THE NORWALK EXPERIENCE

Spoke last week about the cancellation of the sportsman part of the show at the Norwalk national event… and I’m back from it. While it might have seemed a little eerie seeing an empty side of the Summit Motorsports Park pit area where the sportsman usually park, it was definitely the right decision as walking in that area was like walking on a sponge. That area was used on Friday for spectator parking giving the area outside the gates of the track a chance to dry out. But it’s one thing to park a 4,000-lbs or so street car on the grass, another thing for a 30-40 or 50-thousand pound race rig to park there, let alone try to move a race car in and out.

As a little side note before I hop on “my soapbox” this week, I had the honor of being a guest on the Racers In Rental Cars podcast with Cameron Ferre and Don O’Neal and we discussed this very same topic; which… spoiler alert… Don named as the “Sports-Less Nationals; in much greater detail. It will post up on their website later this week which you can access by clicking on www.racersinrentalcars.com.

Anyway, Mother Nature might have felt sorry for all the “moisture” she imparted on the area as Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the track was blessed with gorgeous 70 or 80-degree weather with low humidity. Friday’s sunshine must have given the outlying areas enough drying that Saturday and Sunday, spectator parking returned to their normal areas, while inside the pits was reserved for just handicap parking, once again eerie looking to a racer. The typical camping areas were also fairly empty making it look even worse.

The crowd was not your normal Norwalk crowd, but you can’t blame that on much more than the amount of rain the area has endured. One look at the farmlands which surround the facility can tell a tale. There’s a saying when it comes to corn, “it needs to be knee-high by the fourth of July.” If that’s the case, with less than a week or so to go, it better start growing fast.

A lot of credit has to go to the Summit Motorsports Park staff led by Bill Bader Jr. They no doubt worked their you-know-whats to pull off what only on Thursday of last week might have seemed useless. A typical Friday night at the Norwalk nats was always jet cars and fireworks. I doubt anyone would have blamed Mr. Bader if he cancelled either one, knowing full well the financial bath he was set to take. But in his credit, money be damned, he gave those in attendance the full show which included a fireworks show that only Summit Motorsports Park could pull off.

And lo and behold, no sportsman cars except for the alcohol classes and Factory Stock. Were the sportsman needed? Don’t think so as the event went off pretty smooth without them. I do have to agree with those who would say the sportsman entry fees are necessary to ensure a somewhat profitable event, but they surely aren’t necessary as filler.

How much money is made; or lost in this case; from a national event is none of anyone’s business. I can only speculate that at the beginning of the year, a track operator looks at his schedule and does a quick count of how much money can be made at certain events. I doubt what has transpired this year with weather could have ever been seen in anyone’s crystal ball, but I can say that it no doubt takes a smart businessman like Mr. Bader to be able to sustain a loss and move on. I’m not sure I, or a lot of other track operators could do it.

So, was this the right decision? Absolutely. No doubt about it. If sportsman racers were even allowed on the property, I am certain you’d have more than just a couple of rigs stuck, not to mention the damage done to a great facility.

Strangely enough though, as of this writing, not a word or rumor has spread as to a make-up date for the sportsman portion of the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals; which in itself I find strange. Could it be that it would be cancelled entirely? I think any other track promoter would have to allow that decision to enter into their minds. Mr. Bader? Not so sure as he is a proponent of sportsman racing, or customers in general.

Should it be cancelled, there might be some angry racers but I’m not sure there may be another choice. Most every racer who had planned to attend would naturally receive a credit to a future national event, of which most will attend anyway.

As I mentioned earlier, as of this writing, no word has filtered down. Stay tuned. Film at 11. -John DiBartolomeo