Interviews

Q&A: Bill Bader Jr. Previews Summit Motorsports Park’s First NHRA National Event After COVID Shutdown

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For more than a decade, Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio has successfully hosted the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

The park has staged Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle and other compelling categories, while steadfastly putting its stamp on the popular event with fireworks, fiery exhibition cars and even flavorful Velvet ice cream for $1 per pound.

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Summit Motorsports Park president, Bill Bader Jr., and his team members are selling an experience with each and every ticket, and he feels personally and professionally responsible for ensuring that everyone enjoys time spent at America’s Racetrack.

That involves an incredible amount of planning and preparation for the annual event, including this year’s 15th Annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, which is set for June 24-27. In addition to all of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series categories, Bader Jr. has arranged for added adrenaline with Bob Motz and his jet engine-powered truck, fireworks and so much more at the event featuring nighttime qualifying.

As ticket sales head toward rivaling those of the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals back in 2007, Bader Jr. answered some questions about what makes this event what it is, what it means to him and more.

AFTER NOT BEING ABLE TO HOST THE SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS IN 2020 BECAUSE OF THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU, PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY, TO BE ABLE TO HOST IT THIS YEAR?

Everything associated with this business is personal to me, and not being able to have the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals last year and deliver the experience that fans look forward to was incredibly  disappointing. We are responsible for entertaining our guests and for delivering the Norwalk Experience, so to be able to open our home back up this year, put on races and do what we do is pretty special, and even though this is the fifteenth annual event, it means just as much as the first annual event.

WHAT GOES ON BEHIND THE SCENES TO BRING AN EVENT OF THIS MAGNITUDE TO STAGE?

We spend a year planning and preparing for this event, so literally, within seven days after the event this year, we have a meeting, we recap and we talk about what worked and what didn’t work. We receive a ton of correspondence from guests telling us about their experience, and the clock starts ticking. It’s a very long and cumbersome process that is full of so many details, and the amount of moving parts and details measures in the tens of thousands, especially in this post-pandemic year. These events are a lot of work. We have more than 400 acres and more than 1,000 campsites. The time leading up to the event is hard, and the planning is extraordinary, but throwing open the gates and seeing smiling fans makes it all worthwhile. It’s an honor to host this event.

IN ADDITION TO BOB MOTZ AND FIREWORKS, WHAT WIILL MAKE THIS YEAR’S EVENT A TRUE NORWALK EXPERIENCE

I think it will be our clean and well-groomed facility, as well as how fans are treated as soon as they enter our parking lot, and how they are received by a warm and smiling team member when they come through our gates. It also will be the sights and sounds of NHRA Drag Racing. It will be very experiential. We always try to make sure that everything within our grasp meets or exceeds expectation. We know that fans want a clean facility and good food on the food court. They also want blue skies, and sadly, that’s one thing we can’t control, despite how much we would like to be able to.

 WILL THE 15th ANNUAL SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS APPEAL TO PEOPLE WHO HAVEN’T EXPERIENCED AN NHRA EVENT BEFORE?

It will, because there will be more than 600 race cars and ultra-competitive fields in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle and other categories, and they will have various appearances and horsepower levels, and all of that in addition to Bob Motz and fireworks, will create a very visceral experience for fans. They also will be able to walk the midway and pit area, and get autographs from drivers. There’s a lot to see and do, and it’s all very family-friendly. I guess I’ve never had an email or call from a guest who said they were disappointed in what the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals provided.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE ANNUAL EVENT?

I enjoy the people, and seeing happy, smiling faces. I also enjoy listening to people applause, and the collective reaction when something spectacular happens on the track. Those are the reasons I do what I do. I have made a lot of friends in the 44 years I have worked at Summit Motorsports Park, and I’m looking forward to seeing them at the 15th Annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

The 15th Annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals is set for June 24-27 at Summit Motorsports Park, 1300 State Route 18, Norwalk, Ohio. For tickets, schedule and more information, visit www.summitmotorsportspark.comor call 419-668-5555.

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