Night Under Fire, an American Tradition Fueled By Speed and Sparks




On the day of Summit Motorsports Park's most recent National event, long-time track owner Bill Bader Sr. passed away. Many members of the media and the fans in the grandstands were not made aware of the news until the following day.


Meanwhile, some of the insiders in the world of drag racing were mourning while competing at 'America's Track'. The event carried on.


Round after round of exhilarating racing took place in the wake of tragic news, and only a matter of days after the loss of motorsports philanthropist Bruton Smith passed in Charlotte. The sport was injured. As Robert Hight and Erica Enders successfully extended their winning trends, the Bader family dealt with the painful steps of losing their patriarch.


Mr. Bader's favourite event each year was arguably 'Night Under Fire', a semi-pro event for the regions greatest racers, and an exhibition for names such as John Force and Ron Capps. Bader and his son worked 44 consecutive Night Under Fire events prior to this passing.


The planning for the famed event continued through loss. Bader Jr. addressed the media and lead drivers Saturday morning and showed unusual energy not always expressed. He was somber and soft. He was sincere and simple.


"There has never been a Night Under Fire that I’ve anticipated in 45 years more than today. It isn’t for financial gain or money, it is because it is the first Night under Fire without my dad. We want you to all be a part of this special event. - Bill Bader Jr.
Track administrator Bill Bader Jr. addresses media and racers prior to the annual fan favourite 'Night Under Fire'. Photo: AJ Appeal

He reviewed every detail of the day with the folks responsible for ensuring his track's fans had an exceptional entertainment experience. The room was silent. NHRA legends, track officials, family, friends, they honoured Bader Jr. with their fullest of attention.




 

Bill Bader Sr. was highlighted by several of the racers through the day's event in various ways. Many included kind words of the late business owner in their interviews, while others offered stickers and messages on their cars.





Photo: Tyler Lawler/RacingRefresh.com


Photo: Tyler Lawler/RacingRefresh.com

Each of the varying vehicle classes took to center stage and had their opportunity to practice or qualify. The venue pre-sold nearly 30,000 according to sources at the track, but by the time racing began it was announced to have been nearly 40,000 spectators....and they were still shuffling in after eight o'clock.



There were headlining acts greater than usual such as Bob Motz' jet truck, and top fuel NHRA legends John Force and Ron Capps, but the locals were able to benefit from a winning prize as well. Over 100 racers who had competed at Summit in the past were invited to compete for a $75,000 grand prize.




Photo: AJ Appeal / RacingRefresh.com


After qualifying for the event had taken place, an exceptionally patriotic introduction of nearly an hour entertained the nations most patriotic fans. Mr. Bader Jr. was proud. He mentioned his love for the nation and God on several occasions and the fans cheered. A series of 1940's T-34 show planes from the Hooligan's flight team. He ended his introduction using language that was strong..."If you don't believe this nation is the greatest in the world, you can get the hell out and I"ll be happy to refund your tickets."

Photo: Tyler Lawler/RacingRefresh.com

The racing began under a beautiful sunset. Top fuel qualifying mostly headlined early round racing and the drivers held nothing back. John Force claimed the pole and fans instantly reacted. Speeds well into the 300's dominated, which was unexpected by some early on. Force's crew chief Jimmy Prock shared with Racing Refresh that they were always looking for more information on their cars when able to do match racing.


Round after round of elimination drag racing took place with entertainment fueled by fire between each set.


The jet cars competed and Norwalk's favourite Bob Motz Jet Truck. The truck, which he's fielded in events for over 30 years stunned new fans, while renewing long-tenured racing vows with tenured spectators. Clouds over 100 feet of smoke and hot fire cleared the pit area and staging lane.



Racing resumed under a patriotic theme. Bill Bader Jr. emceed for hours, regularly honouring American traditions as the DJ played a variety of music styles. His cadence stopped only for brief water breaks. Adorned in red and white tuxedos, Bader and his team wanted the event to be both fun and fancy.


As the evening winded down, top fuel nitro cars continued to steal the show. Each of the nationally ranked drivers made their last passes. In the finals Alexis DeJoria defeated John Force. Current Funny Car points leader Robert Hight ran a Monster Energy decal on his vehicle's sides and ran several passes over 300mph. Other finalists in the Funny Car class included veteran racing legend Ron Capps, Dale Creasy Jr., and Cruz Pedregon.


The event ended with a lengthy fireworks display presented by Cornwell Tools. Night Under Fire 2022 will be remembered as one of the most iconic annual 'Fire' events in recent years. For more photos and videos from the Night Under Fire event visit Twitter.com/RacingRefresh.