Bill Simpson has spent his entire career striving for greater safety in motorsports, developing more than 200 innovative race track and driver equipment safety products through his two extremely successful businesses, Simpson Safety Equipment and Impact Racing. Starting as a teenage drag racer in California in 1958, Simpson is generally credited with pioneering the use of a rear-mounted parachute to slow a dragster at the conclusion of a run. His first parachute customer reportedly was the legendary Don Garlits. While designing and developing umbilical cords for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Simpson met astronaut and amateur race driver Pete Conrad who made Simpson aware of a DuPont product named Nomex.
Simpson soon was offering a line of fire retardant driving suits using Nomex. A competitor in 52 United States Auto Club National Championship races from 1968 through 1977 (with a best finish of sixth in the 1970 Milwaukee 200), in 1974 Simpson realized a long-time ambition by driving in the Indianapolis 500. He finished 13th. Credited with assisting many young drivers, Simpson hired off-road racer Rick Mears to drive in the 1976 Ontario 500 in Ontario, California; Mears, a rookie, finished eighth.
Courtesy of Indianapolis Motors Speedway Museum