Drag Illustrated Issue 169, June/July 2021 - Page 32

Dirt

Back in the Saddle

Summit Motorsports Park president Bill Bader Jr . describes racetrack operation following COVID shutdown By Josh Hachat

Bill Bader Jr . barely had a moment to breathe in late June , running from one spot to another to help eager fans who were ready to get their first dose of nitro at Bader ’ s Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk .

From selling the most camp sites they ’ ve ever done to dealing with unforgiving rain showers to simply welcoming back fans en masse , Bader was so busy he never even saw a pair of cars go down the track at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals .
But hearing the praise from fans , getting the emails from people so overjoyed to be back made it all worth it for Bader . A year after not opening at all due to the CO- VID-19 pandemic , the track is back in full swing and that was on full display at the NHRA national event .
“ We had our hands full this year , to say the least . People came out in full force , and the amount of well-wishes , and the amount of warmth and thanks , it was a very proud moment for me ,” Bader says . “ It ’ s been nice to see smiling guests and we want to make people happy . That is our measuring stick .
“ It sure seemed normal during our national event ,” he continues . “ The cars were running ,
people were smiling , the Top Eliminator Club was full . Everybody was very excited and that ’ s what gets you out of bed in the morning .”
Providing a platform for people to enjoy a weekend of racing and fellowship — and $ 1 ice cream , of course — has always driven Bader and perhaps that ’ s never been truer than this year .
The pandemic caused unrelenting grief and disappointment for the standout track owner and his team , and it was sorely missed . It also made the return to racing that much sweeter
this year , with people eager to enjoy the unique , top-of-the-line experience Norwalk has always provided .
To get to this point , though , Bader and his group put in long hours to get ready . They back-loaded the 2021 schedule , anticipating that Ohio would fully reopen at some point in June . Several events were moved to later in the year , including the annual Cavalcade of Stars , which actually took place the weekend after the national event .
It also means an extremely busy rest of the summer and fall , including a dizzying schedule over the next two months . Bader predicted his next day off would be September 12 , but it ’ s not the only adjustment he ’ s had to make . There have been staffing and supply issues , as well as a massive amount of rain leading up to and during the NHRA Nationals .
Bader estimated he was down nearly 70 people from the normal 430 that work the national event , which was one reason why Bader was all over the facility . Throw in random supply issues with materials and other items , and it ’ s been a lot of moving parts to juggle during a wholly unprecedented time .
“ It ’ s like a duck on the pond . Everything appears peaceful on top , but he ’ s paddling like crazy below ,” Bader says .
Of course , it ’ s better than the alternative night-
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARY LENDZION AND NHRA
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