- Published on Sunday, 03 February 2013 23:40
NORWALK, Ohio -- The president of Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio evaluated trends in drag racing and recent surprises in the 2013 event lineup while remaining loyal to racers and sponsors.
“You dance with who brung ya,” said Bill Bader Jr., president of Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio as he spiced his State of the Union speech at the Mr. Gasket Banquet of Champions with commitment to strong local programs.
“We will always be a sportsman racers’ race track,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “It’s how we got here.”
Winning sister awards of 2012 Track of the Year -- from the National Hot Rod Association as well as from CompetitionPlus.com -- carries the responsibility of leading the way to solve common drag racing challenges.
For example: How can insiders open doors and windows to welcome new racers and fans?
Getting started in drag racing may seem like a formidable wall because of the intimidation factor in the pits, and the expense of the sport, Bill Bader Jr. said.
A common theme at race tracks across the country is shrinking car counts, Bill Bader Jr. said, adding what began as a minor matter emerged into an alarming problem.
“Bracket racing is dead in the South,” Bill Bader Jr. said. But here the Mr. Gasket $50,000 Super Series remains robust. “Our car count was up in 2012. That’s good. We are trying with all our might to maintain affordable racing so we can transition kids from Wednesday night.”
A bridge to the Mr. Gasket program from entry-level events requires creativity.
As an experiment to infuse vitality into the Wednesday night program, the cost to race or watch dropped in 2012 from $12 to $7.
“It increased our car count by 75 cars and adult admissions by 131 people weekly,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “That gives you an idea how important $5 is. People don’t realize that they can take their station wagon down the track on Wednesday night. We have to cultivate and build from within. That is our feeder system for Saturday.”
The weekend racing culture follows most Mr. Gasket $50,000 Super Series teams, who pull into the track on Friday evening to race on Saturday.
“It’s become a camping weekend,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “It’s your cabin. It’s your hunting blind. It’s your boat.
“Our challenge is to figure out how to bring those future racers to Saturday.”
One idea creates racing workshops delivered by top Saturday racers on Wednesday nights in the Media Center at Summit Motorsports Park, Bill Bader Jr. said.
Another possibility may be to fashion a special category for seasoned racers on Wednesdays so new racers catch a fever for Saturdays.
“Most of these kids want to go up and down the track as many times as they can, collect an E.T. slip and brag to their friends,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “Our weekly average was up 46 cars. I was pretty proud of that.”
On the regional level, similar solid results brought to Summit Motorsports Park the third largest car count out of 43 race tracks in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
“It was 12 behind the second place finisher, which was Las Vegas in March,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “Hopefully we can overtake second place in 2013.”
Part of the vigor of an individual track involves encouraging other tracks’ quests for stability and growth.
“Every race track has a core of racers,” Bill Bader Jr. said, recalling when a track in Michigan closed. “I remember going to a transmission shop in a place I don’t ever want to revisit.”
The racers from Michigan responded to his invitation and swelled the Saturday series in Norwalk to 160 cars in Super Pro and Pro, Bill Bader Jr. said.
“That’s when our legend grew about the track that races all night every week,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “Yeah, we did. But of that core, 95 percent parked and stopped racing.”
As a result, they’re not available to run at the Ten Grand Nationals and other specialty races, Bill Bader Jr. said.
“I don’t view other tracks as competition,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “I view other tracks as necessary to our life blood.”
Considering the economy, Summit Motorsports Park found many reasons to celebrate the 2013 Golden Anniversary of the dragstrip all year with bold new events and revived oldies to complement the strong racing programs.
For an example of a bold new event, the Summit Racing Equipment Shakedown at the Summit presented by Mickey Thompson October 4-6, 2013 features Outlaw Pro Mods, Outlaw 10.5, Outlaw Drag Radial, Pro Import, and Pro Street Bike, and others.
The Shakedown motto, “A win on your roof is stlll a win,” captures the adventuresome spirit of racers vying for a chunk of a $130,000 purse event.
“I have never been a part of an event that has created the buzz and vibe of Shakedown,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “There are more sponsors calling us to get involved than I have ever had before. This thing is going to be something very special. It’s not like anything we’ve ever had at Summit Motorsports Park.”
The door cars use small tires with huge horsepower, big wheelstands, and guard-wall-to-guard-wall racing, Bill Bader Jr. said.
At the other end of the spectrum, the 2013 season melts the winter blahs with the Spring Warm Up on April 20, 2013, featuring 11 hours of Test N’ Tune and a huge swap meet.
