NORWALK'S SHAKEDOWN AT THE SUMMIT NOTEBOOK

Written by Ian Tocher; Photos by Roger Richards.

 

SUNDAY

Dillard GonzalezMOTHER NATURE WINS SHAKEDOWN AT THE SUMMIT - True to his word, Bill Bader Jr. wasted no time in making a decision about continuing the rain-plagued Shakedown at The Summit on Sunday morning (Oct. 6), at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, OH.

The previous night, after being forced to call off eliminations due to the third major rainstorm of the day, Bader announced plans to resume racing at 9 a.m., weather permitting, but promised to call it off early if it looked like Mother Nature would not be cooperating.

Shortly after 8 a.m., the word came down: after heavy overnight rain left a lot of standing water on the track and with more of the wet stuff on its way,the 2013 Shakedown at The Summit was over and its class purses would be distributed equally amongst all racers remaining in contention. It was a disappointing, but predictable end to a promising event. The inaugural Shakedown at The Summitdrew approximately 180 entries to eight heads-up doorslammer classes in its first appearance in a new venue since being introduced in 2003 by racer/promoter David Hance at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ.

Agostino burnoutSeveral memorable performances were recorded before the event was washed away. Perhaps the most impressive, though, was the 4.168 seconds at 190.73-mph qualifying pass that placed Nick Agostino second in Outlaw 10.5. It alsorepresented the quickest-ever pass by a small-block-powered car on 10.5W tires and put the Canadian in line to collect a grassroots prize of more than $5,000 to be awarded at the end of this year.

Ironically, the quickest runs of the weekend did not officially count, including a world's quickest 6.10 at 229.55-mph quarter-mile pass in Outlaw 10.5 trim by Hance during Wednesday's testing in the twin-turbocharged '93 Mustang he recently sold to Mississippi racer Mark Wells. Incremental times for Hance were 1.08 to the 60-foot cone, 2.82 to 330 feet and 4.10 at 195.79 to half-track. Bycomparison, the number-one run in official eighth-mile Outlaw 10.5 qualifying was a 4.156 at 186.07 by Richard Sexton in his roots-blown '06 GTO.

Also rendered unofficial was the quickest and fastest pass of the weekend after Eric Dillard deliberately bypassed the scales following a 5.82 run at 258.17 mph in the opening round of Outlaw Pro Mod qualifying. Dillard was substituting for car owner Jose Gonzalez and did not want to become the official driver of the '69 Camaro before Gonzalez arrived Friday night to take over. Gonzalez qualified third in Saturday's lone session with a 5.929 at 241.76 before beating Michael Biehle with a 5.918 at an early shutoff 210.87, that turned out to be his last pass before the rain returned.

Despite all the weather setbacks, the Shakedown at The Summit laid the groundwork for a promising future at its new home. If nothing else, it demonstrated the resolve and willingness of Bader and his hard-working track crew to provide the absolute best of a bad situation.           
 

 

 

SATURDAY

RAIN ENDS RACING AT SHAKEDOWN -- AGAIN - Every effort was made by Summit Motorsports Park officials and track workers Oct. 5 and into the wee hours of Sunday, Oct. 6, to complete eliminations for the Shakedown at The Summit, but when rain resumed about 1:30 a.m. a decision was quickly reached to end on-track activities for the day.

Rain also interrupted Friday's proceedings, reducing a scheduled two rounds of qualifying to only one. And after two major rain storms earlier on Saturday, each of which required three-plus hours of track drying and prep time, only one more of four originallyplanned qualifying sessions were completed to set the fields in eight Shakedown classes.

Knowing Sunday's forecast called for even more inclement weatherand without a curfew at Summit Motorsports Park, track owner and race promoter Bill Bader Jr. opted to try and complete eliminationson Saturday afternoon, evening and for as long as a clear-weather window lasted into Sunday morning. 

Round two of racing had been completed for all classes except most of Outlaw Pro Mod when the third rainfall of the day began. The track was already in shut-down mode at the time, as clean-up crews dealt with a catastrophic engine failure by Derek Hawker's Outlaw Pro Mod '68 Firebird in the right lane.

Bader announced that, weather permitting, eliminations would resume at 9 a.m.; however, he also reported a 90-percent forecast of additional rain throughout Sunday.

"If when we arrive here Sunday morning it looks like we won't be able to get the event completed we will make a swift decision to call the race at that point and just split the purse amongst all remaining participants," he said. "But I think we owe it to ourselves to wait and see if the forecast is accurate. Everyone has worked so hard and been so patient to this point that I think it would be a shame to not even try to get this race completed." 

