The racing community got some sad news last week. Bill Simpson, one of the prime movers in racing safety, passed away at 79. Simpson products are used throughout the racing world. I used Simpson safety harness in my racing days many years ago, but he also provided more than 200 safety products including driving suits, gloves, helmets, head restraints, drag chutes, and more to prevent driver injuries. He was the creator of the first Nomex racing suit and demonstrated its effectiveness by setting himself on fire while wearing it. Simpson was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2014.
Simpson was a racer himself, participating in drag racing, sports cars, and open-wheel formula cars. He made 52 starts in Indy cars, with one Indy 500 start where he started 20th and finished 13th driving an Offenhauser-powered Eagle. He also provided a car for Rick Mears to make his first Indy car start at Ontario in 1976. Simpson retired from racing after practicing for the 1977 Indy 500, realizing that he was concentrating more on his safety products than his racing, not a good combination at 200 miles per hour. If you want to know more about this racing legend, you can read his two books, “Racing Safely, Living Dangerously” and “Through the Fire.” Both are available through Amazon.com.
On a lighter note, Silly Season is in full swing. NASCAR driver John Hunter Nemechek will move up to a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup ride in the no. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford for 2020. He will vie for Rookie of the Year Honors with fellow Cup rookies Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, and Tyler Reddick. Nemechek also recently got engaged to girlfriend Taylor Stier.
2019 NHRA Pro Stock champion Tanner Gray is well underway in his transition to stock cars. After a season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, he will compete in the Gander Outdoors Truck series in 2020 in the DGR-Crosley No. 15 Ford. Quin Houff, who made 17 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup starts in 2019 in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports No. 77 Chevy, will race full-time in the series next season, driving Starcom Racing’s No. 00 Chevrolet. Brennan Poole will move up from the Gander Outdoors Truck series to Cup in the No. 15 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet.
There’s a crew chief swap in the works for 2020 at Stewart Haas Racing, as Mike Bugarewicz moves from Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford to the No. 10 car of Eric Almirola. John Klausmeier will take over crew chief duties on the No. 14, moving from the no. 10 team. And Mike Shiplett has been promoted from the Xfinity series to take over as crew chief on the no. 41 team for new driver Cole Custer, who replaces Daniel Suarez. And Daniel Hemrick, who lost his Richard Childress Motorsports Cup ride for 2020, will drive for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity series for 21 races in the No. 8 Chevy.
Over in the IndyCar Series, the much-sought-after Alexander Rossi has turned down other offers and decided to re-sign with Andretti Autosport. He is expected to be a serious championship contender again in 2020. And Dale Coyne Racing has signed 22-year-old Spaniard Alex Palou, Japanese Super Formula Rookie of the Year, to drive for them in 2020.