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Sunny Sunday salvages soggy scenerio

By DON HOHLER • Jun 25, 2018 at 9:00 PM

Bill Bader did not have a particularly good Father’s Day. Five days out from Day 1 of his national meet that ran this past weekend, he saw the long-range weather forecast. It was rain, rain and more rain. The bottom line was he had spent better than a half-million dollars in advertising for the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals and he just might be watching it rain all three days.

“NHRA has seen nice increases at all of their national events this year and we were trying to continue that trend. We had just spent better than a million dollars on a new track surface and we knew every racer was anxious to see just how much difference concrete would make as far as speed and elapsed time,” Bader said. “We had every reason to believe we were going to hit a home run but the seven-day forecast broke on Father’s Day and I knew we were probably in trouble.”

Bader recognized a long time ago that drag race fans also watch the weather. He saw ticket sales slow down early in the week. He was all but certain he was going to get beat up at the gate.

“All we could do was hope to salvage whatever we could from a forecast of 100 percent rain for all three days,” Bader added.

The salvaging started between five rain delays on Friday and six on Saturday. And rain delays do not come cheap. Not only do you lose fans because of the rain threat but it costs money to dry the track.

“We had two large jet driers that burn 300 gallons an hour and 30 employees ready to start the process of drying a half-mile of concrete,” Bader said. “We ran 7,000 gallons of fuel through them which carries a $21,000 fuel price tag. I would estimate the track-drying operation cost us around $40,000.

“Some would ask why we just did not pull the plug on the event and bring it back at a later date?

“Just about impossible when you consider we had the population of a small-city in route plus the advertisers, the television time-slot, sponsors and racers. No way could we find a date to put on a show like the one planned. The show had to go on and, by golly, it did go on and although I don’t have all the numbers, I would say our loss was somewhere between 10 and 12 percent which is still a lot of money but the show did run to conclusion.

“The bottom line is we delivered on the Bader Pledge and that is to weigh the success of an event, not on dollars and cents but on guest satisfaction. It certainly was emotionally-challenging for us but thanks to a beautiful day on Sunday, we not only hit it out of the park as far as fan count on the final day but we got our smile back.”

No question, the Sunday weather saved the event.

“We had not gotten a true feedback as to the new track surface until Sunday,” Bader said. “Just one qualifying run is not enough for pit crews to get a read on just what a track can take in regards to tire-to-track adhesion. That’s why pro teams get four qualifying runs over two days in order to put four sets of numbers into their computers and dial the car in on the print-out.

“Even though the pro teams had just that one qualifying run (each day) before go time on Sunday, the positive feed-back on the new track surface was fantastic. A new track record was set. The overall times and ETs were great and the overall racing was competitive which sent fans home satisfied.”

Merchandise sales were up and Bader based that on cooler temperatures.

“And if merchandise sales are up, the consumers are happy,” he said. “If people are having a good time, they spend more freely.”

Not so with the food vendors. Sales were way down on Friday, just OK on Saturday but then hit it out of the park on Sunday. All things considered, a positive.

Weather also put a damper on the Friday night fireworks show.

“The weather again was the culprit,” Bader said. “NHRA called the race at 8 p.m. Friday night. But, we could not shoot fireworks until 9:40 p.m. So, to have fans sit in the bleachers for an hour-and-a-half and hopefully duck more rain just did not make sense. We had to pay the shooter a percentage as the show was ready to go but we did save some money as far as the fireworks.

“It is what it is,” Bader added. “This is my 41st year and I have come to accept there are certain things I can’t, pardon the expression, do a damn thing about. You just try to be graceful in defeat and smile as often as you can.”

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