"BETTER DESIGNS - GROWING SPORT"
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
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.
of Kris Thorp
Click here to go to page 3 of Minicup Racing History.