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Drag Racing’s Best-Ever One-night Stand A Huge Success

JA1 5293 copy-2Driving his special one-off Norwalk 50th Anniversary Ford, John Force ripped off a very impressive 4.045 in defeating Robert Hight in the F/C finale. (All photos by Jon Asher)With an estimated 30,000 fans jamming Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, more commonly known as “Norwalk”, fifteen-time champion John Force and his son-in-law, 2009 champion Robert Hight, dominated the Funny Car portion of the proceedings – and what proceedings they were!  Cliché’s and adjectives are often over-used, but not when it comes to discussing the Night Under Fire, an event like no other.  And, rather than go into a long-winded explanation, one that might not even convey the excitement this one evening of entertainment delivers, let’s just say that if there’s one drag racing event you absolutely, positively must see, the Night Under Fire is it.  Mark it down now:  Saturday, August 9, 2014.

Run on a loosely Chicago-style format, the four late model Funny Cars of Force and Hight were joined by young Blake Alexander driving Paul Smith’s car, and Chad Head driving his dad’s Toyota.  Head, unfortunately, had some problems and failed to make a representative pass after smoking the tires on both attempts, but Alexander ripped off a very competitive 4.199/297.09 on the second go, much to the delight of the crowd, who apparently hadn’t expected much after a first round effort of 4.221.

We’re skipping some of the salient details here due to time constraints, so let’s just say that after a terrific series of passes from period-correct A/Gas Supercharged Willys and Austins, runs from nostalgia Funny Cars, Jr. Dragsters and Top Sportsman machines the program got down to the serious stuff.  That included exploding cars, flying cars, flying motorcycles, flaming jet dragsters and oh, yeah, two monster trucks doing everything but destroying each other – and let’s not forget Bob Motz’s awesome jet-powered Kenworth.  After that the racing surface was more than a mess, it was totaled.  But, Norwalk’s hard-working team, led by track manager Kurt Johnson, restored the track in an amazingly short amount of time, but by then it was late and frankly, the racing surface appeared to be oiled after a rain shower capped everything off.
JA1 5273 copy-2Larry “Spiderman” McBride provided the two-wheeled excitement with a track record 5.885/220/04, a run on which he carried the front wheel almost to the lights.
How was the surface after the clean up?  When Bill Bader. Sr. radioed down to Johnson to ask, the response was “It’s stupid.”  Oh, man, was it ever that!

Expecting to see a pair of tire-smokers from Force and Hight, Alexander had shown the surface had teeth with his 4.199, but still, the expectations of the other racers, who had crowded the starting line to see the race, weren’t that high, but guess what?  Once again Mr. Force & Company delivered in superior fashion.  With header fire over the roofs of their cars, header fire that stayed lit right to the lights, Force stopped the timers in 4.045 seconds and 315.93 MPH as Hight “trailed” with an equally impressive 4.085/314.24.

The Night Under Fire marked the true celebration of the track’s 50th Anniversary, which was capped off by a stellar fireworks show, but that came after Motz used his jet truck to burn down the large signboard behind Norwalk’s starting line.  And yes, the crowd had demanded it!  We know that money is important, just as we know that all of the vehicles that performed had been hired in, but money can only take you so far.  If you’re not into what you’re doing, the fans will know it from your demeanor.  Does John Force like the Night Under Fire?  Let’s put it this way:  It was his 18th straight appearance at the NUF.  “I love this race,” he said to some friends.  “I hope they keep bringin’ me back, ‘cause this is a lot of fun.”  Let the man who knows a good time when he’s having fun be your guide, and be there next August 9th.

JA1 5318 copy-2 Before he burned it down, Bob Motz blew holes in the Norwalk sign with his afterburner.


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