During Night Under Fire on July 2, 2005, John Force unveiled his choice for the first Drag Racing Legend to be honored on the hood of his Nitro-burning Mustang. There, before a capacity crowd, John Force unveiled to the world the face of Bill Bader Sr, a name that became linked with drag racing in April 1974 when Bader purchased an inoperable dragstrip named Norwalk Dragway.
Bill Bader Sr. immediately began a lifelong commitment that would captivate drag racing fans and participants from every aspect of the sport, and forever placed Norwalk Raceway Park among the top racetracks in the world.
On that blazing hot July 2nd, Bill Bader Sr. turned after seeing his face on the car, and shook the hand of John Force. Then he stopped and hugged his son, Bill Bader, Jr, who is now Bill Sr's equal partner in the company and serves as President of Norwalk Raceway. He then hugged his wife, Debbie, who married Bader when Norwalk Raceway was still in it's infancy, and stepped forward to hug his daughter Bobbie, who handles sponsor services at Norwalk, working side by side with her brother.
There were more family members crowding around the Funny Car, including his former wife Dottie, who helps out at the track whenever necessary; grandsons Evan, Garret, Nathan, and Brett - all of whom work in various areas at the park already.
Norwalk Raceway Park's legacy was built by providing family entertainment at an affordable cost. Norwalk Raceway i.e. Summit Motorsports Park's rapid growth was fueled by the commitment of one family of happy warriors, whose attention to detail and spirited dedication to the customer, is unequaled in drag racing. Few businesses anywhere on the planet strive as hard to please their customers. Not even Walt Disney dared to make the commitment to his customers that if they were not satisfied, he would resolve their problem to their satisfaction.
But the Baders not only make such a promise, they follow through with it.
Bill Bader Jr. took over from his Dad in January of 1998, as Bill Sr. took time off to care for his mother, known around the track as 'Grandma Bader'. Bill Jr. accepted the reins, taking off at a gallop, adding a ten thousand seat grandstand on the “spectator side” of the racetrack - then accomplishing the impossible - he filled them with people.
Bader, Jr. has often said his proudest moment was the day in 2001, when his Dad saw all the grandstands at capacity for the first time. The show was awesome, the crowd excited, and everything worked. For the first time, Bill Bader Jr. felt he was going to measure up - he would be able to walk in his father’s giant footsteps.
With Bill Sr. moving on to the ownership and management of the International Hot Rod Association in 1999, Bader, Jr. continued to direct efforts at the park. He assembled his own Management Team, including making his sister Bobbie the head of Sponsor Services and his wife Jayme, the director of Merchandise & Apparel.
Bill Jr.’s son, Evan is now co-announcing. However, he began helping out at the track at age nine, one year younger than his Dad was when he began working at the track.
During the Halloween Classic one year, rumors were being spread that the track was for sale, and it would no longer be a 'Bader Family' property. Since there was no stage nearby, Bill Jr. climbed on top of a picnic table at a racer party, and announced to the crowd, “Norwalk Raceway Park is not for sale, and will never leave the Bader family’s hands.”
The roar erupting from the small crowd huddled together at that impromptu party, where free beer and pizza was served to brighten the spirits of rain soaked racers, almost rivaled that of a Night Under Fire crowd cheering for Bob Motz to burn the sign! Perhaps there was a non-verbal message being sent along with the audible response of those racers. Maybe they were trying to demonstrate just how much the Bader Family means to them. After all, who else would think of throwing a party in the middle of a rainstorm AND give away beer and pizza?
Bill Jr. would, and did.
Positive legacies are difficult to define and almost impossible to build. Heros are hard to come by these days...However, as long as the Bader Family oversees the operation of Summit Motorsports Park; as long as Bill Bader Jr. is at the helm reinforcing daily their commitment to their guests, this park will always be held in the highest regard - for its customer service, and obvious commitment to family.
Who would want it any other way?