Geist resident Jimmy Simpson leads a relatively normal suburban life. He lives with his family in Admirals Sound. He attended St. Simon the Apostle School and Cathedral High School, and currently is a junior majoring in communications at Purdue University. Like most kids his age, Jimmy loves driving cars.
But Jimmy drives cars at 200 miles per hour – legally. Last month, he raced an Indy Lights open-wheel car in the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jimmy Simpson is a race car driver.
He is 20 years old.
“It’s been my dream since I was a kid. It’s what I’m good at,” explained Simpson. “My dream is to reach the Indy 500.”
Simpson is following a path familiar to many Indycar drivers. At age five, he started racing quarter-midgets at local fairgrounds. At age 11, he moved up to karting, where he won several championships. Simpson attended the Skip Barber Racing School, and was named “rookie of the race” at an event at Sebring. Midgets, sprint cars, Formula Atlantic, victories – all are on his resume. And now, Indy Lights.
On May 24, for one day, one race – Simpson found himself in an Indy Lights car. “It’s like the Triple A baseball of Indycar,” he said. “Indy 500 drivers Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden are former Indy Lights drivers.” Make no mistake – this was a big-time opportunity. “I’ve looked forward to racing at the Speedway my whole life. All the drivers view Indy’s track as the best,” said Simpson. “It was a real dream come true.”
With straightaway speeds at 200 MPH, running Indy is, well, dangerous. Simpson, however, appeared fearless. “No, it’s not scary. You don’t think about crashing. You’re focused on what you’re doing,” he explained. “The first laps at Indy are like ‘whoa,’ but then it’s second nature. Running 160 in a midget car is the scariest thing you’ll ever do,” he noted.
Jimmy took seventh place in the 40-lap Indy Lights race – not the finish he’d hoped for, but a worthwhile effort. “Just being there was a success in itself,” he offered. Simpson would like to continue on the Indy Lights circuit, but needs sponsors to pay the freight.
Auto-racing is an expensive undertaking. For instance, that appearance at IMS cost about $50,000. The rest of this year’s Indy Lights circuit? A cool $400,000. His mother, Debra Burns, is hoping some entity will come forward with sponsorship. Both understand that money makes the wheels turn, not the engine. “Indy Lights is an important step toward his ultimate goal of Indycar and racing in the Indy 500,” she explained. “So, we’d welcome any kind of sponsorship.”
Simpson was just a little kid when he attended his first 500. “I remember Eddie Cheever winning, and then meeting him,” he said. And, he said former Indycar driver Mark Dismore has been a real mentor for him. Indy, you see, is in his blood, and with some luck (and funding), Simpson just might find himself attempting to qualify for next year’s Indy 500.
More information is available online at www.jimmysimpsonracing.com.