The next major development of the minicup came when the Carolina Mini Series visited the Asheville Speedway. In the pits that night was Kris Thorp. Kris owned a metal fabrication business and was a successful late model stock car owner. He was intrigued by these new "minicup" cars and after getting a copy of the rulebook from one of the drivers, he set out to build a car of his own. His fabricating experience resulted in a next-generation minicup with many improvements over the home built models of the past. Kris wasn’t the only one impressed with these new minicups, so as soon as he built one, he had several of his friends demand that he build one for them too. Overnight Kris’ business, Fabtech, became the first minicup manufacturer. Although Fabtech introduced improvements such as A-arms and adjustment shims for caster/camber, the cars were still rigid and the bodies were still homemade. Fabtech’s involvement marked the first time someone could get into minicup racing without having to design and build their own car.

Here’s one of those Fabtech manufactured cars on sawhorses in North Carolina. 

Courtesy of Kris Thorp


Minicups continued to improve in the late 80’s with a notable improvement being the change to reliable Honda engines. The early modified Briggs and Stratton powerplants proved troublesome and expensive to maintain so Wally Leatherwood who owned a family go-kart track suggested using the Honda engines that worked great at his track. The new Honda engines featured electric start and rock solid reliability. Now it was easier than ever for a novice to get into minicup racing because all he had to do was hit a start button and change the oil occasionally. The stage was set for minicup racing to move to the next level.

Fabtech sold their minicup manufacturing business to Arden Speed and Fabrication in 1990. In turn, Arden sold a car to Tom Roche of Lakeland, Florida. Tom liked what he saw and decided to make his mark in minicup racing. His first big contribution was to fashion a professional quality fiberglass body for this new car. The new bodywork was a big hit – especially when Tom took his car to Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks. This exposure gained a new friend for minicups – Terry Linger of Linger Group Productions. Terry was producing racing shows for ESPN and wanted to put minicups on TV. After a special appearance on "Raceday" minicups became a regular on "Saturday Night Lightning" competing at the Indianapolis Veledrome. Minicups had come a long way from their humble beginnings at Hickory but there was still one element missing – the cars were still rigid like their go-kart ancestors. Unfortunately the racing surface at the Veledrome was terribly rough so the minicups looked like the overgrown go-karts they were as they bounced and jumped around the track. The "Saturday Night Lightning" series would end before Tom was able to debut the suspended minicup car in the summer of 1995.

Here’s another early rigid minicup with a great paint job.  As a rigid chassis, it still has a lot in common with the go-karts in the background.

Courtesy of Kris Thorp


Click here to go to page 3 of Minicup Racing History.


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