TIRELESS SIMON WORKS TO ADD IRL TITLE TO LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 2, 1998 - He is 65 years old, and he says his best days lie ahead. Over the course of his life, Dick Simon has driven in nearly 200 championship races...
TIRELESS SIMON WORKS TO ADD IRL TITLE TO LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS
INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 2, 1998 - He is 65 years old, and he says his best days lie ahead.
Over the course of his life, Dick Simon has driven in nearly 200 championship races (including 17 Indianapolis 500s), set sales records as a life insurance agent and risen to an executive position with several insurance companies. He has won skiing championships and was the National Parachuting Champion, earned a multiengine pilot's rating, built a successful race team and established a successful marine business near his home in California.
Of course, the indefatigable Simon says he's nowhere near quitting.
Simon has been a fixture in Indy-style championship racing since 1970, first as a driver and later as a team owner. He sold his Pep Boys Indy Racing League team to Andy Evans in 1996 and spent the 1998 season as a technical consultant to Marco Greco, a regular in Pep Boys IRL competition. Greco's best finish was third at the Pep Boys 400K in July at Dover, Del. But Simon yearned to once again field his own team, and he announced the formation of Dick Simon Racing LLC in late October.
"It's hard to work with other teams, when you have to follow their instructions and do things that your experience and instincts tell you not to do," Simon said. "You feel very restricted, and that drove me a little bit crazy.
"We've taken probably 50 (drivers) to Indy and made the race, and I feel really confident when I'm in charge of the operation. I've got a lot of experience putting guys in the field, so it's important for me to be in control of our destiny and make the right decisions."
In his earlier announcement, Simon revealed that he has secured primary sponsorship from Mexmil, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based company that supplies insulation systems to the aerospace industry. It is Simon's uncanny ability to secure and keep sponsors that has been his trademark in racing over the years.
"I've never used a broker to find sponsors," he said. "I've always done all of that kind of work myself. In all the cases over the years, I've done the selling of the program.
"I love people, and I love selling. And I love producing for the people I sell to, to deliver more than we promised and make them very happy." Simon says his understanding of a sponsor's needs and goals helps tremendously.
"Sponsorship is the key issue in modern motorsports, and you have to approach the situation first by looking at how the sponsor is going to gain, where they get their 'win,'" he said. "If you deliver that success, you'll keep sponsors very happy."
Simon has spent the past few weeks traveling extensively as he builds the foundation of his team. He has visited Chile to meet with potential driver Eliseo Salazar and recently was in Italy and England touring the facilities of Pep Boys IRL chassis builders Dallara and G Force.
"It takes a lot of energy to put all this together, but I don't mind," Simon said. "Hey, I love all of this, talking to people, making plans, making decisions. This is the environment where I'm happiest." Simon has built relationships with countless people in racing over the past 30 years, and he believes those relationships will help him in these early stages.
"There are some really quality people who have contacted me and want to be involved with my new team, and that's very exciting and flattering," Simon said. "It's good that people who know you want to work with you. It kind of reaffirms that you're treating people well, and that people feel like they can get along with you and be treated fairly."
Although the team has not yet turned a wheel, Simon hopes it will be a contender for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship in 1999. "Just building a car is not necessarily the key to winning a championship," he said. "It is a whole picture, all the people involved, what they are able to do to help you meet your goals. One thing I know we can do is get the right people involved with our team, we're already well on our way to getting the right people in place.
"My son Richie will be responsible for the team," Simon said. "He's 30 years old, and he has a lot of experience in racing, so right from the top I feel confident that we'll do well. The team will name the driver very soon, and then get busy putting the rest of the details together." While most men his age are thinking of taking it easy, Simon is up early every morning and works late every night. He insists that he would have it no other way.
"I feel so much happier than I have been the past two years, I'm excited to beat hell," Simon said. "My wife asked me where I'm getting all this energy, it's like being 15 years old again. It all goes back to me being in a situation where I'm in charge, and that's when I feel so much better.
"I'm not done yet, not by a long shot. After all the racing I've done, all the Indy 500's that I made as a driver and as a car owner, I'm proud of all that. But the one thing I've never achieved is winning a championship, and that continues to drive me a little bit crazy. Even though I'm 65 years old, I look at this as another chance to do my best and try again. I'll keep trying until we get it done."