Dean Thompson

August 25 2016 – Chris Agajanian

Dean Thompson
Dean Thompson

Three-time CRA sprint car champion, Dean Thompson, was a legendary sprint car driver on dirt, especially at Gardena's Ascot Park.

Dean's CRA sprint car career took off in 1974 when he started the year in Bruce Bromme's No. 5 Ring-Free Oil Chevy. Dean won his first (of a record 103) feature on 4/27/74 at Ascot. He won his second CRA main on 7/27/74 at Ascot as well. He set his first fast qualifying time on 8/17/74 with 47 cars in Ascot's pits. He returned a week later and again set quick time at Ascot. At the end of 1974 Dean had 645 points and finished third in driver points. In 1976 Dean won his third CRA main on 2/28/76 at El Centro in the Bromme No. 8. He won six CRA features that year, including one on the paved 3/8-mile El Cajon track near San Diego. During 1977 Dean won six CRA trophy dashes and two main events, both at Ascot. In 1978 Dean won five trophy dashes and eight main events, all at Ascot. He collected eight more CRA feature victories during 1979.

Dean really hit his stride in 1980 when he won 18-times, including 16 CRA point mains and two open competition events, including Ascot's Pacific Coast Championship, a 50-lap prestigious triple-crown race. His three CRA driving championships from 1980-82 all came with Bromme. In 1981 and 1985 Dean won the most CRA trophy dashes (nine). He won four Ascot PCC 50-lap mains ('79, 80, 82 and 85). He won the October 1985 PCC two months before he retired at age 35 because he had accomplished everything he wanted.

On 7/28/79 Dean became only the fourth driver to turn a 19-second lap at the Ascot half-mile when he ran a 19.666. Before Ascot closed at the end of 1990, 140 drivers had run 19-second laps in non-wing sprint cars. Dean was Ascot's one-lap track record holder (at 19.632) from 11/17/79 to 8/1/81, when Dean lowered his own mark to 19.427. That record stood to 11/20/82 when "Deano" dropped it to 19.316. Dean held the record for three years, eight months.

During his 14-year CRA sprint car career, Dean set some impressive records. They were -- Most Fast Qualifying Times--21 (including seven in a row) in 1980, 17-'81, 15-'82 and 15-'83. … Most Heat race Wins--13 in 1979, 12 to tie Jimmy Oskie-'80, 22-'81 (for a single-season record never broken). … Most Main Event Wins-seven to tie Rick Goudy in 1978, 16-'80, 16-'81 and 15-'85 and a record-tying five consecutive mains in his final season before quitting at age 35. He also set one-lap track records at Speedway 117 in Chula Vista and at Santa Maria Speedway.

Remarkably, Dean flipped only nine-times in a sprint car from his rookie season in 1972 to 1983 and nearly all were roll-overs. His only injury occurred in his ninth flip during Ascot's first heat on 6/25/83. He hit the wall and rolled once. The car was repaired and he raced it in the semi and main events. However, an X-ray during the week revealed a broken left kneecap that kept Dean out of racing to 7/19/83. Although he retired in 1986 Dean was a constant spectator in the pits and in grandstands at open-wheel races.

Fans and fellow drivers recalled Dean as a classy, smooth and clean driver. He was patient in traffic and could get within inches of fellow competitors and never touch them. His car control was remarkable. Fans remembered Dean walking the track, head down inspecting the clay track before mains to gain an advantage over fellow drivers. Deano always made time for fans, young and old, even after he retired with his friendly greeting, "How ya doin?" Many fans fondly recalled Dean's epic races during the early 1980s with friendly rival Bubby Jones. One racer recalled Dean giving him his racing philosophy as follows, "Remember all the little things you learn every night, put them together and then you will be a good race-car driver."

*Written by Tim Kennedy for


  • Dion Phillips: April 11, 2016
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    I was friends with Deano and all the drivers from back then. I miss it so much. Wish I knew what they were all doing now a days.

  • Charlie Zabinski: December 28, 2015
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    When I was starting I asked Dean what should I do to be a good racecar driver this is what he said to me “Remember all the little things you learn every night, put them together and then you will be a good race-car driver.”

  • Patty Haudenschild: December 16, 2015
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    Dean got rookie of the year in my dads car Max Sweeney!

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