The Night Under Fire is full of rich tradition, from bone-rattling fuel funny cars to Bob Motz performing his famous fiery burnout show, concluding with a spectacular fire works show.
Showtime is 7 tonight at Summit Motorsports Park.
Back in the mid-to-late 1970s, Bill Bader Sr., was trying to figure out some way of drumming up interest in the fledgling Norwalk Raceway Park he bought in April of 1974.
After plenty of brainstorming, Bader and his family came up with the idea of putting on the inaugural Night Under Fire event in the summer of 1977.
"This is a concept my father started when he was trying to create some excitement in the market place for a drag strip that had been closed for a period of time," said Bill Bader Jr., who has been the president of Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park since 1998. "We used a format that was basically wheel standers, and jet (cars). We also started really focusing heavy on fireworks. We created the wall of fire and we created some spectacular effects that were housed inside the show. It started to grow, and it was a substantial event that was drawing 10s of thousands of people."
It's safe to say the event has become an overwhelming success.
"The Night Under Fire is really our signature event," Bader Jr. said. "It's the one that put us on the map long before our (NHRA) national event did. The Night Under Fire is really the event we hang our hat on and now it shares the spotlight with our NHRA national event."
Gates open for the Night Under Fire at 8 a.m. EDT Saturday and racing begins at 9 a.m. On Saturday night, pre-race starts at 5:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. and fireworks begin about 9:30 p.m. (depending on the length of the show).
"I love the Bader family," John Force said. "They are the best promoters on the circuit. They are right up there with the Bill Doners and the (Jim) Rockstadts (who promoted West Coast tracks at Orange County, Calif., Irwindale, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash.) of the old days. They are the best now. They still really promote. Bader was with me all over Cleveland doing media (before last June's national event) and, at the end of the day, I really wanted to win that race."
Force won the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals for the first time this year.
Bob Motz's jet semi truck, top fuel and funny cars and four jet dragsters also are on the card. Additionally, there will be 800 Sportsman cars which will run all night.
On the card are funny car drivers John Force, Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon and Dale Creasy Jr., along with top fuel drivers Brittany Force and Antron Brown.
Bader Jr., says the Night Under Fire became even more popular when legendary Force began competing at the event around 1995.
"Night Under Fire had taken some nice steps and we added John Force it took another step," Bader Jr. said. "Then, we added eight fuel Funny Cars and it took another step. Then, it took a huge step when we unveiled the $100,000 fireworks show. We unveiled that fireworks show in the early 2000s. We had our 40th anniversary celebration for the track in 2002, and that was a huge deal and the Night Under Fire event took another huge step that year and continued to grow."
Although the Night Under Fire had become a fixture, Bader Jr. felt the event might drop off some when Summit Motorsports Park began hosting a national NHRA event back in 2007. That also is the same year the track changed its name.
"We thought when we made the move to NHRA, mentally, dad and I said OK, the Night Under Fire is going to take a hit and we're mentally prepared to do that because clearly the NHRA national event would more than offset whatever we lost at the Night Under Fire. Quite the opposite has happened. As the (NHRA) national event has become more and more successful, the Night Under Fire has become more successful."
Here is this weekend's schedule:
Racer Credentials & Pit Parking (Linder's Lot), 7 a.m.
Spectator Gates Open, 8 a.m.
Spectator Camping and Motor Home Move-In 8 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Time Trials, 9 a.m.
Autograph Session (Bud Chalet), 3 p.m.
Pre-Race Ceremonies, 5:30 p.m.
Showtime, 7 p.m.
Sportsman Elimination, 8 a.m.
Schedule subject to change without notice
2014 EVENT TICKET PRICING & INFO
Reserved Seat Pricing
Adult -- Motz, $45
Adult -- Summit Club $50
Adult -- All other sections $40
Child 11 & Under -- Motz $ 20
Child 11 & Under -- Summit Club $ 25
Child 11 & Under -- All other sections, $ 15
John Force Winner's Circle, $199
Each ticket includes access into the pit areas and General Admission Parking is FREE!