Murillo carMURILLO MASTERS HEAVY STREET QUALIFYING AT SHAKEDOWN - On Friday, in his only pass in Heavy Street qualifying for the Shakedown at The Summit, Mike Murillo fragged the transmission in his '92 Mustang. On Saturday, with repairs made, he got one more shot at the Summit Motorsports Park  eighth mile and made it count with a polesitting 4.357-seconds pass at 180.91 mph.

Tony "Presto" Basso, Murillo's closest challenger for the lead spot, managed a 4.428 at 165.13 in his sharp-looking '67 Chevy II, and Joe Wensley with a 4.584 at 157.63 nailed down the third-place position with his '67 Camaro. 

"I've got kind of mixed emotions about being number one because we moved down a class," said Murillo, who admitted he would have preferred to run in Outlaw 10.5 at the Shakedown. "But the weight limit is 2,800 (lbs) in Outlaw and there's just no way we can get even close to that, whereas for Heavy virtually all we had to do was add about 40 pounds.

"Bottom line, we've had kind of a horrible year so I had to put my ego in check because we're trying to win some money, trying to make up for some lost ground.

Regardless, the multi-time NMRA and NMCA champion said he was pleased with his car's performance, especially with no test opportunities after making major repairs.

"This is basically very close to what we run at NMCA; we're within 50 pounds of what we run over there, so this is right up our alley," he said. "We're competitive and I think we can win this thing if we can hold on."

Hance mugHANCE HAPPY WITH NO. 1 OUTLAW PRO MOD START - Driving a '57 Pro Mod he called "almost old enough to vote," David Hance arrived ready to take on Summit Motorsports Park this weekend in the inaugural Shakedown at The Summit.

Hance, more than anyone else on the grounds, has a personal history intertwined with the event. He was its founder in 2003 and promoted it as the Shakedown at E-Town until last year at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ.

"It was interesting and it was fun for 10 years at Englishtown. Yes, it got tense at times, but we had a lot of great help. There were a lot of great people helping us, so many good people. Yes, I bore the financial responsibilities, but the workload was spread out and that's why the race was so good for so long over there," Hance said. "That said, it is a lot more relaxing this year."

Well, as relaxing as it can be covering a quarter mile in 5.870 seconds at 251.25 mph, as Hance did in Friday's lone qualifying session to start number one in the 32-car Outlaw Pro Mod field.Following him on the list were Troy Coughlin at 5.892 and a class-leading 252.61 mph, Jose Gonzalez with a 5.929 at 241.76 in his only pass during qualifying Saturday night, and Canadian Eric Latino, who closed out the five-second runs with a 5.936 at 243.55 mph.

"We just went out there, took a look at the track, the track looked good, so we put our 'A' tune-up in it. We just put something in it that we thought would fly--and it did," Hance said of his Friday-night heroics. "It probably should've went 5.83 or .84, but we broke a lifter about four seconds in, right about the eighth mile and she lay over on us. But I'm happy; other than that it was a really good run."

After multiple, lengthy rain delays the entire Shakedown field managed only one more round of qualifying for all eight classes and when it came to Hance's turn in Outlaw Pro Mod his '57 Chevy hiked the front wheels sky high when it reached half track and he had to abort the pass.

"We mounted up a pair of outlaw 98-millimeter Precision Turbos and went with a setting we'd never tried before and when those things snapped to life, it just overpowered the car," Hance described. "It was almost the very first Pro Mod blowover. We were going straight down the groove, but it just started rising and rising and when I couldn't see the scoreboard anymore through the windshield there was no point in continuing."

Hance said he's enjoying the number-one status in Pro Mod at the race he created after previously nailing down the top spot in Outlaw Radial at one Shakedown event and number two in Outlaw 10.5 at another.

"This is great, but it's a tribute to the crew and the guys I've got around me," Hance stated. "They know how to make a car work. My job is easy; all I have to do is let go of the button and hold on and the car does everything else."

DAprile car2200-MPH BARN FIND - With cobwebs literally hanging from its rear windows, Tommy D'Aprile wheeled the '62 Chevy Bel Air into the water box at Summit Motorsports Park in preparation for its first burnout in more than five years.

"I think the last time we had it out was early in 2009," D'Aprile said after making his first qualifying attempt in Outlaw Pro Mod at the Shakedown at The Summit Oct. 4, at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, OH. "It's been sitting in a trailer since then with hardly anyone ever touching it."

Crew member Jake Fahy confirmed the classic Chevy emerged from its temporary tomb at team owner Mel Bush's shop in Port St. Lucie, FL, less than two weeks earlier. Its old, faded red paint was covered in half-decade-old dust and dirt, so the first order of business was sanding it down and applying a quickie black paint job. From there, the team installed an NHRA-legal Pro Mod engine, other than running 20-percent overdrive on the Al Billes blower for its Shakedown run instead of the NHRA-standard 14 percent. 

