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First-year Rampage player-coach Jonathan Greenfield was fired on Thursday, club general manager Chris Kokalis announced after Cedar Rapid ... »
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WEST LIBERTY — Before his heat race Tuesday night, Chris Simpson was asked if he was trying to hog all the attention while the Lucas Oil MLRA Late Models made another swing through Iowa.
Simpson just laughed from inside his car, but gave a smirk that said all he needed to say. The Oxford driver backed up his win on Monday night at Farley Speedway with another on Tornado Tuesday at West Liberty Raceway, pocketing $20,000 in two days of work.
Those troubles of a few weeks ago sure seem long in the past now.
“I knew when I dove in that first corner and hit that top lane I was good,” Simpson said in Victory Lane. “I knew there wasn’t going to be many people that would (have something for me) — if they did, I was going to have to do something stupid for them to get by me.
“It’s so cool to get a second straight win in Iowa. I just want to keep this going now. It’s just fun to be able to win and go sleep in my own bed.”
Simpson won by a straightaway ahead of Springfield, Mo. driver Terry Phillips, Billings, Mo. driver Jesse Stovall and brothers-in-law Denny and Dave Eckrich in fourth and fifth.
He led all 50 laps from the pole, and apart from a brief challenge by Moscow’s Nick Marolf in lapped traffic — a move which results in Marolf jumping the cushion and hitting the Turn 1 wall — he was never pressured for the lead. That included five restarts, too.
Phillips laughed at first when asked if anyone had anything for Simpson, then invoked a name that made Simpson raise his eyebrows.
“This is some good home cooking for him; he just whipped our butts,” Phillips said. “He’s been running good, period, then coming here, it’s kind of like (Brian) Birkhofer. Congrats to him and his team.”
To be compared to a guy like Brian Birkhofer, who is as well-respected as any driver in the dirt Late Model community — especially in Iowa and at West Liberty — Simpson was humbled.
“To come here like Brian did — he’s a role model of mine; I followed him around for years and to even be in the same category as him is huge,” Simpson said. “We’ll stay on this and see what we can do.”
The race itself played out like a marathon of sorts, and it showed in the attrition of cars.
All 24 cars that showed up started the main event, but just nine finished. With the track surface being “hammer down” all night, the speeds at which the Open Late Models run ends up being hard on equipment, drivers said. Surviving a race like this is the first hurdle. Being fast enough to win is the second.
“It’s just too many laps for this big of a track,” Phillips said. “If it’s paying $100,000, or something, I could see, but it is what it is. I know they’re used to running a lot of laps up here, but we’re not. It’s just really hard — the motor is overheating, the temperature is buried. We just had to survive and get through it.”
A run like Simpson has had the last two days builds a level of confidence that can’t be bought — and is essentially priceless.
His fourth MLRA win this season — Lee County Speedway, Davenport Speedway and Farley Speedway were the sites of his first three — has him in a place where he knows when he gets in the car, he expects to be fast. That’s not something drivers take lightly, and Simpson for sure wants to keep a level head about it.
There’s a ton of big money shows left in the season, and Simpson said he isn’t done yet.
“To be able to come out and dominate the way we did, I didn’t have to lift much around that top,” Simpson said. “My stepdad is probably going to make me pay for the motor rebuild (with the $20,000). Whatever it takes to keep this going. We have awesome motors; an awesome car right now.
“We’ll keep our heads down, keep everything backed up so we don’t think we’re better than everyone else; just go out and perform the way we think we can.”
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