DETROIT – Young race drivers like Michael Simko would give almost anything to be featured on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” or CNN.

On Tuesday, Simko, who lives in Clarkston, Mich., made the highlights of “SportsCenter,” plus an interview on MSNBC and stories in the Free Press and USA Today and other newspapers across the country.

However, Simko, 25, wasn’t thrilled with the attention, which stemmed from a wild incident at Toledo Speedway on Sunday.

After being wrecked dueling for position with Canadian Don St. Denis of Windsor, Ontario, during the running of the ARCA Re/Max Great Lakes Chevy Dealers/Budweiser Glass City 200 late model race, Simko climbed from his Chevy-powered car and ran to St. Denis’ vehicle, which was parked on the inside of the track.

From there, it became a pro wrestling show, with Simko taking a running jump, putting both feet through St. Denis’ windshield, then falling to the ground.

Simko got up and hurled his helmet at St. Denis, who was still belted into the car. While workers tried to restrain Simko, a furious St. Denis exited his car and charged Simko, bowled over an ARCA official and exchanged blows with the Michigan driver.

Both Simko and St. Denis have been suspended indefinitely from ARCA-sanctioned events. Both agreed Tuesday that the penalty fits the crime.

“I have to apologize,” Simko told the Free Press. “I lost control. I take full responsibility. It was out of character for me, and not a great way to attract or keep sponsors.”

Simko, a regular at short tracks in the Midwest and ARCA Re/Max races at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, recalls taking the restart on Lap 112 at Toledo and tangling with St. Denis in Turn 3. “I remember going for a ride,” said Simko, who hit the wall. “It just totaled out a $30,000 race car. Just junked it.”

St. Denis, who is a solid 240 pounds, said he never meant to collide with Simko.

St. Denis, 32, said he understood the severity of the suspension.

“They (ARCA) have to do what they have to do,” he said. “I’m a little short-tempered, and I have to learn how to be more patient. But I took a pretty good lick from Mike’s helmet. I just didn’t mean to knock anyone over. I was just protecting myself.”

St. Denis said he was shocked when Simko came crashing through the windshield. “I’ve always found Mike to be a very quiet guy at the track,” St. Denis said. “He’s a tough competitor, but we’ve never really had any trouble before.”

Simko, who is 32nd in ARCA Re/Max Series points, offered advice to young drivers who might be tempted to take the law into their own hands following an accident. “Sit in the car as long as possible,” Simko said. “At least until you have a chance to cool down.”

I’ve seen the replays of what I did too many times. There’s no condoning it. I just hope to be able to race next year.”

Said ARCA president Ron Drager from his Toledo Speedway office on Tuesday: “The suspension is for an indefinite period of time, but that doesn’t mean it’s lifetime. I’ve spoken to the drivers several times since the incident. This is a high-adrenaline sport. It can be life and death. Their families have been involved in racing for two, three generations, and they’re good people. Everyone is very concerned right now, and we’ll take a look at this thing when emotions settle down.”


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