Originally built for Bush in 2006 by Alan Pittman Race Cars, the Bel Air had been campaigned at the hands of D'Aprile in NHRA Pro Mod and ADRL Pro Extreme competition. It is now destined to be driven by Bush's son, Steve, in ADRL Pro Mod next season.

"We were going to bring the Corvette here, but it's not really set up for quarter-mile racing," D'Aprile said of the screw-blown 2005 Corvette in which he sits third in ADRL Pro Extreme points heading into the series' final event of the year later this month at Houston. "We also didn't really want to take a chance at hurting it right before the ADRL race, which is when we decided to get the old girl out of the shed.

"I think it's neat to bring it out here because no one else has one like it," he added. "And it's fun to drive; a little bit easier to see out of than the Corvette, too, because I don't have to look around that big blower."

D'Aprile made an early shut-off pass in the opening round of qualifying when the car's linelock didn't release properly, so he was outside the 32-car qualified field going into the second and final session after rain washed away two other scheduled qualifying chances. D'Aprile and the Billes-led team responded with a decent 6.380-seconds pass at 183.97 mph to start from the 15th position.

"This old thing can go a lot quicker than that," D'Aprile stated. "We just have to get used to it again and I think we can go a few rounds once we shake out the cobwebs."

Literally.  

Sexton launchSEXTON SETS SHAKEDOWN PACE IN OUTLAW 10.5 - Janesville, MD's Richard Sexton made his first time racing at Summit Motorsports Park (SMP) count by steering Gil Mobley's supercharged '06 GTO to the number-one qualifying spot in Outlaw 10.5 for the inaugural Shakedown at The Summit. Sexton ran 4.156 seconds at 186.07 mph over the SMP eighth mile in Saturday's (Oct. 5) lone qualifying round before eliminations were set to begin later that night after rain showers stopped the event multiple times throughout the day.

Canada's Nick Agostino, Friday's qualifying leader (after just one round that day, too, because of rain), improved to 4.168 at 190.73 in his twin-turbocharged, small-block powered 2000 Camaro to place second and set the quickest-ever pass for a small-block car on 10.5W tires. Third was Larry Wood from New Jersey with a 4.219 at 185.23 in a twin-turboed '10 Corvette.

Sexton was pleased with the result, but not entirely happy with his number-one run.

"We were actually looking for a little better," he admitted. "It had a terrible 1.10 60-foot (time) when it spun a little bit at the start there.Other than that the rest of it was pretty good. The track is excellent here; the air sucks, but it's the same for everyone."

Bader track crewCOMMITTED TO THE CAUSE - "We will not be denied!" Those were the defiant words of Summit Motorsports Park (SMP) owner Bill Bader Jr. over the P.A. system as the second round of Track Drying was nearing its conclusion during the Shakedown at The Summit.

Round two of qualifying for all eight Shakedown racing classes began shortly before 9 a.m. on Saturday (Oct. 5), with Limited Street, X275 drag radial, and the 8.50 index class completed along with a few Top Sportsman cars sent down the track before a half-hour shower began about 10:45 a.m. At 11:30 track staff were already working in earnest to return the SMP quarter mile to racing shape. Then, at 1:45 p.m., with Top Sportsman back in the lanes getting ready to resume their qualifying rounds, the rain returned even harder.

Racers scrambled to return to the relative dryness of their pits, while disappointed track workers parked their tractors and scrapers and jet dryer beneath the massive SMP grandstand and glumly waited out the latest setback. The wet stuff fell for another half hour or so before track groomers Bill Northup, D.J. Lubinski,Sam Lance, Mark Lundy and Carl Rishka went back to work under the watchful eyes of track manager Kurt Johnson and Jason Rueckert of VP Racing. 

Meanwhile, Bader ordered in an extra 2,000 gallons of gasoline to complement the 15-hundred gallons he usually has on hand ("That's all gone.") to fuel the track dryer with a J34-C jet engine that's been converted to run on the cleaner fuel. Additionally, Bader estimated four to six 54-gallon drums of VP traction compound would be applied over the course of qualifying and racing.

By 4:30 p.m. final touches were being applied to the SMP racing surface and the  initial call to the lanes went out to Top Sportsman with Bader aiming for a 5 p.m. restart.         

"I won't lie, it's become personal," he said. "We are 100-percent committed to getting this race in today."

 

 

 

FRIDAY

FRIDAY WASHED AWAY AT SHAKEDOWN - The plug had to be pulled on Friday's action at the Shakedown at The Summit. Despite the best efforts of track workers, Summit Motorsports Park owner and Shakedown promoter Bill Bader Jr. got on the public address system at 10 p.m. to announce the racing surface was not drying as hoped and all activities were over. "I say this with a heavy heart, but we are done for the day," Bader said.

