Motorsports safety pioneer Bill Simpson dies after stroke

Bill Simpson signs an autograph at the IMS Museum. (IndyCar/Richard Dowdy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WTHR) - A pioneer in safety for race car drivers has died.

Bill Simpson died Monday from complications from a stroke. He was 79.

Simpson began as a race car driver but turned his attention to safety in the late 1960s. His innovations include helmets, seat belts, firesuits and many other items considered standard equipment today.

He also is credited for developing the fire-retardant Nomex firesuit. Simpson was known to set himself on fire wearing the suit to prove its effectiveness.

Simpson was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2003 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2014. He qualified 20th and finished 13th in the 1974 Indianapolis 500.

A celebration of Simpson's life is being planned for this coming May at the IMS Museum. Details of the event are still pending.

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