• Gypsy Mike was an underground street racer in the US, who was believed to have been in his mid-to-late 30’s before passing away on 18 December 2020.
• He was considered an unbeatable driver in California, a state where street racing is highly illegal.
• He was known around town as one of the most dangerous individuals to race and had over two decades of experience.
• He was the first name mentioned when California racers were brought into conversation and had unparalleled racing experience.
• He is remembered as one of the greatest and earliest names in worldwide street racing.
Gypsy Mike, also known as Mickey, whose real name is Michael Connors, believed to have been in his mid-to-late 30’s before passing away on 18 December 2020, is one of the most famous underground street racers. The severe lack of information pertaining to this “Street Outlaws” celebrity makes it impossible to say almost anything about him with certainty.
There’s a reason for this, besides Mike not wanting to be in the spotlight first and foremost. Even if he wanted to revel in the eyes of the media, that probably would’ve been a horrible choice, considering the nature of his profession and lifestyle. While Discovery Channel’s documentary reality TV series “Street Outlaws” itself dances on the edge of legal trouble, a lot of drag racers in the US engage illegally in their favorite activity.
Such is the case with Gypsy Mike, who had apparently been racing since the late 1990’s, when laws were even stricter on illegal races. Since California is known as his turf, where he was rumored to be an almost unbeatable driver, it’s important to also note that all types of street racing are highly illegal in almost all locations in his state.
This means that, even if Mike wanted to consistently show everyone his races, he would only be giving the authorities incriminating footage that could put him behind bars for up to 90 days, with a driver’s license suspension and a misdemeanor recorded as well. Repeat offenders could be looking at up to decades in prison, depending on the severity of the infraction.
Gypsy Mike was known around town as one of the most dangerous individuals to race, for a number of reasons. The most important one is that he almost never competed on properly set-up tracks, meaning that a lot of his one-on-one victories were gained in life-or-death situations, in which foul play might very well have been involved.
The leading theories surrounding his death
The fact of the matter is that most of Mike’s career went by between the eyes of select and secretive underground racing crew members, leaving most of the intricacies, as well as the actual legality of Mike’s actions, a seemingly unsolvable mystery. There are many explanations as to how the enigmatic drag racing legend passed away, but only three are thought to hold any merit.
The first, and official one, is that he simply had to deal with some sort of cardiovascular failure. Rumor has it that Mike had already had a heart attack some years before December 2020. If the racer had a weak heart whose condition kept worsening, it’s not far-fetched to assume that it might have experienced a fatal setback, considering the nature of Mike’s work and how intense the situation on the track normally is.
The second theory posits that Mickey passed away in his bed due to complications brought on by the onset of COVID-19. Since the Coronavirus was raging all across USA nearing the end of 2020, arguably at its highest peak, it seems almost a given to think that Mike had to deal with it as well. Not even the tracks he raced on lived up to the standards of very basic safety regulations, so one can only imagine that the crew members never cared much for social distancing, especially in intense arguments that are quite frequent in drag racing.
Finally, the third stance regarding the driver’s death is that there was a fatal accident on one of his most frequent race tracks. Why anyone would suggest this requires no explanation whatsoever, but there is also the fact that Mike had over two decades of experience in this line of work, which even with extremely lax race track safety, had at least kept him alive, albeit with serious injuries.
Mike’s 1968 Chevrolet Camaro, with the words ‘GYPSY BAD ASS’ plastered all over the front grill, struck fear into anyone in the lane next to it, but also boasted a very safe driver cage and an overall robust build. On top of that, Gypsy had driving skill that was virtually unmatched, managing to always keep his car in one piece, regardless of the issue.
An unmatched master of the race track
Just how good Mike was at staying level-headed and keeping control even in the most nerve-wracking of situations was never more apparent than when he raced against the 405 boys in “Street Outlaws,” in the 3rd episode of season 13, entitled “Coming Back to Life.” In it, Oklahoma City’s (OKC’s) famous Big Chief gets a daring call from a big California street racer named Boddie, who challenges the OKC to a race-off against his crew.
Of course, the most important name that was brought up during the call was Gypsy Mike, as his reputation stretched far and wide across USA, and subsequently the whole world. The preview of the episode posted on the Facebook page of “Street Outlaws” was fully centered around Mickey as well.
Big Chief himself was quite excited about the event, saying ‘The street that we’re gonna be racing on in California this time is Bridge Street. It’s one of the most famous street race spots in the whole wide world.’ The place Big Chief is mentioning here is indeed one of the most important places for Gypsy Mike as well, since it’s one of the few spots in California where drag racing is actually legal.
The reason that such a track can even exist in the state where drag racing isn’t sanctioned by law is given by Big Chief himself: ‘And if you know street racing, you’ve heard of Bridge Street, you’ve looked it up on Google Maps, you’ve found the black mark, and you’ve figured out that there’s a concrete road in the middle of nowhere, and somebody has been out there racing every night for the last five years.’
