A VERY WEIRD NORWALK

As I’m sure all of you know, the running of the sportsman classes at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals was rescheduled to the Thursday and Friday after Indy last week. Definitely a weird experience as only a little over 200 cars showed up to complete the event.

The weirdness began when we entered the track on Tuesday. According to the Norwalk website, stacking was to begin on Tuesday morning with parking to take place on Wednesday followed by a “free” test and tune session in the afternoon. Lo and behold when we all showed up on Tuesday, the gates were wide open and rigs were already parked with no one to tell you where or where not to park. Weird in that we’re so used to an NHRA official telling us where to park and on what line… Now, park wherever you want. Where do you park? How is this place? What about that spot? Weird.

No pros. No Mello Yello team shooting T-shirts into the stands. Just felt like a local Saturday-Sunday bracket race; except held on a Thursday and Friday. Could have run the event in one day, two time shots and finish eliminations. Why not? Who knows?

Besides  the free Wednesday test and tune, the track hosted a special memorial service of sorts for a local racer Don Rhodes at night. Everyone was invited and quite a number of our racing family showed up to hear words from his wife and witness a final burnout in Don’s car, after which it was driven slowly down the track. Quite a moving experience.

A lot of the typical NHRA national event officials weren’t in attendance and the Norwalk team led by Bill Bader Jr. handled it quite well. In addition to leading the charge, there were plenty of times when Bill Jr. would run the staging lanes, the burnout box and even pick up a mop and broom from time to time. Good leaders lead but are not afraid to pitch in and help when needed.

Three time runs on Thursday and eliminations on Friday. Speaking of eliminations, I guess I should talk about the elephant in the room.

Yes, I won Super Stock for the second year in a row there. Most of you know I live next door to Beaver Springs Dragway but Summit Motorsports Park just might be my second favorite track. Actually and honestly anywhere I win could be a favorite to me. Last year when I won, I must have had two angels on my shoulder as my partner and car owner Dave Heuwetter had gone into a coma on that weekend and passed a week later. In addition, a very good friend, Tony Feil, an engine builder who he and I would always discuss engines and other things over the last 40 years or so, passed away on the days following the event. Those guys must be stuck in the Norwalk track time warp as they were both on my mind again. Either way, they have both been a big asset to me.

Despite the short fields, there was still six rounds of racing to be had in Super Stock. And when it was all over, it was the typical Norwalk experience. Ice cream for all and another famous pewter Ice Cream Scoop as part of the winnings. Summit Racing Equipment also awarded a $200 gift card for the win.

For anyone who missed the event and may have even dropped out from the entry list, I can certainly understand. Running the event on a Thursday and Friday following a week long marathon at Indy can be a tough expectation. But you did miss a unique experience. And I’d have to say a satisfying one for me.

For whatever reason, there were no win lights after the finish line so you had no idea if you won or lost until you get to the time slip booth. I missed the ‘Tree in the final by a little and really thought I had lost, stopping at the turn off to collect my thoughts… no, that’s crap. I was sitting down there pissed and cursing that I’d lost. When I came up the return road and saw everyone hanging over the fence giving me the thumbs up, I couldn’t believe it.

I can’t ever thank all those who texted, called, e-mailed, Facebook-ed, those who congratulated me. And there’s no way I could have done it without the many friends who have helped me get to this point. The list is endless and it doesn’t stop with companies like Lucas Oil, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, FireAde, Jesel Valvetrain Innovation, Total Seal Piston Rings, ATI Performance Products, Moroso, Aeromotive, K&N Filters, JEGS, COMP Cams, Weld Racing Wheels, ISC Racers Tape, Lokar, Meziere Enterprises; the list goes on and on. So many more friends who texted, called, e-mailed, posted... I apologize if I left anyone out but please know my heart and sincere thanks is with you all. All I can say is… THANK YOU!

And maybe it wasn’t that weird after all.