NASCAR driver trades racing for Kickboxing in the off-season

Dean Thompson started his racing journey when he was 5 but took a 13 year hiatus to return when he was 18.


NASCAR driver trades racing for Kickboxing in the off-season

Dean Thompson's kickboxing training (Credits: X)

NASCAR driver, Dean Thompson is shifting gears in the off-season. The driver of the No. 5 Toyota Tundra for Tricon Garage is stepping out of his comfort zone and into the kickboxing arena. Thompson’s newfound passion unfolds at the Kinchen Martial Arts Academy. For approximately 45 minutes, sweat pours, and fists fly as he trades the steering wheel for boxing gloves. 

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Kickboxing, an unconventional choice for the NASCAR driver, becomes an essential outlet for Thompson. His voice echoed the thrill of his kickboxing sessions.

It’s like an emotional release…when you hit something that's clean and good contact, you feel good. You feel a release.

Thompson’s plunge into kickboxing isn’t a mere whim; it’s a calculated move to enhance his mental and physical prowess. The ring serves as a pressure valve, allowing him to discharge the stress and anxiety that accompany the high-speed world of racing. As quoted by NBC Sports;

It’s more protected than a regular fight. Just points…I didn't want to go in there and get knocked out and get a concussion.

Thompson clarifies, highlighting the strategic approach to his kickboxing endeavors. Under the seasoned guidance of Kyoshi Cliff Kinchen, an eighth-degree black belt with three decades of coaching expertise, Thompson undergoes rigorous training. The focus isn’t just on knockouts but on precision and technique, ensuring a controlled environment with headgear and shin pads to prevent serious injuries.

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Dean Thompson blends kickboxing into racing

Thompson’s training routine transcends the ring, permeating his approach to racing. Kinchen’s philosophy of selecting shots wisely and staying calm under pressure becomes a parallel lesson for the race track. Thompson’s sparring partners, fellow Truck Series drivers Lawless Alan and Tyler Ankrum, contribute to a diversified training regimen, each offering unique challenges.

Dean Thompson
Dean Thompson (Credits: The Podium Finish)
I think mentality is just as important as talent when it comes to driving...I think mentality and what I get from kickboxing...is just as important as simulator time or laps on the track. 

Reflecting on the cross-disciplinary gains, Thompson highlights the unconventional training’s benefits. Not new to combat sports, he rekindles a Californian passion, dedicating two to three days weekly, propelled by Toyota Racing’s collaboration with Kinchen Martial Arts Academy.

Beyond physical conditioning, kickboxing imparts self-defense skills and a sense of responsibility. As Caitlin Quinn, Director of Performance at the Toyota Performance Center, notes, drivers learn to handle themselves in the real world, emphasizing professionalism over confrontation.

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