A great day of high speed excitement took place on Sunday at ‘America’s Track’, Summit Motorsports Park. As the fans were ushered into the facility, a full cloud cover graced the skies threatening the possibility of rain. Honour guard carried flags, a pre-race platform just behind the start line staged the racers and their teams for driver introductions.
As the announcer introduced each driver and commented on their weekend’s
performance, the crowd’s chants got louder and louder as more successful icons in the sport were introduced. Vocal cheers for past champions such as Greg Anderson, Erica Enders, and Brittany Force preambled those of the true heroes of Ron Capps and John Force, who’s fan response was noticeably more massive.
Ron Capps took the stage and had the opportunity to speak briefly to the host and his fans who this time were more attentive. .Capps, the number one qualifier for the weekend stated on more than one occasion over the last few days prideful thoughts on his new race team, his sponsors, and the fans. These were repeated in the pre-race speech. He waved, took a couple of photos, moved on to be with his team.
Behind the curtain of the stage, the greatest ever, 16x champion John Force studied a sheet of notes he had prepared to discuss to the fans. He was introduced but not asked questions about his race car. He wasn’t asked about his sponsors, or his daughter’s weekend. It was not a matter of pressure to represent his loyal sponsors. He wasn’t encouraged to joke about his longtime friend and track owner Bill Bader Jr.. Instead, a somber but serious series of statements in regards to the passing of motorsports icon Bruton Smith was preached by Force to the NHRA racing community. The audience went silent, and grew focused. They watched and listened to John’s every word.
“...to the friends and family of Bruton, Marcus, NASCAR, the fans. We love you. We love you.” Force said. “...sure he liked to make money, we all do! But what he did with that money was monumental, the children’s hospitals, man, those kids.’’ Force’s emotion was sincere and a piece of closure that the racing community needed to begin their healing after losing a racing icon and community icon, Bruton Smith.
Introductions were complete. Teams, fans, media, and track officials returned to their starting points like it was The Truman Show. The pre-event invocation was offered, and a local Sandusky High School teacher provided the national anthem. A significant weekend in NHRA was taking place that wouldn’t soon be forgotten..
The competitors ran their eliminators. In most weekend reviews we would mention a recap of each of the head to head matchups, but words should not distract from Ron Capps’ first round driving that will be shown on highlight reels for years. A poor start nearly eliminated Capps off the tree. After nearly losing the race to Dale Creasy in the right lane, Creasy started to lose control and crossed the center line. Capps drove the car to the left and the right like a drift car in Fast and Furious, sliding within inches of his competitor. Capps used throttle control and over twenty years of racing experience to ensure his newly molded Supra GR remained unscathed. Flames shot out of the right side exhaust of his Toyota burning the famed NAPA logo on the right side of the car. Unfortunately he lost in the semi-finals.
[Editors note…event under rain delay at time of posting full results will be posted at a later time.]
Pass after pass knocked out well-known drivers. John Force, Leah Pruett, Austin Prock, Millican.
Among the festivities, a calm and professional Tony Stewart (who had just won the SRX feature on Saturday) arrived at the track to support his team. He was engaging and leading in regards to his demeanor, but trusting in his team to build and put his TSR Nitro cars into the finals. Hagan lost in the quarter-finals to Bob Tasca III and Pruett lost to Mike Salinas in the semi-finals. The former INDY and NASCAR champion carried himself in a way that made it clear to fans he is there to work and support his team, not to be a show car of his past racing success.
A side-theme from the promoters emphasized a pre-Independence Day attitude from track owners Bill Bader Jr. and Snap-On Tools CEO Nicholas T. Pinchuk. Both businessmen addressed the audience in the grandstands simply thanking them, their hard work and love for automobile racing, and ending with reflective ‘God Bless America’ statements. Drivers such as John Force, Ron Capps, and Tony Schumacher also spoke to the property’s grande scale, complimenting Bill Bader routinely through the weekend.
For two and a half days genuine, unrehearsed entertainment and excitement was felt and experienced by all from Friday through Sunday’s near end. Then the rain swept in.
The semi finals took place, challenging inbound weather and setting the stage for the complete of the wonderful weekend. The following finalists qualified for their last round of racing.
Top Fuel: Josh Hart and Mike Salinas
Funny Car: Bob Tasca III and Robert Hight
Pro-Stock: Erica Enders and Aaron Stanfield
Pro-Stock Bike: Joey Gladstone and Angelle Sampey
And now we wait. Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Norwalk are nearly complete yet so far from their completion. At the conclusion of the first draft of this article, rain continues to pour on property. Fans have shuffled out, and television cameras have turned off. The results of this weekend’s race will be determined on several hour delay caused by Mother Nature. More to come…