I will give Bill Simpson his due credit as a great innovator in the motorsports safety but this whole Earnhardt ordeal has shown that he is an egomaniac and a flamboyant jerk.
First of all, he has pouted like a child to the media that he has been made a scapegoat by NASCAR in this Earnhardt tragedy when NASCAR has never officially said that his products were defective or that they were ultimately responsible for his death. He supposedly resigned over the pressure of this whole tragedy. At NASCAR's first press conference, all Mike Helton said was that they had found a separated belt but they didn't know how or why. Dr. Bohanon, a physican who tended to Earnhardt after the crash, speculated that how the belt could have played a role in his death at the press conference. And the media and fans took off with it. However, the bottom line here is that Dr. Bohanon is a physcian and health care professional. He is free to give his opinions without it being a formal statement by NASCAR.
Secondly, Simpson recently stated that he was disappointed that NASCAR didn't issue a formal apology at the presentation in Atlanta. Why? What do they have to apologize for? Is it his guilty conscious that needs be reaffirmed that his product wasn't at fault? Is NASCAR required to state on the record that his product wasn't defective when it is hard to prove one way or another? This would sure give him necessary ammo in any product liabilty court case if NASCAR made this kind of a statement. But Teresa Earnhardt has never hinted that she would pursue a wrongful death court case over Dale's death. So is it his ego that needs to be stroked?
Thirdly, he makes the following statements to Robin Miller in a recent ESPN article:
"Dale liked to pull up his seats belts instead of pulling them down," said Simpson, who hunted, fished and palled around with the seven-time Winston Cup champion for the past 12 years. "We specify how the belts should be mounted and at what angle (45 degrees), but Dale's seat was four inches lower than anyone else's to accommodate how his belts were mounted. I warned Dale all the time that this was going to bite him some day, but he just laughed and said I was going to check out before he did. I mean, we were good friends and shared a lot of laughs but he always did what he wanted to do."
Excuse me, if he had known for years that Dale mounted his belts this way, and that doing so would compromise their safety, why wasn't he proactive enough to come up with belts that would protect a legend and conform to his seat and driving sytle? Human beings aren't like crash dummies, we all have different styles and on-the-job ergonomics. Coming up with a solution this mounting issue would be the least that he could do if he was really a close friend. And if Dale mounted his belts this way, surely there had to be others.
As a manufacturer of anything, you have to be in tune with how the consumer ultimately uses your product despite specific instructions. If people aren't using your product right and you know that it can create problems that could jeopardize someone's health, then you should look for solutions.
Fourthly, Simpson then makes the following statement:
"But by blaming us they take the heat off themselves. I'm not saying the belt didn't separate; I'm saying it failed because it went from 5,800 pounds of safety to 1,900 pounds of safety because it wasn't mounted properly."
Seems to me that making the belts three times thicker might have been a possible solution.
Finally, he makes the following comment about how Earnhardt would react to this whole affair, "I think Earnhardt would throw a bomb at the NASCAR office," he replied. "He wouldn't believe it. And neither do I."
Sorry but I find this comment to be very disturbing. Dale is dead and the only one who should speculate what he might have to say about this is his wife or his son. And I seriously doubt that he would blame NASCAR.
The bottom line here is that one of Simpson's belts broke. Simpson hasn't proven to be any better than NASCAR throughout this whole ordeal. Instead of pouting to the media and looking to shed all blame, he needs to look for ways to make his belts unbreakable or else he is the pot calling the kettle black.
[ August 26, 2001: Message edited by: Joe Fan ]