NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

The Bader family is keeping the Summit Motorsports Park dream alive

Over the years, well-kept and beloved Summit Motorsports Park has gained a reputation for something Bill Bader Jr. refers to as "The Norwalk Experience." The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals are more than a race to Bader and his team.
29 Jun 2024
Kelly Wade
Bill Bader Jr.

For over 50 years, Summit Motorsports Park has been host to thrilling racing action. Over the years, the well-kept and beloved facility has gained a reputation for something Bill Bader Jr. refers to as "The Norwalk Experience." The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals are more than a race to Bader and his team. It's an extension of a legacy of human connection that began with Bader's father, Bill Bader Sr., who purchased the racetrack in 1973.

"When my father bought this racetrack, it was his heart's desire to be an NHRA sanctioned national event facility," said Bader Jr. "For me, the fact that I was able to deliver this event for my dad is still what is most important to me."

From the moment fans and race teams pull through the gates in Norwalk, they key into a very unique energy. It started with Bader Sr.'s mission statement, drawn up in the early days of ownership. The core of the fresh approach was to provide a customer-driven, customer-friendly environment.

Bader Sr. lost his life at age 79 in 2022, but his spirit is infused in every nook and cranny at Summit Motorsports Park. The family owned and operated racetrack continues to thrive under the careful tending of Bader's children and grandchildren as they carry on the mission.

"At the end of the day, it's not about how much money you make," Bader Jr. continued. "The ultimate measuring stick is guest satisfaction. My dad was famous for things like 'You can't lose if the customer wins,' and 'The complaining customer is your friend.' I love seeing happy people and smiling faces. I love seeing two or three or multiple generations of families sitting in the grandstands. To me, that's really, really important."

Bill Bader Jr. (Photo: Evan J. Smith)

To further enhance the Norwalk Experience, Summit Motorsports Park continues to find new and out-of-the-box ways to both entice and treat fans. For the first time this year, they're offering on-premise ticket renewal for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

"We're giving fans an opportunity to renew their tickets and waive all fees," detailed Bader Jr. "We've incentivized them with a $5-off savings, or they can receive a meal voucher for $10 for each ticket they renewal. All the renewals will go into a hopper and one lucky fan will win two Top Eliminator Club tickets for life, which is pretty cool."

Savings and vouchers are an appreciated incentive, but the draw truly is the highly competitive and intense on-track action, which is so perfectly complemented by the efforts of gracious and thoughtful hosts. Bader Jr. explained that they plan all year to make the event as near-perfect and enjoyable as possible for all, and he and his staff are willing to pivot and able to anticipate needs in order to make each event – and those in the future – a worthwhile, memorable outing for the guests.

Even as the event gets underway, the process of fine-tuning continues.

"I have a list of all the things we have done wrong to this point," admitted Bader Jr. "We are always improving. From the time I was a young man, my father would walk me around the facility, and he would say, 'Look for things that are wrong. Let's not talk about anything that's right. Let's look for things that are wrong.' Every detail matters; it's literally about identifying every detail.

"Everything we do is based on the guest experience, whether it's their first touchpoint when they come in off the highway, whether it's when they come through the Legends gate, whether it's their food court experience, or their bathroom experience. They should see happy, smiling faces, people that are welcoming. We have 430 event staff working this weekend, and everybody buys into the Norwalk Experience and knows that they contribute to it – and that's the key."

While the Summit Motorsports Park staff tends to the one-on-one customer details, Bader Jr. himself is moving larger mountains in order to ensure a smooth event. With the potential for rain in the forecast for Saturday, he ordered several dozen truck-loads of gravel to be deposited at the main roads, campgrounds, and parking lots in order to stay ahead of things that may put a damper on the customer experience, something that he holds as the highest of priorities. He wants fans to not only enjoy this weekend, but also come back year after year and find the same, reliable, fan-friendly Summit Motorsports Park.

"We are a like-minded community, a multi-generational sport," said Bader Jr. "All the crazy in the world is outside the fences. In here, we are a community of people enjoying a great, American-made sport. So, if I and my team can, for one day, get people to forget about the world and come in here and be entertained, job well done."