According to Californian law it’s illegal to take part in any kind of drag racing, street racing, or otherwise speed contest on any public road, street or highway. This also includes so-called acceleration contests, as well as speed exhibitions, and anything else that may involve one or multiple vehicles going from point A to point B in the shortest possible time frame.
Check the tape! 🗣
Big Chief 🆚 Team Monza 405
— Street Outlaws (@StreetOutlaws) February 1, 2022
Bridge Street exists in the loophole of this law, since it is just a stretch of concrete that isn’t connected to any road that the general public may use. Thus, any racing along its length is by default not covered by California law, and that is also why “Street Outlaws” were able to legally feature street racing footage from that state in the first place.
Murder Nova from OKC then continued, saying ‘If you’ve watched any videos from California street racing, chances are they were on that road.’ Jeff Lutz further introduced the audience to the opposing underground crew, stating ‘The Cali racers, like Gypsy Mike, or, you know, Lunchbox, or Boddie, they’re legends out there in California because that’s where the street racing started, and there wouldn’t be street racing here, if there wasn’t for street racing out there, and it’s absolutely amazing that we get to line up with these guys.’
The reason that Gypsy Mike is mentioned first whenever California racers are brought into the conversation is because he is one of their first, which makes him a pioneer among pioneers. As such, he is known by many to have unparalleled racing experience, and the ability to control his vehicle in virtually any circumstances. Once on camera, he said ‘California for the racing here, it’s a way of life. That’s family.’
Chuck from OKC further emphasized this point, saying ‘Gypsy Mike? He’s a legend. You can’t say ‘street racing’ in California without bringing up his name.’ To that, Mike says ‘I’ve been racing over almost 25 years.’ Big Chief adds ‘You’re talking street racing royalty.’
Lutz explains the situation they’re in by saying ‘When you race Gypsy Mike, you can easily get a win or you can easily get a loss. And if you beat him? Holy s**t, you beat Gypsy Mike.’ Finally, Chuck concludes the intro with ‘To beat someone like Gypsy Mike on his street, in California, that’s saying something. That goes down in history, because Gypsy Mike is a legend.’
With all of that being said, it was time to get something done as well, so the crews prepared to race their best against one another. With over $20,000 on the line between the two groups of drag racing champions and connoisseurs, the tensions rose pretty highly. To race the most famous of the Californian bunch, OKC chose their own Ryan Martin.
In an interview right before the race, Ryan said ‘I’m going up against Gypsy Mike, and he’s a legend. Not so much about how fast his car is, but about the hustle, right? So, naturally, he gonna start out with a car link, and ahead, against the Fireball. Hopefully I can close this race off quick and tie it up for the 405.’
What this means is that after a lengthy agreement about the conditions of each individual race, it was determined that Mike would get a head start due to his car having underperforming traits when compared to Ryan’s. To that end, Big Chief said ‘We’re out here on their road, we’re trynna hustle them, they’re trynna hustle us. That’s how you get paid. So, no matter how f***ing crappy they think it is that I paid my bet, I bet on Ryan. At the end of the day, that’s what should matter. Run it back, I’ll bet on Ryan again.’
The race started out well, with both Mike and Ryan at about equal speed, which left the former in the lead since that’s how they started. However, Mickey began losing ground drastically at one point, and in an attempt to make up for it, he went the extra mile and pedaled the gas pedal all the way. No amount of experience can beat the uncertainty of the race track, though, and he began losing traction as well.
As a result, the car swiveled left and right continuously for a few seconds, ultimately spiraling into a full 360-degree spin. Most of the time in “Street Outlaws,” whenever a problem like this occurs, the car ends up flipping on its side and barreling across the track, putting the life of both the driver and rival in grave danger.
This wasn’t the case in Mike’s situation though, as he simply kept the car in a steady slide until the finish line, at which point he let it spin out of control a few times, but entirely without flipping. The car eventually came to a halt, with Mike saying ‘F**k me’ and both of the crews running over to see if he’s okay.
He came out of the car without a scratch, and in the interview said ‘When I was about 300 or 400 feet (90 to 120 meters), I lost traction. The car was doing 360’s. Feeling a little jacked up.’ Even though the California crew didn’t take the win that time, Mike thoroughly impressed everyone with the almost unprecedented ability preventing his car flipping into a barrel roll while spinning at over 100 mph (160 kph).
In fact, as far as public knowledge goes, Gypsy Mike has never crashed his car, or even had it take mild flip damage. That said, this could very well have happened many times, but because of his secretive lifestyle, and faithful crew who don’t speak to the media, the world may never find out, and the same can be said for the reason he passed away.
The news of him dying was covered by numerous news outlets, as well as fan-maintained YouTube channels, while no one had a bad word to say about him, even among his fiercest competitors whose careers were set back by losing to Mike on more than one occasion.
Although most of the details surrounding the racing legend’s life may never come to light, he is certain to be remembered as one of the greatest and earliest names in worldwide street racing, having been one of the progenitors of the discipline.