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Local race car driver sentenced for child molestation

A regular Grays Harbor Raceway competitor will have to register as a sex offender as a result of his conviction for having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Zack D. Simpson, 25, of Hoquiam, was sentenced Monday in Grays Harbor County Superior Court to a year in jail for third-degree child molestation.

It was beyond the nine months Interim Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda asked for, and the six months defense attorney David Hatch requested. Simpson’s sentencing range was six months to a year in jail.

Simpson was initially charged with third-degree rape of a child.

The girl’s mother found entries in her daughter’s journal indicating at least four instances of sexual relations, and the victim confirmed it in interviews with police, according to court records.

Simpson is a five-time Grays Harbor Raceway hobby stock champion, and is currently a modified-class racer at Elma and throughout the Northwest.

“I’m truly sorry for what happened,” Simpson said. “It was inappropriate for me to engage with a minor. It was 100 percent my fault.”

In court files, Simpson only acknowledged one sexual encounter, not the other three the girl indicated, but Judge Gordon Godfrey noted he would have approved of pursuing charges for all four.

“When I read this, I would have had no problem sentencing you to four consecutive sentences if this hadn’t been plea bargained,” he said.

Svoboda told The Vidette that the victim was reluctant to testify in this case, prompting the settlement talks. She says it’s typical on cases like this one.

She said that it’s possible Simpson could go back to racing, although there could be some conditions placed on it by the state Department of Corrections when he goes into community custody.

The judge ordered Simpson not to have unsupervised contact with minors, Svoboda said. That could mean Simpson could be around adults at the race track but not on fan days with children present.

The Vidette contributed to this story.