Norwalk has been one of the most-talked-about places in the racing world since Aug. 29.
The buzz started when the local drag strip, formerly known as Norwalk Raceway Park, announced it was switching to the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) after years of being sanctioned by Norwalk-based IHRA.
The Bader family will show off its new facility Saturday night as Donald Graham & Associates presents the Ohio Lottery/Norwalk Reflector Season Opener. Opening ceremonies begin at 7.
The change also brought with it a multiyear naming rights sponsorship with industry giant Summit Racing Equipment that changed the facility name to Summit Motorsports Park, as well as two NHRA national events and a $6 million track expansion project.
All of this has placed a very high expectation on the new season and the new events by fans and racers alike.
"Obviously, the pressure's on us to live up to expectations," said Bill Bader, Jr., president of Summit Motorsports Park. "But we have the best team of people we've ever had and we're ready for the season that starts this weekend."
Accommodating an NHRA race presents new logistical challenges to Bader. "We've had to figure out where to park six semi trailers just for the ESPN television crew alone they bring more than 100 people to cover an NHRA race in high definition TV. We've added paving to handle an increase in race team semis that are coming."
Inaugural Cavalcade of Stars
The first NHRA national event to hit town is the Ethanol/General Motors Cavalcade of Stars presented by Budweiser and the Ohio Lottery, May 18 to 20. This race is part of the NHRA's 44-event Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series for sportsman racers.
"We have named this the 'Cavalcade of Stars' because of the familiar names that race in this series, as well as the large number of household-name professionals that came from the series," Bader said. "Fans will see a wide variety of classes, from Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car down to snowmobiles."
Racers compete for divisional and national championships leading to their share of a $561,000 purse.
Inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals
This is the race capturing most of the attention of the drag racing world, and is expected to bring up to 100,000 people to Norwalk June 28 to July 1.
The inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals is part of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series that will pay out more than $3 million to competitors in 2007. The race will be shown on ESPN and ESPN-HD in high definition.
"There's a tremendous anticipation for this event," admitted Bader. "Our advance ticket sales have exceeded most other NHRA national events, and we already have fans coming to Norwalk, Ohio from 35 states and four countries."
The race will feature some of the biggest names in racing today: John Force, Tony Schumacher, Kenny Bernstein, Jason Line, Greg Anderson and others.
The 30th Annual Night Under Fire
The granddaddy of them all, the Night Under Fire returns to Summit Motorsports Park Aug. 4, with promises of a bigger show than ever before.
"It's going to be hard to surpass last summer's show, but I'm confident we'll do it this August for the 30th anniversary," Bader said. "The Night Under Fire is more than a drag race, it's all about entertainment, fireworks, jet cars, surprise announcements, and above all, fun."
Already booked for the race regular John Force and Force Racing teammates Ashley Force, his daughter, and Robert Hight.
The event ends with a $100,000 20-minute fireworks display, one of the largest in the Midwest.
RACEWAY OPENER FACTS
WHAT: Donald Graham & Associates presents the Ohio Lottery/Norwalk Reflector Season Opener at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, formerly known as Norwalk Raceway Park.
WHEN: The opener is 7 p.m. Saturday and along with racing action, fans will see a new name on the facility and the results of a $6 million expansion project. Gates open at 9 a.m., with time trials beginning at 10.
FREE TICKETS: Coupons for free tickets will be available in today’s and Friday’s editions of the Norwalk Reflector.
ADMISSION: $15 for adults and $7 for children 6 to 12 years old. Children younger than 6 are admitted free. Special seating in “Club Norwalk” is $25.
INFO: For more information call the track at (419) 668-5555 or log on to www.SummitMotorsportsPark.com.