Simpson second ever to three-peat as Purdue Grand Prix winner
The sunlight glistened off Jimmy Simpson's colorful chrome racing helmet as he zipped past one go-kart after another.
Austin Polen of Goodland-based Polen Designspainted the helmet for him prior to the 2013 Purdue Grand Prix.
On Sunday, Simpson piloted the Delta Tau Delta go-kart to victory for the third straight year, dominating the field to win the 58th annual race.
"It is like my good luck helmet in this race and I am going to keep using it," said Simpson, who became the second driver to win the Purdue Grand Prix three consecutive times.
"It is actually the same one I used in Indianapolis that year in 2013 (for the Indy Lights Freedom 100). This one is pretty special to me."
Simpson joined Ian Smith (1993-95), who was the pace car driver on Sunday, as the only drivers to win the Grand Prix three years in a row. Timothy O'Brien (2002-03, '05) also is a three-time winner.
No driver has won it four times, something Simpson and his crew already are shooting for.
Preparation for the 2016 race began Sunday night.
"I will definitely be back next year for my fifth year, a victory lap as some people call it," Simpson said. "I am not real proud of that, but it's the way it turned out. You spend a lot of time working on (Grand Prix) in the spring semesters and it eats up a lot of your time and you can't take as many classes as you might like."
Simpson also is an accomplished professional.
He finished seventh in the Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013. Last year, he ran a doubleheader road race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and finished 11th and eighth.
Competing in the Formula Atlantic Professional Championship Series in 2014, Simpson finished second in the standings, winning at Virginia International Raceway and Mid-Ohio.
In his first two bouts with Purdue University's winding course, Simpson led the most laps and led from the pole.
Starting from his typical starting spot again, the pole sitter let emotions get to him prior to the Grand Prix.
"I didn't eat anything. I haven't eaten anything for about 24 hours," Simpson said after dousing a jug of milk, a traditional victory lane celebration. "Completely stressed to the max."
Once the green flag waved, Simpson didn't appear fazed.
He led 159 of the 160 laps, temporarily losing the top spot to Camden Speth on lap 56. Simpson quickly reclaimed the lead one lap later. Speth later retired from the race after getting cut off by a lapped kart as he chased Simpson and slid off the track during the 61st lap.
Without Speth threatening to take the lead, Simpson pulled away from runner-up Chip Challis of Pi Kappa Alpha. IUPUI's James Schnabel was third, Kappa Sigma's Daniel Leeds was fourth and Jaime Ortega, driving for Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, was fifth.
In the last three Grand Prix races, Simpson has led 432 of 480 laps. Despite his most dominant performance coming on Sunday, the races seem to keep getting tougher.
"This was absolutely the longest Grand Prix I've run, it felt like. (There were) constant clusters of karts," Simpson said. "It seemed like other years a lot of karts fell out quicker, but this year a lot of karts were running for a long time. It was exhausting. I was far more tired this year than I was after the last two."