 on the second, for an official average of 406.767, just above his father’s speed and a new American record for his vehicle’s class. Read the story of the race at CNN.
Danny Thompson posted an image from that day to reddit to announce "It took almost 50 years, but I set 400mph speed record in my dad's car last weekend." He said his lips were chapped and kissing the salt after the second run tasted like "pain, sweet pain."
(Image credit: Holly Martin)