The next event on April 27 revives an oldie, the Funny Car Fox Hunt, calling out historic BB Funny Cars, and admitting all girls for free, said Bill Bader Jr.
Another sweet treat of the Funny Car Fox Hunt unveils as Al Hannah, owner of Hannah Motorsports, debuts the new Queen of Diamonds Jet Dragster driven by Jill Canuso.
“It’s a state of the art, exotic Jet Dragster,” said Bill Bader Jr. “Like something out of the “Star Wars” movies.”
In addition, the Mr. Gasket $53,100 Super Series launches at the Funny Car Fox Hunt, including Bear Motorsports Junior Dragsters presented by Wiseco, Bill Bader Jr. said.
“We are introducing new races to our Summit Motorsports Park lineup,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “We are running heads up two times with the Renegade Racing Association. We picked two events -- June 1 and September 7 -- where the weekly car counts can absorb those cars.
“I understand the girl we brought to the dance is bracket racing,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “Everything cycles. We may be to the place where we look at heads up racing as an affordable alternative to bracket racing.
“Out of 300 sanctioned tracks in North America, less than 10 can say their bracket program was up this year,” Bill Bader Jr. said.
The closing of the All Harley Drag Racing Association caused an unfortunate change in the schedule, too, Bill Bader Jr. said. That weekend, June 8-9, 2013, now holds a Mr. Gasket $53,100 Super Series event and a Friday Test N’ Tune.
But Nitro Harley lovers still can rave for their faves at the 7th Annual Mickey Mart Rewards Cavalcade of Stars presented by Budweiser, May 17-19, 2013, a part of the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the new Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series.
Also, don’t miss the two fireworks displays that canopy the Cavalcade of Stars Friday and Saturday nights, after fire shows by Bob Motz and his 200 mph Jet Kenworth; Jill Canuso and her new 300 mph Queen of Diamonds Jet Dragster racing Ernie Bogue and his Beast from the East Jet Dragster; plus 260 mph Funny Cars and 280 mph dragsters.
The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, part of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series July 4-7, 2013 continues our Golden Anniversary as the NHRA drag racing stars launch drama and sizzling track action.
The highlight of our Golden Anniversary, the Auto Plus Night Under Fire on August 10, 2013 is packed with thrills such as Benny “The Bomb” Koske, Disney stuntman Chris Morena, racing stuntman Tim Chitwood, World Record Harley Davidson Motorcycle Jumper Bubba Blackwood, and Monster Truck drivers Dan Runte and the Summit Racing Bigfoot, and Randy Moore and the War Wizard.
Also, favorites return, such 15-time Funny Car World Champion John Force, Bob Motz and his Jet Kenworth, four Jet Dragsters, and Ed Robinson’s Wheelstander.
We might need more seats for these two events, Bill Bader Jr. said.
Three more new events burst onto the park, beginning with the National Mustang Racers Association Nationals June 14-16, 2013, which Bill Bader Jr. hopes will capture the popularity of the Fun Ford Weekend.
The National Muscle Car Association Nationals, August 23-25, 2013 features a Cobra Jet Showdown and a special late-model hemi shootout.
Then the huge Monster Mopar Weekend September 13-15, 2013 includes a swap meet, manufacturers’ midway, race and car show.
Of course, the Ames Performance Pontiac Nationals returns August 2-4. The No Box Bonanza is June 21-23, and the Ten Grand Nationals presented by Fleenor Racing Transmissions launches August 30-September 1.
And don’t forget the High School Nationals on Sunday, May 5, with all the intensity of racing whatever, carbureator rebuilding races, crazy car crams, and young people ages 16-18 having a great time.
The Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise July 19-21, 2013 already doubled its car count over last year, Bill Bader Jr. said, announcing the return of historic classes of drag racing, including BB Funny Cars, AA Gassers, Super Stockers, and more.
A rock band from the 1960s, Jay and The Americans, performs live in concert on Saturday night, followed by Blue Suede Cruise fireworks.
In 2013 the K&N Halloween Classic presented by Harland Sharp celebrates its 40th Anniversary with special activities, Bill Bader Jr. said.
For one, the Wednesday race changes to an all-run bracket race day, Bill Bader Jr. said.
Also, with the 2012 Super 64 rescheduled for Saturday, May 25, 2013 because of rain, the Super 64 will receive one more chance to run at the Halloween Classic. If the Super 64 rains out again, it moves to another date, Bill Bader Jr. said.
“We’ve got some neat stuff planned for Halloween Classic 40 that you’re going to hear about through the spring and summer,” Bill Bader Jr. said.