- Published on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 14:07
As promised, Bob Motz's Jet Semi torches the sign!
NORWALK, Ohio – The 2013 Golden Anniversary celebration at the Auto Plus Night Under Fire presented by Kelly Services mixed pageantry with good old fashioned, metal mashing fun August 10, 2013 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
The fiery extravaganza glued fans to their seats all the way through the death-defying thrill shows, the star-studded racing, and the Bader Family Signature Fireworks.
And how about that 15-time Funny Car World Champion John Force, who hauled home another Norwalk trophy!
Behind the Night Under Fire, sponsors Auto Plus and Kelly Services created possibilities out of a vision by their support. And the result? A whole lot of fun!
“Kelly Services is proud to be the presenting sponsor at the Baders' signature event, the Night Under Fire, and the 50th Anniversary of this superb facility,” said Terry Adderly, executive chairman of Kelly Services. “We are huge fans of NHRA.”
Auto Plus, a third year title sponsor, also brought the Auto Plus Fuel Funny Car and driver Blake Alexander to the show, said Bill Bader Jr., president of Summit Motorsports Park.
“We are having a blast,” said Bryce McLay, general manager of Auto Plus. “We want Blake to win Fuel Funny Car.”
“When you came to Summit Motorsports Park, you came big,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “Thank you!”
Reigning National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel World Champion Antron Brown experienced his first Night Under Fire in a role reversal.
On the same team, Antron Brown and his Matco Tools Top Fuel crew chiefs, Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, crewed together on a new historic Funny Car built under the direction of Paul Candies.
The driver of the Candies Family Motorsports Funny Car was five-time Funny Car International Hot Rod Association World Nationals Champion Mark Oswald.
While Mark Oswald mashed metal and his Funny Car spit flames, Antron Brown watched from the waterbox.
“The fans are always great out here, every time we come out,” Antron Brown said, adding his son, Anson, raced a Junior Dragster that day at another track and won the 12.90 index class.
“He's a huge John Force fan,” Antron Brown said. “He said, 'Dad, take a picture of the Fuel Funny Cars going down the track. Take a video and show me what's going on.'”
The drag racing fun level always jacks up higher when you know the people, so Bill Bader Jr. introduced the stars of the 50th Anniversary celebration shows in an interview-studded parade down the track.
First, two MAC Tools trucks honked greetings and carried the hearts of all handy persons down the dragstrip with them, as in: “What cool tools did you bring?”
Ten brightly painted and named historic AA Gassers from the 1950s and 1960s kicked off racing portions of the show with deep rumbles, hearty smokey burnouts, wheelstands and backup girls dressed in period costumes.
Some fans seemed most impressed with Bear Motorsports Junior Dragsters presented by Wiseco drivers – Alexa Hurst, Allyson Downs, Stephen Crowell, Zac Gill, Dylan Northup, and Scott Chitty – driving from 45 to 80 mph in an eighth mile, depending on their class.
Before the beginning of the NHRA season, Columbus, Ohio, businessman Jim Head handed the keys to his Fuel Funny Car to his son, Chad Head. But Jim Head's not done racing yet! He treated Night Under Fire fans to an historic Funny Car match up.
“My last pass was in the Big Bud Shootout in the finals against Mark Oswald,” Jim Head said, adding Mark Oswald won by a fender.
By the end of the Night Under Fire rematch, Mark Oswald carried off the Norwalk trophy. Jim, will there be a grudge match?
When Bill Bader Jr. introduced AA Fuel Altered driver Ron Hope, he recalled a track trend replacing motors with big block Chevies and Fords.
“Ron Hope said, 'We're going to build a Chrysler Hemi, and we're going to cage those rats,'” Bill Bader Jr. said. That's how the Rat Trap Fuel Altered began.
“It's a great life,” Ron Hope said, “and I want to thank you for bringing it all together.”
The four Jet Dragsters paraded down the track like old Summit Motorsports Park friends.
