2018 SEMA Hall Of Fame Inductee
TMG Performance Group
Dedicated Mentor and Association Ambassador
A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Chris Thomson’s first introduction to racing was at age nine, when he began to hang around a speed shop owned by a schoolmate’s parents, Everett and Thelma Goosic. From his home, Thomson could hear when they’d fire up a car. He’d jump on his bike and pedal over as fast as he could to watch the tuning. The first time he was invited to join the Goosics at a race, he was hooked, and the same family gave Thomson his first job as a teenager, working in their warehouse at Arizona Performance Equipment.
Thomson later worked at Service Center Speed Shop in Sheldon Konblett’s chain. The store he managed had a parking lot with enough space to host weekly car shows. The shop sponsored a few local drag racers, who would park in front of the shop on off weekends. Thomson’s knack for marketing became evident as the little shows drew crowds, and the neighboring businesses were also thrilled with the foot traffic.
Thomson later went on to open his own speed shop, Performance Plus. He was in business for eight years, during which he made many industry connections whom he still values today.
“I loved dealing with the consumers,” Thomson reflected. “No matter where I was, the consumers were fun. You're always involved in everybody's project. They're always excited about what they're doing. You get to build a lot of cars without spending a lot of your own money.”
After closing Performance Plus, Thomson transitioned to the manufacturing side of the industry, working for Mr. Gasket Exhaust.
“It turned out that my background in the retail side really helped a lot when it came to product development, product ideas and marketing,” he said. “So I moved from administrative assistant to a product manager for the exhaust division and eventually became the marketing manager. And I enjoyed that immensely.”
When the company was bought, Thomson became one of the first employees at FlowTech Exhaust, which was founded by another Mr. Gasket alumnus, Gary Biggs. Biggs quickly became a mentor to Thomson, making sure he was involved in the management of the company.
Thomson navigated several acquisitions throughout his career, as he held sales positions at Holley when it bought FlowTech, and at Airaid when it was acquired by K&N. Eventually, Thomson took a similar position with Baer Brake Systems, and he has recently become national account manager for TMG Performance Products.
In each season of his career, Thomson can identify one or two individuals who invested in him and the lessons they taught him. The person he credits most for encouraging his SEMA involvement was John Menzler. The two first met when Menzler was a sales rep for Thomson at Performance Plus, and it was later Menzler who nominated Thomson for the Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC) select committee.
Thomson served three consecutive terms on the committee and contributed to the development of industry resources such as the MPMC Business Guidelines Manual, which outlines best practices for managing a successful manufacturing operation. He was also instrumental in establishing the MPMC Hall of Fame.
Each of the projects Thomson worked on prepared him for his six years of later service on the SEMA Board of Directors. He has been a leader in numerous SEMA committees and special task forces, contributed to panel discussions for SEMA Town Hall meetings, and been honored with awards from several councils and networks. He champions legislative efforts related to the specialty-equipment market and supports the SEMA Political Action Committee.
“There were a lot of people who opened doors for me along the way, and that's probably one of the reasons why I wanted to serve SEMA—because people paid it forward to me,” he said.
Apart from SEMA service, Thomson is known as a mentor to young professionals. He’s earned a reputation as a facilitator of collaboration among industry members. He is also a longtime advocate of the Custom Automotive Network and was twice recognized as its Person of the Year.
A great day for Thomson is one he gets to spend at the drag strip. Not only is the excitement of the racing a blast, but it’s also about camaraderie and community—accomplishing something with people you enjoy, win or lose, Thomson said. He has owned several racecars over the years, and he enjoys tuning them for his drivers. His first was an NHRA Competition Eliminator C/Dragster that established the NHRA record for the class. Today, he owns a nostalgia blown alcohol-altered car.
Reflecting on his career, what stands out to Thomson is that he found success doing something he loved.
“I never had to work for a living,” he said. “I had a career that I enjoyed—it was never a job. I sell things that people don't need. How about that? I’m in a multi-billion-dollar industry, and nobody needs a thing we do.”
When he received the phone call about his SEMA Hall of Fame induction, Thomson said he was speechless.
“The true joy of the moment came when I called my wife Kathie,” he recalled. “She and my daughters, Kristin and Emily, have always been my greatest supporters and fans. I look at the Hall of Fame list, and I'm blown away. I have some friends who are on there. I just pinch myself because I can't see my name next to them at the same level.”