By Tim Chambers
Johnson County has been blessed to have several good athletes over the past two seasons in football, basketball, and baseball, but now they can add drag racing to the mix. Dylan Simcox, a senior at Johnson County High School, is finding success in the sport after giving up basketball to pursue his dream.
Simcox wore the tab as being an excellent shooter from beyond the three-point arc, but he’s also learning how to score at the racing level.
The honor student ran his first race at age 15 at the historic Wilkesboro Dragway in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He touched on how he got started and what his goals were for the future.
“I have always loved going to the track and watching my papaw race,” said Simcox. He’s been doing it for 40-45 years, and he’s had a lot of success. I am what you could say a “Papaw’s Boy” and he’s the one who bought me my first race car. He’s definitely the one who got me started in this.”
Sonny Gambill, Simcox’s grandfather, has been involved in racing for over four decades. He has raced the same car, a 69 Nova, for more than three decades. So, it was only fitting that he would be able to purchase Dylan’s first race car.
“I actually race a truck,” said Simcox. “My grandfather and I were looking for something that I could get started in, and we found a 1986 Chevy S10 truck. It was the perfect thing for me to get started with. There was a guy in Kingsport that built it, but nothing in it is original, and it is not stocked. I spend a lot of my time working on it.”
Simcox said that he and his papaw plan to add some changes to the vehicle over the winter. He always enjoys the tinkering part that comes along with drag racing.
“We’ve already changed the outside, and we’re planning on changing the rear end this winter. I hope to work on the motor some more before racing season begins in the spring. We’re always looking for ways to make our rides better.”
Simcox does what is called foot-brake drag racing and loves that fact of going fast. His best effort was recently in the Bristol Super Chevy Show.
“I got down into the finals of that one, so it’s probably been my best showing so far. I been in three finals but haven’t won one yet. Every since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to race, and now I’m getting to live out my dream. It’s so much fun when you’re out there going fast on the track legally. But there is so much more to drag racing than going fast.”
His most memorable moment came when he cut his first perfect light. That means that Simcox left the start line when the green lights came on at all zeros. That’s known as the perfect score in drag racing competition.
Simcox touched on some of his favorite drag strips, including the Farmington Dragway at Mocksville, North Carolina, and the Piedmont Dragway in Julian, North Carolina, in addition to North Wilkesboro. But none beat the track that is closest to him.
“My favorite track is Bristol,” said Simcox. “You can’t beat the atmosphere there, so it’s a great place to spend your weekend racing.”
Simcox was quick to compliment his best friend Michael Oxentine, who excels on the basketball court and football field as a senior Longhorns’ athlete. He’s also a pretty good racer too.
“Michael has an S10 too, and he’s been racing a long time. He got involved in junior racing, and he’s very good at it. We’ve only raced against each other one time, and he beat me, but I’ll get him next time. Michael and I are always together at the track, and we’ve shared some special moments. His mother, Amy Thompson, has been very special to me as well. She’s always at the track and has taught me a lot. We’ve all been friends for a long time, and it will continue to be that way.”
Simcox touched on his plans for the future after he graduates from high school, and it does involve staying in the sport.
“I would love to attend a good automotive school and study to be a crew chief or something like that. I’ve always been a hands-on person, and a lot of that is because of my papaw. He’s been there every step of the way and definitely has made me want to pursue my dream even more.”
Simcox is the son of Dr. Mischelle Gambill Simcox and Dirk Simcox. He has a younger brother Connor who is a standout three-sport athlete at Johnson County Middle School.
I asked Simcox if he had any regrets about giving up basketball to devote his time to racing. He was quick to reply.
“I liked basketball, and
all but this is something
that I would love to do for
the rest of my life. I’m not going to look back and regret not playing because I’ve enjoyed every minute that I’ve spent both on and off the track. Choosing racing first has been the best thing for me.”