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DONNELLSON — Thursday afternoon, before getting to Lee County Speedway for the MLRA Late Model event Thursday night, Oxford driver Chris Simpson was in the hospital in Iowa City getting checked out for a stomach issue.
A few hours and 40 laps later, Simpson found himself in Victory Lane and $3,000 richer. Simpson may not be old enough to be considered an old-school racer, but his mentality of making it to the racetrack after being hospitalized on the same day certainly qualifies as old school.
“I couldn’t sleep last night and ended up in the emergency room about 1:30 (p.m.),” Simpson said. “We had some scans and ultrasounds and stuff. They said I’m not going to die, so we came racing.
“It all worked out.”
Race he did — and in dominant fashion.
A year after coming in second at this event to Brandon Sheppard, Simpson was the top qualifier in time trials, led every lap of his heat race and all 40 laps in the main event. It’s his second Open Late Model win already in this young season, getting a win at 34 Raceway last month.
Simpson has been a car to beat in his home state in the last few seasons, and a lot of that has to do with being familiar with the racing surfaces and their behavior as grip goes away.
“We’ve had a hell of a car all year,” Simpson said. “This place has always been good to me. This black dirt gets nice and slick. This is what we grew up racing at West Liberty every week. It’s cool to get a track like that and get it done.”
Simpson got the win ahead of Tony Jackson Jr., Jimmy Mars, Brantlee Gotschall and his brother Chad Simpson.
The brothers raced for the lead in the opening laps before Chris stretched the lead out to a straightaway advantage, while Jackson worked his way into second around halfway. It was in that midpoint of the race, when the track really started to change, that Chris hit lapped traffic and Chad and Jackson were able to reel him back in.
Getting around that traffic was hard because the lapped cars were running where Chris wanted to, he said. He had to adjust his line because “I got tired of following those guys on the bottom.”
Jackson showed a nose underneath Chris in that traffic, but that was as close as he got.
“I feel like we might’ve been a bit better in the middle of the race,” Jackson said. “We caught those lapped cars and he snuck by the final two and that was pretty much the deal-breaker.”
Thursday night’s race at Lee County Speedway was the first of a three-night swing for the MLRA tour in Iowa. Davenport Speedway follows on Friday night and Independence Motor Speedway finishes it up on Saturday night, with all three running for $3,000 to win.
Chris Simpson won last year’s race at Davenport, and said he’s as confident as he’s ever been with the package he and his crew are bringing to the track.
If his stomach cooperates, is a three-race sweep of his home state in play?
“Man, we’re going to try,” Simpson said through a grin.
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