“We are so proud to be back here at Summit Motorsports Park for the 50th Anniversary,” said Elaine Larsen, pilot of the Miller Welding Jet Dragster, decorated in patriotic red, white and blue with an eagle head on the front. “We painted this car just for you, Bill.”
Bill Bader Jr. introduced Bob Motz's Jet Kenworth semi truck as the most spectacular vehicle on the planet, a 7,000 horsepower beast with 18,000 pounds of thrust, the first truck to go 150 mph and the first truck to go 200 mph.
“And as far as we're concerned, the only jet truck,” Bill Bader Jr. said.
With the Golden Anniversary Funny Car behind him, John Force rode up on his pit bike, and said the Night Under Fire shocked his family.
“There isn't a show like this anywhere on the earth,” John Force said, calling Bill Bader Jr. the P.T. Barnum of drag racing.
“How come you don't respect and love me?” Bill Bader Sr. asked from the announcer's booth in the tower.
“Because Junior's writing the checks now,” John Force said. “P.T. Barnum, let's rock and roll!”
Tim Chitwood, from the legendary Chitwood family, drove a pickup truck on two wheels, then Chris Morena, a Disney stuntman, climbed out a window and stood on the side of the truck, going across the finish line still on two wheels!
Afterward, Tim Chitwood said he started stunt driving in the '60s, and each new trick required years to perfect. Tim Chitwood uses street tires on a street truck for the two wheel stunt.
“I put 80 pounds of air in the tires,” Tim Chitwood said. “But I don't recommend it.”
A little local pizzazz marched out as the Edison High School Marching Band, directed by Denise Reilly, performed tunes and dance steps in front of the Summit grandstands.
Then Bill Bader Jr. thanked fans for fifty years of drag racing, and introduced the patriotic ceremonies.
“What is a hero?” Bill Bader Jr. asked. “A man distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility and strength, capable of bold exploits. We have a hero with us this evening, and we're awfully proud of him.”
Lance Corporal Corbin, the Grand Marshall of the 2013 Golden Anniversary Auto Plus Night Under Fire presented by Kelly Services, received a Navy Cross award for heroism.
Bill Bader Jr. read a description of some of the heroic combat deeds of Lance Corporal Corbin:
During Operation Iraqi Freedom on May 7, 2005 in Hadithah, Iraq, enemy forces ambushed a platoon of United States Marines.
As an improvised explosive device on a suicide vehicle and rocket-propelled grenades exploded, damaging three of four vehicles and causing casualties to 11 of 16 Marines, Lance Corporal Corbin repositioned his truck directly between the enemy and many of the wounded.
He radioed the situation to the battalion and leaped into the enemy fire, directing Marines to engage, and marking targets.
Lance Corporal Corbin ran to his fallen patrol leader, threw him onto his shoulder and carried him to safety while firing at the enemy with his off hand.
Lance Corporal Corbin recrossed the kill zone, made his way to his fallen corpsman, bound his wounds and began carrying him. As they started to move, the enemy engaged at close range. He threw himself on a wounded Marine and shielded him as friendly machine gun fire suppressed the enemy.
Organizing Marines to suppress and repel the ambush, Lance Corporal Corbin ran through enemy fire five times, recovered dead or wounded personnel, and returned them to his truck.
When the casualties were loaded onto Lance Corporal Corbin's heavily damaged vehicle, he activated its emergency systems, and drove it out of the kill zone and through the city to a battalion aid station five miles away.
Due to the heroism of Lance Corporal Corbin, no Marine lost his life after the initial attack.
By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Lance Corporal Corbin reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Lance Corporal Corbin received the Navy Cross, Bill Bader Jr. said. “I think he should receive a whole lot more.”
Through a standing ovation and cheers, Lance Corporal Corbin smiled, waved to to both grandstands, and said, “I just did it. The men we serve with are trained to respond. It's what we do.”