One round of qualifying for all eight classes in the Shakedown was completed in between rain showers on Friday, but 11 Limited Street cars had made second-round qualifying passes, leaving nine or more entries in the lanes when the rain returned. Bader said a similar situation had never before occurred in the Shakedown's 10-year history at Englishtown, so no established protocol existed to ensure fairness and parity.

After consulting with NHRA Division 3 Director Jay Hullinger, Bader's father and past IHRA president Bill Bader Sr. and Shakedown founder David Hance, three different solutions were offered, so in the eb=nd Bader opted to go with what he said, "just seems to make sense."

"We are setting precedent here going forward," he said in announcing the 11 timed passes from Friday's interrupted Limited Street session would be nullified and removed from the record and all Limited Street entries would run together to set the field for eliminations.

"We didn't think it would be fair to make the remaining Limited Street cars run on a different track under different conditions than what were available this afternoon," Bader explained. "For anyone that ran a career best among those 11 that did run, I apologize, but this does mean that they do get that extra, third pass which is an advantage, but we feel this is the fairest way to handle this overall for everyone.

"And again, we are setting precedent here and this will be added to our race procedures rule book in case this situation ever comes up again in the future."

Round two of qualifying is scheduled to begin immediately after a brief racers' prayer meeting at 8 a.m. in the track's media center. Eliminations are set to start at noon or as soon as possible after second-round qualifying concludes in order to try and beat more inclement weather expected to arrive Saturday evening and forecast to remain through Sunday. However, Bader did leave open the option to run a third round of qualifying "if by God's grace the weather situation changes dramatically and we're looking at clear skies."


TrackDryingNEVER SAY DIE -- Following a mid-afternoon rain shower, the Shakedown at The Summit managed to find just enough time to get the first round of Outlaw 10.5 and Outlaw Pro Mod completed before the rain returned. It looked like the day was going to be a wash, but as soon as the wet stuff stopped about 7 p.m., Summit Motorsport Park staff got to work with track drying equipment. According to track owner Bill Bader Jr., the plan is to complete one more complete round of qualifying tonight for all eight classes. Then, third-round qualifying will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, with eliminations to follow--although, if the weather takes a major positive turn on Saturday, Bader said he will try to also get the fourth scheduled round of qualifying completed, too.

Dillard No1NOT NUMBER ONE -- Eric Dillard blistered the Summit Motorsports Park quarter mile in 5.829 seconds at 258.17 mph in round one of Outlaw Pro Mod qualifying for the Shakedown at The Summit, taking over the top spot from Dave Hance--or did he? While there's no question Dillard was quickest in the session, he bypassed the scales after the run to deliberately disqualify the pass and avoid making him the driver of record in the twin-turboed '69 Camaro owned by Dominican racer Jose Gonzalez. With Gonzalez expected to arrive at the track Friday evening, Dillard said Gonzalez will take over the tiller of the El General entry as the official driver for the remainder of qualifying and throughout eliminations.


Latino wheelieALMOST LEGAL -- Other than running 20-percent overdrive on the Al Billes-built roots blower atop the Brad Anderson 521 Hemi, Eric Latino's G-Force '69 Camaro was 100-percent NHRA legal when it ran 5.936 at 243.55 mph to qualify fourth in Outlaw Pro Mod at the Shakedown at the Summit. The Canadian racer from Whitby, Ontario, said he expects the car can run high .80s in its outlaw trim.


Roth wheelieHANG 'EM HIGH -- Yet another Canuck lets it all hang out in Outlaw Pro Mod qualifying as Jeff Roth from New Dundee, Ont., launches his screw-blown '41 Willys. "It started shaking, so I pedaled it, but then the front end started coming up so I just thought it was better to get out of it and try again later," he said. Roth ended up with a 10-second run that placed him 22nd of 29 entries making attempts in the opening session.

TucciBaderALKATIVE TANDEM -- Veteran announcer Al Tucci (left) and track operator Bill Bader Jr. make an entertaining announcing at Summit Motorsports Park as they describe the action at the Shakedown at The Summit.

RAIN DELAYS SHAKEDOWN AT NORWALK - Running under cloudy skies all morning, six of eight classes completed the opening round of qualifying for the Shakedown at Norwalk Oct. 4, at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, OH.

However, just as Outlaw 10.5 was getting underway and the Pro Mods were in the staging lanes about 1:30 p.m., the clouds finally opened up, dousing the track with steady rain that lasted nearly half an hour.

Track owner and Shakedown promoter Bill Bader Jr. said although only two rounds of qualifying were scheduled for both Friday and Saturday, he hopes to complete three rounds today and finish the final qualifying session beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, with eliminations to follow.

"Sunday is looking really ugly, weather-wise," Bader said. "I hope we'll be able to get all four qualifying rounds in; that's the plan right now, but if we have to we may lose one today. It's totally up to Mother Nature right now." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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