Bill Bader Jr. is as hands-on as any of the best drag strip operators in the United States. However, it’s the one thing which he has no control over giving him the most significant headache lately.
NHRA confirmed in a statement issued Sunday, June 16, 2019, the upcoming Summit NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, will be contested without participation from Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman. The professional divisions as well as Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car and Factory Stock Showdown will still run as scheduled.
The displaced racers will return to Norwalk later in the season to complete this portion.
Bader talked to the Norwalk Reflector (www.norwalkreflector.com) about the decision-making process which went into this weekend’s event, the 12th stop on the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
“It’s been one of those years. It’s funny because it started out wet, and I knew Memorial Day was going to be the D mark,” Bader told the Norwalk Reflector. “Historically a switch flips, and it gets dry and hot. That never happened. I talked to a neighbor who is a farmer, and he said the entire time he’s been farming he’s never seen the ground as wet as it is now. The sponge is full, and there’s nowhere for it to go. This is probably how our year is going to go this year.”
The soggy grounds didn’t only affect the racers who park in the grass, but also hundreds of race fans who choose to camp onsite throughout the weekend.
“Family camping, Scotty’s campground, Northfield Campground and Wilson’s Trackside all had to be closed because of flooding,” Bader explained. “We identified last Friday, given the long-range forecast, there was no way we could park motorhomes, large trucks and things like that. We had 600-plus ticketed customers that we needed to reach out to notify them, refund their money, or help them find alternatives through campgrounds or hotels. We made those calls, and people understand. It’s raining everywhere, and people get it.
“The next phase was (June 16) was with NHRA to postpone running Top Sportsman, Top Dragster, Stock, Super Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas … those six classes which pit on the Summit side, (West side) will be run at some future time here at Summit Motorsports Park.”
At this point, Bader says the focus is ensuring adequate parking for the tens of thousands of race fans expected over the weekend.
“We’ve got about 300 acres available to us, I believe that we will,” Bader said. “We are not going to be able to stack them like tin soldiers. We will use three acres here, five acres there … skip these four, use those six and so on. I know how many people come each day and how many cars that represents. Each acre can hold about 120 parked cars. It’s about 2-and-a-half people per car. Do the math, determine the acres and you go find it. I think we will be okay.”
The forecast has changed regularly over the last week, and for Bader, he’s confident his team will adjust and accommodate those seeking the high-quality drag racing experience they are accustomed to from the facility located outside of Cleveland.
“Whatever we get, we get … that could change,” Bader said. “If any track in the country can handle this kind of adversity, we can. When you’re laying in bed at night getting your one hour of sleep, it’s what we do. It isn’t always easy.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019