Lance Corporal Corbin's children received gold medals from Summit Motorsports Park, also, in honor of their father's accomplishments and their family's sacrifices.
After Pam Notley sang the American “National Anthem,” two AA Gassers lined up in the waterbox.
“Okay, Norwalk. Are you ready?” Bill Bader Jr. said. “It's time for some good old fashioned drag racing! This is opening round for America's race track, the 50th Anniversary Auto Plus Night Under Fire presented by Kelly Services!”
Billowing smokey burnouts followed the Gassers to the starting line. Later in the lineup, two Gassers: – Ted Turley in the red The Traveler, and Skip Coverdale in the green Special Edition II – curled smokey burnouts the whole length of the track.
Top Sportsman driver Tim Molnar welcomed his 85 guests to the Auto Plus Night Under Fire presented by Kelly Services, and wished his daughter, Rachel, a happy birthday, then turned out a 6.642-second elapsed time at 209 mph.
Larry “Spiderman” McBride wrestled his monster of a motorcycle the whole quarter mile for a track elapsed time record of 5.885 seconds and 220 mph.
During the Fuel Funny Car show, Bill Bader Jr. said 15-time Funny Car World Champion John Force piloted the Golden Anniversary Funny Car for its solo event opposite his son-in-law Robert Hight in the AAA Automobile Club of Southern California Funny Car.
“John Force is the gold standard,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “What Michael Jordan is to basketball, John Force is to drag racing.”
After sizzling Jet Dragster performances by Jill Canuso, Elaine Larsen, Lou Pereira, and Ernie Bogue Jr., Bill Bader Jr. introduced Bob Motz and his 211 mph Jet Kenworth by saying, “Happy 50th burn down the sign night.” Fans cheered. Of course, the sign torched on the second pass by the legendary semi truck.
The thrill show opened with Benny “The Bomb” Kosky explaining life at the age of 72.
“But I don't have anybody any more,” Benny Kosky said. “I lost my wife. I lost my dog. It's just me, now.”
“And the dynomite,” Bill Bader Jr. said.
“If you don't like cooking in the kitchen, get out,” Benny Kosky said.
After fans counted down from 10 to zero, a bomb detonated with Benny Kosky inside a white car spray painted with black letters. The initial fireball erupted about 15 feet into the air, lowered, then Benny Kosky climbed out and waved.
“It feels like being in a hurricane with everything swirling around you,” Benny Kosky said, adding even though he takes precautions, there are risks. The heat can penetrate his fire suit.
The next thrill show adventure brought Harley-Davidson rumble to right in front of the Summit grandstands, where mere feet from fans, Bubba Blackwell jumped his motorcycle over a line of cars and through flames shooting up.
Bill Bader Jr. called Bubba Blackwell a modern-day Evil Knievel.
“My name is Bubba. I'm from Alabama,” Bubba Blackwell said. “Lots of career options, Baby.
“I love Harley-Davidson. I wouldn't wear any other colors than red, white and blue,” Bubba Blackwell said. “And it's such an honor to be here. I can't tell you how awesome it is, before my ride is over, I get to perform at the Night Under Fire.”
Bubba Blackwell reminded fans to look this fall for a special feature show on his stunts on the Discovery Channel.
After what looked similar to a scene from the movie, “A Bugs' Life,” the pavement glistened, wet under the grandstand lights.
Disney Stuntman Chris Morena said he was ready to go on with the show, performing a suicide spiral jump in a red car.
Bill Bader Jr. explained many jumpers consider the suicide spiral the most dangerous jump a man can perform.
“They call it the suicide spiral for a reason,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “It causes many jumpers to get out of the business.”
“Basically the challenge is getting it done right,” Chris Morena said. “It takes two to three days to prepare a jump car. It's not a guessing game.”
But some things the jumper has no power over, Chris Morena said.
The point was to drive the car up a ramp and cause it to spiral like a beautifully thrown football pass, then to land rubber side down in cars lined up under the ramp.
