The 2012 racing season was the first year that I’ve had a chance to work with Stevand Racing. Before welcoming Stevand Racing to the More Than a Fan family, my motorsports experience was a show at the old Norwalk Raceway Park when I was still young enough to think I didn’t need earplugs and watching NASCAR on television. Since the beginning of last race season, I’ve learned a ton about bracket racing, been rained out at the track and met the great group of people that are associated with Stevand Racing. And Saturday, January 27th was the perfect cap to an eventful season.
Andy, Steve and Matt Obertanec invited me to join them at the 2012 Summit Motorsports Park Awards Banquet. I let a few guys from More Than a Fan know about the invite, and Damien Bowman decided that he wanted to meet the team and see what kind of show the Bader family can put on for their racers. (If there was going to be a Cliff’s Notes of this column, the answer to what kind of show I saw Saturday would simply be, “Holy Crap.” It actually wasn’t going to be crap, but this is a family show)
We arrived at Kalahari for the conference at a little before 1pm and were immediately whisked to the Bill Bader, Jr.’s State of Summit Motorsports Park talk. Not only did I learn a lot about what’s going on at the track in 2013, it was impossible not to notice the rapport that Bader, Jr. had with the room full of racers. No matter the class, the car, the win/loss record or the hometown, the man at the very top of one of the most impressive drag racing tracks in the country knows almost every one of the local points drag racers by name. There is a lot to be said about smooth marketing and promotion, but none of that matters without being genuine with your base. I’m still new to the scene, so I’m not going to run around saying that Bill Bader, Jr. is perfect, but I can vouch for my gut reaction from that first seminar and confidently say that he knows his base and that he works hard for them.
Directly after Bader, Jr.’s talk Drag Racer Bingo started up. At this point, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to play bingo, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting the people throwing hats and t-shirts into the crowd, or the excitement over some of the bingo prizes. I’m not sure what I would have done with a set of Mickey Thompson Tires racing slicks or a big package of prizes from Wiseco Performance Products, but once I got hit in the head with a t-shirt, I started to get pretty excited to win something.
Alas, winning wasn’t in the (bingo) cards for me Saturday, but watching the racers play the game and being in the middle of such a huge group of people that all seem to feel like family was pretty fantastic.
After some down time and boring business type talk with the Stevand Racing boys, it was time to put on the suits and head down to the ballroom for the Mr. Gasket Banquet of Champions, the 39th Annual Summit Motorsports Awards Ceremony.
The Mr. Gasket Banquet of Champions was promotion and production at the highest level. At any given time, there were almost 600 people in the ballroom spread between the 68 guest tables and the Champions Tables that were actually on stage with the Bader family and the huge structure showcasing the night’s trophies and awards. The night was such an amazing showcase of the racers at Summit Motorsports Park that it was easy to get caught up in thinking that these guys were the same dragsters that we see on television every weekend.
From the junior racer awards to hearing the acceptance speeches of the Track Champions to the show choir and marching band to the banter between Bader, Jr. and his father Bill Bader, Sr., the whole banquet was filled with the kind of entertainment that one would expect from a national showcase. That all that class and entertainment was built on the foundation of drag racing in Norwalk, Ohio and the points classes at Summit Motorsports Park is truly amazing. (It was so awesome that I didn’t even mind the last name on my credential packet)
The Bader family did a fantastic job entertaining and showcasing their drag racing family Saturday, and I’m looking forward to spending some time at the track this summer with Stevand Racing and enjoying the show at Summit Motorsports Park. Keep an eye out for our event calendar and come visit us in the pits.