Bill Bader is ready to return to work.
The second-generation drag strip owner, who operates Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, confirmed Wednesday evening on Facebook Live he will issue his schedule next week. He plans to operate the facility located outside of Cleveland regardless if stay at home orders for the state are lifted or not.
“We find ourselves in a position that is an uncomfortable one, and I must get open,” Bader said. “I guess the message that I wanted to share tonight is that we are opening. Summit Motorsports Park is not going to wait for permission. Summit Motorsports Park is not going to wait for Dr Fauci and wait for Amy Acton (Director of health for the Ohio Department of Health) and wait for Mike DeWine (Ohio Governor) because none of them even know I exist. And none of them really care.
“And at this point in the interest of self-preservation and wanting to maintain an incredible legacy that my family started here in 1974, we are opening this racetrack. We will open this year.”
Bader would have announced a date in the broadcast, but he said he needed to consider the needs of his fellow promoters.
“I have promoters scrambling to put rebuild their schedule for 2020, and in releasing my schedule, I realized that there were facility lease partners that weren’t ready to release theirs,” Bader said. “So, in the act of releasing mine, I would reveal part of theirs, and they said, ‘Bill, you can’t do that to us.”
“And I get that. I’m not happy about it, but I certainly respect that. That’s only ethical.”
Bader believes other factors could be at play leading to the prolonged shutdown.
“Dr Fauci said today on ESPN that there will be no spectator sports open this year,” Bader explained. “That’s what he said. You’ve got Mike DeWine who if he had his druthers would not open up the state this year. The comment has been made, and it’s been thrown around that there are no, that our business segment, whether it’s concerts, whether it’s festivals, whether it’s drag races, whether it’s stick and ball events, the event business will be the last segment to open.
“And I’ve been told on more than one occasion, ‘Don’t expect to get open this year.”
“That’s the reality, and yet I’m looking at outbreaks being down. I’m looking at the amount of fatalities being down, and yet [Mainstream Media’s] not taking their foot off the gas, which leads me to believe that there’s something else at play. What’s really driving the shutdown of America? What’s the machine behind the curtain that’s driving this?”
Bader admits he’s been left with little options, and at this time is in survival mode for the well-being of the company, and the staff.
“There are no monies for me,” Bader said. “There’s lots of well-intention. There’s lots of government entities that are saying, “Hey, Bill. We feel really bad. We’ll do everything we can for you.”
“But nobody’s written me a check. And in lies the problem. We are starving. As honest as I can possibly be, we have laid off nearly our entire full-time staff. On payroll, there are three people left here, Melissa, Evan, and Bobbie. They have all taken a pay cut, and they’re very committed. As Jayme’s laid off, I am no longer receiving a paycheck, so the team is five of us.”
Coupled with that, last season the track took a hit with bad weather, and there has never really been a nest egg to fall back on because management routinely reinvests profits back into improving the facility.
“We’ve had a couple really wet years,” Bader admitted. “That’s a reality. The reality is that I spent one and a half million dollars on a new racing surface, and I borrowed the money for it. The reality is I spent a half a million dollars in lighting upgrades. I borrowed the money for it. The reality of it is I I bought land, 130 acres. About three and a half million dollars I’ve spent in the last three years. Why? Because I wanted to have a nicer facility.
“The Bader way was always to reinvest everything you had into your racetrack. That was my dad’s philosophy, and that’s my philosophy. The problem is there was nothing in the war chest. I didn’t plan for a pandemic. I never put money away for the rainy day. I spent, and I spent, and I spent because I believed in the future, and that’s biting me in the ass right now. So, while college professors teach us that we should have X amount in savings, and in theory, we should do all these things, if teachers, if college professors were that damn smart, they would be in business not teaching business. So, the theoretical is great, but the reality is quite a different animal.”
The reality is, Bader understands there’s a risk of bringing the community together in this era of socially distancing in a sport where this practice isn’t always practical.
“I think safety is of paramount importance,” Bader said. “I think to try to quantify a human life by placing a value on it, is a human life priceless, or is it irreplaceable? I think those are things that are way above my pay grade, and probably only the good Lord can answer those things.
“So, I understand the importance of safety. I understand the importance of following a procedure and following a protocol. But I will tell you this, that if you look at the numbers as a result of COVID-19, they are a fraction of the projection. If you, three weeks ago or a month ago, the media, Dr Fauci, whomever drove this machine led us to believe that this was going to be a catastrophic loss of life, and it’s proving out now that that is certainly not going to be the case. And yet, the media is not taking their foot off the gas.
Bader plans to have his foot on the pedal, with it down to the metal regardless of what edicts are issued.
“I am going to have a Facebook Live next week,” Bader said. “I’m going to release a schedule, and I will tell you we are opening in 2020, and, Mike DeWine, if you don’t like it, I’m at 1300 State Route 18. You come and see me on opening day. But with God as my witness, we are opening this racetrack, and we’re opening sooner rather than later.”
The postponement of live events, and suspension of drag racing as a whole, has put drag racing in a precarious position. A no-nonsense interview with Summit Motorsports Park owner Bill Bader Jr. #DragRacingNews – https://t.co/jb9oN8tQpH pic.twitter.com/26ygRvMOUo
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) April 1, 2020