Chris Morena's stunt car hit the ramp at about 60 mph and spiraled through vertical flames, then landed on its top.
For many tense minutes, no one heard a response from Chris Morena, as NHRA Safety Safari crews scrambled to turn over the car and free him. Then Chris Morena yelled.
Eventually the rescuers pulled him out.
“I'm fine,” Chris Morena said, adding he thought he wasn't claustrophobic. He could have performed the stunt in the rain, but he wanted the most people in the stands.
“I put myself in danger all the time,” Chris Morena said. “Why not add a little rain?”
“Chris, that was spectacular,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “This is my 36th year, and that was one of the coolest things I've seen.”
Wise ones say, “Face your fears.”
So parking Summit Racing Equipment's Bigfoot in the pits with driver Dan Runte wrenching on it, and Randy Moore's War Wizard nearby, helps a feeble-hearted fan.
Especially when during the show the rough and tumble duo cranked up the rpms, and climbed over Chris Morena's pile of junk cars in freestyle performances just feet from fans lined up along the trackside fences.
Did anyone wonder if the concrete retaining wall would fit neatly between the treads of a Monster Truck tire as it rolls on over as if the wall weren't there?
At fan voting time for the Monster Truck freestyle, John Force rooted for both of them. But Dan Runte and Bigfoot won with applause volume and enthusiasm.
When Dave Roemer's Summit Racing Equipment Gladiator rolled into the staging lanes, large patches of green splashed across the right side and rear, evidence of an early season crash of the bright red 1968 Camaro, bought this year from Jerry Bickel.
“The green is raw Fiberglas,” said Daniel Roemer, marketing director for Roemer Motorsports and R&R Auto Body, Cleveland. “We ground it down to get the front end back together. It's got a new wing, and we fixed the quarter panel and front end.”
Dave Roemer walked away from the crash, Daniel Roemer said. “.He's fine.”
But a big disappointment for the team included the Golden Anniversary Auto Plus Night Under Fire presented by Kelly Services.
“We wanted to put on a show,” Daniel Roemer said, adding the old Gladiator semi retired, opening room on the team for the new '68 Camaro, a previous National event winner. “We bought a new car with a new way of looking at it. We're working a few bugs out. We're making a pass this weekend. But we'll be here for the Shakedown.”
For now, the new Gladiator sports the rugged, adventurous look.
“Our plan is to race it like this for the rest of the year, a little battle scarred,” said Daniel Roemer. “We'll repaint it over the winter. We'll have it fully painted for next season.”
From the earliest announcements, Dave Roemer shared excitement about the Summit Racing Equipment Shakedown at the Summit presented by Mickey Thompson Oct. 4-6, 2013 at Summit Motorsports Park.
“We want to have a good showing at our home track like we did at the ADRL race,” Daniel Roemer said.
In the Budweiser pits, Ernie Bogue and Bob VanSciver showed off the Jersey Thunder Jet Dragster and updated fans on the Beast from the East.
“Ernie has been driving this car on and off for four years,” said Bob VanSciver, owner of the Jersey Thunder. “He needed a good replacement.”
“I'm building a brand new Jet Dragster,” Ernie Bogue said. “It's not done yet. I'm a little bit behind. This (Jersey Thunder) is a twin to my old Beast from the East. I've been driving it since the end of May.
“My new one will be the Beast from the East again,” Ernie Bogue said. “It's a carbon fiber car, and it's got a cockpit in it, so it should be safer, hopefully faster, too.”
But what happened to the old Beast from the East?
“I sold it,” Ernie Bogue said, and grinned. “The same chassis builder who built the Queen of Diamonds II is building the new Beast.”
After the racing and thrill shows on Saturday night, the stars brought their sweet rides back onto the track, talked with fans and signed autographs.
In the Winner's Circle, John Force held onto his Norwalk trophy, won by besting his son-in-law, Robert Hight, with a 4.04-second elapsed time compared with Robert Hight's 4.08-second time.
