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Simpson Becomes Third Knoxville Driver to Win IHRA World Championship

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Ageless wonder George Simpson became the third International Hot Rod Association World Champion from Knoxville Dragstrip when he won the Top (Box) class recently at the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals at Memphis International Raceway.

Simpson, 74, joins 2007 Top champion Chad Hedgecock and 2019 Junior Dragster champion Kaden Harrill as Knoxville representatives. He said it’s no accident that drivers from the land of “Rocky Top” have rocketed to the top of the bracket racing community.

“The competition is harder than ever, much tougher than it was years ago. Everything comes down to the thousandths of a second,” Simpson said. “It’s tough racing at Knoxville, especially me racing those younger guys.”World Finals Top Champion George Simpson

Simpson retired after a long career working in the auto parts business, operating a store with his brother-in-law. Later, he worked as a field guy for the IT department in Atlanta and Dallas. When his business needed extra attention, he had to put racing aside before coming back better than ever.

“It’s always been a hobby, but I had to get out of racing about 15 years when my business was taking all my time,” he said. “I had a car and then my nephew drove it. I bought it back around 2001, took it to the track and thought how fun it was.”

The Knoxville resident first got involved in racing as a crew member and then after a stint in the Army, he bought his first race car, a 1969 Chevy Nova, a footbrake car. That car is still being raced today, although Simpson said it’s now modified to run in a 4.70 and a 4.40 class.

His current car is a 1990 Chevrolet Camaro with a 582 cubic-inch engine based on a Bowtie block. While the car was running great at the World Finals, the driver was struggling at the starting line.

“I couldn’t find the Christmas tree at all when I first went down there,” he said. “Even when they gave us two time trials, I was still off the mark. I had a little talk with myself, chose a different delay box setting and went with it. It was good when I showed up for the first round. The car was there every time.”

Thw way it once left

So was the driver once he got the starting line problems out of the way. He posted a .003 reaction time in round 4 and .004 in round 5.

“I made peace with myself, win or lose, I was going to have a good time.” he said. “My goal this year was win the championship at the local track and go to the World Finals. I had been to the World Finals several times as a car owner. My nephew, Robbie Smith, was there the first time in 2014 and he got to the quarterfinals.

“I had never driven at a World Finals before. It’s really intimidating when you see all these top drivers from tracks across the United States.”

Ironically, he pitted next to his final-round opponent Kevin Pass from Brainerd Motorsports Park. They developed a friendship over spending three days together at the track. They also made good on a prediction by Pass when he dropped his trailer off Wednesday night.

“Kevin Pass said, ‘We’re going to run each other in the finals.’ I thought, ‘Yeah, right,’ ” Simpson said. “He asked which lane I was going to run and I told him the left had been lucky. So he said, ‘We’re going to pile in behind you.’ We stayed separated until that final round.”

Knoxville 1

When Simpson had a problem with his car in the third round of eliminations, Pass offered to help. Pass and his wife even helped Simpson’s wife when she tumbled off the pit wall and bumped her head. They stayed with her until the EMTs could come check on her.

Matched up in the final, Pass had the better light (.010 to .027) after Simpson got excited and staged too deep. However, it was Simpson who came out on top at the finish line.

“Kevin had the .010 and I made the mistake on the starting line. But, I think Kevin misjudged on the other end,” Simpson said. “He broke out .004 and sometimes it takes luck. I hated it in one sense because he wanted it so bad.”

3rd season win

Simpson, who flies model airplanes as a hobby, will now fly to Aruba as part of an eight-day/seven-night vacation as part of the prize package as well as $20,000 from Summit Racing Equipment. There is also the prestige that goes along with being the IHRA World Champion. There’s an IHRA Diamond Ring and the Ironman Trophy handed out after the biggest race of the year.

Most of all, Simpson is appreciative of the events, the IHRA, its tracks and Summit Racing Equipment put on. Whether it’s racing at Knoxville Dragway, an upcoming special race at London (Ky.) Dragway, or the IHRA Summit Team Finals and IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals, there’s a common theme.

“I’ve been drag racing about all my life,” Simpson said. “It’s something fun to do and you meet so many different people from everywhere. I told somebody I oughta’ quit right now, but I’m really to get back out there, even if I get blown away the first round. I never thought about getting the Ironman. It seemed unattainable, but the stars lined up and it all worked out. You just have to keep trying.” 

     
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IHRA calendarheader

Summit Team Finals Midwest - Eddyville Raceway Park
Eddyville Raceway
Thursday, September 8th - Sunday, September 11th
Summit Team Finals Division 3 - Dragway 42
Dragway 42
Thursday, September 15th - Sunday, September 18th
Summit Team Finals Division 5 - US 131 Motorsports Park
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Thursday, September 22nd - Sunday, September 25th
Summit Team Finals Division 4 - Xtreme Raceway
Xtreme Raceway Park
Friday, September 23rd - Sunday, September 25th
Summit Team Finals Division 2 - Holly Springs Motorsports
Holly Springs Motorsports Park
Thursday, September 29th - Sunday, October 2nd

 

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