Max Simpson | 2000
Max Simpson | 2000
Max Lee Simpson was born in Charlotte, Michigan on September 25, 1940. He resides three miles from the original homestead. Married to Sandy, they enjoy four grown children between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-seven and four grandchildren, ages five to fourteen.
There have been a number of jobs that Max has worked leading up to what he does today. As a kid, he started his working career for a local Allis Chalmers dealership. Part of his time was spent setting up farm stock tractors for local pullers. Although he set them up for others, he never competed in that division himself. He was with the dealership for 14 years. Max had a fuel route that he serviced as well as owning the I.H. dealership in Charlotte for eleven years, from 1977 to 1988. In 1975, "Mean Ole Allis" came into being. The diesel powered, AC-D-21 was owned by four friends: Keith Haynes; brother, Roy Simpson; Steve Davidson; and of course, Max. Keith and Max campaigned mostly on the NTPA Grand National Circuit, while Steve and Roy took care of the pulling chores at state level.
In 1989, "Mean Ole Allis" was sold. The partnership had been good, but everyone felt it time to get out. It was also in 1989 that Max started his own business, Simpson Performance. When asked what his occupation is, Max promptly replies, "I make tractor pull parts." What this modest man doesn't mention is that he is a very capable machinist as well as engineer. As we all know, most parts have to be made. You just can't order them from a distributor. Anyway, many problems can not be solved without creating a solution. Creating horsepower solutions is something Max does so infinitely well. "It was in August (of 1989) that I went full time into business, and since then, I have not had a slow time."
It was also during this time that Max purchased the famed "Double Trouble" AC-D21 from legendary competitor, Bob Williams. Engineering a tractor that had been deemed "difficult to get running" by its former owner, Max thought he could find a solution. A fact that he proved. Williams was pleased and proud, but unfortunarely passed away a year or so later.
Max had another reason for buying the Williams' tractor other than wanting to stay competing on the track. Simpson needed some sort of prototype vehicle while solving other competitors' problems. "Double Trouble" was just the trick for Simpson to do his research and development function of Simpson Performance. 1994 was the last time Max piloted 'Trouble' down the track, splitting the engitlt block in half - an unforgettable, last run for the tractor. However, splitting the block on "Double Trouble" was not a first for Simpson. Incredibly, it was the third time in seven years while owning an AC-D21. Two of the three times, it happened while campaigning the "Mean Ole Allis" tractor. It was three times and out for Simpson.
This past season found Max back in the seat, only this time, he was as a "hired gun" behind the wheel of the IH 986 "Screamin' Demon II" of Jerry Van Dorpe. Van Dorpe is a long time customer of Simpson Performance, and both are basically neighbors with both men living nearby Charlotte. That run in the Super Stock diesel division at Galax, Virginia gave Jerry his only first place finish this year, and the only full pull of that division at that event. How fitting was it for the new millennium to have its newest inductee to enter the NTPA Hall of Fame to also claim its first win and full pull of the NTPA Grand National season!
What a way to enter a new century for Simpson. "It felt good to be in the seat again, but I think the ride I will remember most was my Bowling Green run (seasons ago), where I won by seventeen feet."
With all this under his belt, one might think we were talking of someone much older. Not so, and we have barely scratched the surface of the accomplishments of this gentleman. While he was busy with all the work and competition, he spent a part term as the President of the state of Michigan. At the same time, NTPA found itself in some serious financial and organizational trouble. Max not only helped to put the organization back on track, but also sat on the WPI Board, holding the Secretaries job for several years and then served as Vice President. Max spent a total of fourteen years of service before he resigned. His was a tough position during tough times.
"It was my respect for David Schreier and a deep understanding of what he was trying to accomplish for pullers that kept me there so long. "To this day", commented Max, "I don't think all of the membership realize what that man has done for the sport. If it weren't for him, NTPA would be down the drain. He has given his all."
"I also can't say enough about my wife. She patiently put up with the many hours away from home, and the long conference calls. She did go with me often, but had little to do with the actual mechanics of the operation. She was working, taking care of kids, and she also ran the video camera in the later years. She still understands about the hours I spend at the shop, and the late night phone calls for help from the pullers."
Hobbies for Max include deer hunting up in northern Michigan with anywhere from eight to eleven associates sharing a tent. When asked where they put that many people in a tent, his answer was "we have a big tent". "At times, it does get a little crowded," said Max, "but we all get along and have a good time. It is good to get away for a week." Max also enjoys ice fishing. He has no secret lake, insisting that the proper spot is "wherever there is a place to wet my line."
A very unique, and special activity Max plays a big roll in is what is known as "Sugar Bushing". The Simpsons collect the sap from maple trees in the spring, run it through a lengthy, complicated process, and finally end up with a finished product. Their syrup is one of the most delicious syrup you have ever tasted. "This is strictly a labor of love," said Max. "So much depends on the weather. One year we may get two hundred bottles. Last year we had only eighty. It is not something we try to make a living at. We work as a family along with friends, and we enjoy the process."
NTPA means the world to Max. His heart is always with the pullers. When first told of the honor about to be bestowed on him, Simpson could not believe it. "I think it's great that you can take a hobby that was so much fun, and then be recognized for your accomplishments," said Max.
"The main thing", says Simpson, "is the unbelievable friends that I've made around the country. at coming from a background where one would be apt to do a lot of traveling, it was pulling that gave me the opportunity to see places I otherwise would never have."
Over the years, Max has seen a lot of good people come and go in the sport. What advice would Simpson give a new puller? "The best advice I can offer the new puller as well as the seasoned ones, is to live within your means. Don't throwaway the farm for the fun. It is sad that some such cases do exist. It changes the actions and feelings of the competitors and in the process something we all cherished is being lost."