Here’s one of those little books that no one knows about but everyone should read. Racing Safely, Living Dangerously was published back in 2001. It’s the autobiography of Bill Simpson (with help from Bones Bourcier) and it takes readers basically all the way up to the time when Dale Earnhardt had his fatal crash at the Daytona 500. The book was running off the printing presses when that happened so it’s a weird thing to read this book, knowing that Bill Simpson would be drug through hell but didn’t know it was coming when the book was penned.
To put it bluntly, Bill Simpson was (and most likely still is) a maverick wild man who started a safety empire in his garage with a sewing machine. He built and lost fortunes, raced at the Indy 500, called the biggest names in motorsports of all genres his friends, and has lived the lives of five people in the time a normal man lives a half.
The on-track stories are good, but the off-track exploits are even better. Any stories involving famous racers and South American brothels are worth the price of admission.
The toughest thing to realize is that Simpson cared so much for the racers he was designing and innovating safety equipment for and ran his company in a way that really highlighted their ability to innovate and create a safer environment for racers. Ultimately, one racer’s crash, with his equipment improperly used, forced him out of his own company.
He’s since rebounded with IMPACT safety equipment, and is once again recognized as the industry leader in innovation and safety. Look at professional racers and what fire suits they wear. You’ll see a lots of IMPACT logos out there.
No one partied harder, no one has worked harder, and few have done as good a job summing up a life lived at 350 mph than Simpson and Bourcier do in this book. If you can find a copy and want to get one of the great insider views of the racing world, and we’re talking world here, find a copy of this book. You can haul through it in a weekend and be smiling for a week because of it.