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Bill Simpson Unleashed

Many lives changed when Dale Earnhardt died against the wall at the Daytona 500 this February, and few more than Bill Simpson's. The long-time motorsports safety pioneer and manufacturer lost a friend and fellow racer that unbelievable day, but he was to lose even more in the aftermath of Earnhardt's death. From the moment NASCAR officials stated at a news conference at Rockingham, NC the next week that Earnhardt's left lap belt had separated (while not naming any particular brand name), Simpson's reputation and legacy earned over 43 years of making racing safer were shredded like that webbing.

In this exclusive and candid interview by phone with CRO on Sept 10, 2001, Simpson reveals he will not go quietly after Earnhardt's death -- he is going to build a new company to manufacture racing safety gear; he is going to "raise the bar" on safety equipment; and he's going to continue to devote his life to saving those of people who choose to make motorsports their hobby or profession. Life goes on for Bill Simpson, and if he has anything to do with it, other racers' lives will too. - Glen Grissom


CRO: Do you think NASCAR should mandate safety, or leave it up to the drivers?

Simpson: Let me put this another way. Let's suppose we're at a football stadium and we're going to be watching the NFL Panthers play the Giants. Whoever the quarterback is runs out on the field and he doesn't have any shoulder pads and helmet because he doesn't feel like wearing them today. Do you think that would fly? I don't think it would fly.

CRO: It's surprising that the manufacturers haven't put more pressure on NASCAR to mandate safety items.

Simpson: My idea is that NASCAR thinks they're so powerful, they're invincible; they don't have to listen to anybody.

CRO: That's based on your experience with them?

Simpson: I don't have any experience with them. I've never had any interplay with them at all. I've never had any communication with them to speak of. They've never asked any advice about anything.

CRO: You've been servicing the racers more than the sanctioning body then?

Simpson: Let me tell you this, I'll reiterate this statement. I could care less about any of those sanctioning bodies. That isn't who I work with, I don't care about them. I work with the racers, and only the racers. I've taken things to NASCAR, and they've said, "Nah." They wouldn't let us do it. And you turn around and walk away and shake your head. You say "why is that" to yourself - you wouldn't say that to them. Because the next thing you know you wouldn't be allowed in there.

CRO: Can you give me an example?

Simpson: Hell yeah, I can give you lots of examples. One is there's this new [fire suppression] foam out, it's called "Cold Fire." It's way more effective than Halon, and they turned it down cold. Yet, NHRA has used it and they think it's the greatest stuff since candy bars. Who knows why that is?


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