“I still can't get over Bob Motz burning that sign down,” John Force said. “I want to do that some day.”
All evening fans raved about their faves at the Auto Plus Night Under Fire presented by Kelly Services.
Mike Snyder, in commercial plumbing and heating in Hayesville, Ohio, shared his fourth Night Under Fire with his grandson, Jake, 8, and seven other family members.
While Jake liked the Junior Dragsters and the War Wizard Monster Truck, Mike Snyder chose John Force.
“I've liked him from day one a long time ago,” Mike Snyder said. “I like the way he interacts with the fans. A lot of guys won't. He signs autographs even when he doesn't want to, or when he doesn't have time. He likes the fans.”
Karen Bry, a healthcare worker from Green, Ohio, near Akron, attended her third Auto Plus Night Under Fire presented by Kelly Services with friends.
“I like the excitement of the cars,” Karen Bry said, adding her favorite is John Force. “He seems real adventurous and outgoing. I think he's funny because he just goes and waves. He's interactive.”
Katy Alcorn, 11, Navarre, Ohio, chose Bob Motz and his 211 mph Jet Kenworth as her favorite thrill at her first Night Under Fire.
“And Benny the Bomb,” Katy Alcorn said. “That was funny. I actually don't know why.”
Cassie Rivera, 15, Fostoria, Ohio, also reacted to her first Night Under Fire.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” Cassie Rivera said, choosing John Force for top star. “Because he's just really exciting and he's really fast and he's a champion. That excites me.”
Cassie not only lined up for John Force's autograph, she made sure he penned it on a John Force Racing shirt.
“I have seen lots and lots of YouTube videos of him,” Cassie said.
Cassie's cousin, Ridge Dugger, 18, Clyde, Ohio, chose the Monster Trucks as his favorite part of his second Night Under Fire.
“It's pretty cool,” Ridge Dugger said. “I liked them both pretty equal.”
Gage, 13, and his father, Reggie Reed, Parma, Ohio, attended their third Night Under Fire and chose an unusual favorite.
“Tonight it was Bob Motz burning the sign down,” Reggie Reed said. “But usually it's Nitro Methane and fireworks. But the whole program is excellent.”
The Junior Dragsters impressed Gage.
“They were cool,” Gage said. “I would like to drive one.”
Since 1999 the Reeds shared wrenching on a 1972 Monte Carlo.
“We just go to the local shows,” said Reggie Reed, who works in municipal sales. “But we don't race. It's one of those father-son projects: Come to the races; hang out in the garage. He races go-carts in the back yard, and mini bikes.”
Tim Besett, Twinsburg, Ohio, said, “I'm wildly, wildly impressed with this facility. It's family friendly. I'm big into motorsports of all types, especially off-road motorcycle races.
“This place, it's beautiful,” Tim Besett said. “One of the things is the ease of going in the pits. I was telling my wife it's beautiful. You even have landscaping here.
“My favorite thing to do was to go in and get close to the incredible machinery,” said Tim Besett, a healthcare recruiter for Allied Healthcare Systems. “I work for hospitals.”
Even though Tim Besett rides dirt bikes, he chose John Force as his favorite racer.
“John Force is at the top of the pyramid in drag racing,” Tim Besett said. “You see a full pass, that's it. That's the best you're going to see.”
Jim Besett, Tim's father, a retired engineer, lives in Kent, Ohio.
“Heck of a place, Summit. I love it,” Jim Besett said. “It's just fabulous. I haven't been here for a long time. Walking through pit row close to the Funny Car Fuelers, they lit it up. That was a thrill. Hopefully we'll see them start it up again. That's as fun as watching them race.”
The sensory experiences at a dragstrip set the sport apart from football, basketball and golf.
“It's so much better to watch sports on TV, except drag racing,” Tim Besett said. “Drag racing is so much better in person.”