Insurance Canceled, Anaheim Stadium Drag Races Off

Times Staff Writer

Mickey Thompson's drag racing show, scheduled Sunday at Anaheim Stadium, was called off Thursday when the liability insurance policy for the event was canceled.

The action taken by K & K Insurance of Fort Wayne, Ind., which issued the policy, does not affect either the off-road races at Anaheim Stadium Saturday night or the stadium motocross competition next Saturday night, although K & K is the insurer for those events, too.

"This action came as a complete surprise and was a tremendous shock," Thompson said. "There was no indication that they were even considering such a move, especially this close to the event."

Thompson said there was no direct mention in the cancellation by K & K of the accident last Saturday night in Anaheim during a demonstration of stadium drag racing that injured more than 20 spectators and seriously injured one course worker when a dragster went out of control and smashed into a wall, sending debris flying into the spectator area. Seven people were still hospitalized Thursday.

"The reasons they cited for canceling our program are totally invalid," Thompson said. "It's left them wide open for a major lawsuit, which we intend to pursue."

Among the reasons listed by the agency was that it had not been afforded a reasonable opportunity to develop underwriting criteria for the event.

"That's ridiculous," Thompson said. "They provided our coverage of a similar event at the Los Angeles Coliseum last July and were completely familiar with everything.

"Just this week, another of their representatives spent two days with us, reviewing the entire involvement. He left here favorably impressed. That's why we can't understand this last-minute action, which is a disappointment not only to us, but to spectators who have already purchased tickets, and our sponsors and competitors, who have come a long way to race, and Anaheim Stadium, which will lose considerable revenue from the postponement."

The city stands to lose an estimated $67,000, based on the projected attendance of 15,000, according to Sheri Erlewine, public information officer for Anaheim.

"The city wasn't involved in the decision," she said. "It was strictly between Mickey Thompson and his insurance agent. Obviously, the city could not consider allowing an event to be held without insurance, but we are looking forward to his other two events, in which we expect near-sellout crowds of 60,000 or more."

The drag races were to have been held on a 200-foot track on the stadium floor. Cars were to have been stopped by nylon straps connecting them with a hydraulic rotor behind the starting line. The dragster which went out of control, however, was not hooked up to the safety device.

Thompson said he plans to reschedule the event and expects no difficulty in obtaining insurance for similar drag racing shows in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, Las Vegas' Silver Bowl and the Coliseum.

"The lack of time to obtain replacement coverage was responsible for the decision to postpone Sunday's event," he said.

Tickets to the event, known as the Thunder Drags, may be turned in at their place of purchase for a complete refund, a spokesman for Thompson said.

Times staff writer Carla Rivera in Orange County contributed to this story.

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