Top Fuel Harleys Throwing Flame at Norwalk’s Night Under Fire

For the first time ever, Top Fuel Harleys are racing during Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio’s famous Cornwell Tools Night Under Fire on August 5th. It’s the event known widely as the biggest one day thrill show and drag race in the world at the beautiful track often called the Disney World of dragstrips.

“Top Fuel Harley is one of the most exciting classes drag racing offers,” said Summit Motorsports Park owner and world renowned race promoter, Bill Bader Jr. “They belch header flames, they’re hanging the front wheel of the motorcycle down the track, the guys are wearing ballistic vests and risking their lives—it’s an amazing visceral experience!”

Norwalk owner Bill Bader Jr.

Bader is a second generation dragstrip owner after his dad, the late Bill Sr.—also a legendary maker of drag racing magic.

“Night Under Fire is celebrating its 46th year. The park was built in ’63, so this is our 60th anniversary. Dad bought the the park in ’73, so this is the Bader’s 50th year of owning Summit Motorsports Park. And why the hell we’ve never run Top Fuel Harley at Night Under Fire before is a mystery!”

A mystery that U.S. Nationals winner and multi-time NHRA and IHRA champion Jay “Bulldog” Turner is happy to see solved. “I’m really excited,” said Turner, who’ll be racing along with fellow U.S. Nationals winners and champions Tii Tharpe, Randal Andras and Ryan Peery, and NHRA record holder Bob Malloy and Chris Smith.

Jay Turner suited up nitro mayhem

“I was pleased Bill called us, and we’re really excited and looking forward to going up there to put on a really good show. It’s the biggest single day drag race event in the world. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s big for us to be there.”

Turner already holds the Top Fuel Harley record at the track with a 6.20 at 235 MPH, and you can be sure he’ll want to beat that when he gets out in front of that huge Night Under Fire crowd.

“The Baders are a good family, good people. It’s a great track and that’s what it’s all about. Everything there has always been top notch and organized, from the time you pull into Linder’s Lot to get parked to the time you leave.

“A lot of us Harley racers owe a lot to Bill Bader Sr. from when he owned IHRA. That was our first big step.”

“Top Fuel Harley has historically been terribly underutilized,” said Bader Jr. “My father and John Russell put together a program back when we owned the IHRA and really created a national stage for them.”

John Force is always a huge part of the Night Under Fire

Bader Sr. passed away in an accident on his Idaho ranch in 2022 while the NHRA national event was being run at the Norwalk track.

“My father always talked about the 50th anniversary. We talked about it last year, we talked about it the year before, and that was really kind of an important benchmark for him. So in planning the 50, 60 year anniversary celebration at Night Under Fire, I am calling it ‘Night Under Fire Reimagined.’ I’m blowing up everything about the event and starting over with a clean slate because the show needs to change. The point is to honor the 50th, to honor my dad, and we are going to just burn this flippin’ place to the ground!

“So Top Fuel Harley is a natural. I’ve been friends with Jay for a long, long time. He’s one of those legacy riders in that category and we’ve put together a cool program. We’re going to have killer bikes and I think fans are gonna love it.

Randal Andras

“When you talk about Top Fuel Harley, these guys are on rocket ships hanging the front wheel all the way down the racetrack—they’re just cool. And, you know, the riders have colorful personalities. It’s just a killer class and it will be as well received and as exciting as Funny Cars, including John Force. Fans have already expressed their excitement about the Top Fuel Harleys to me, so I know it’s going to be a hell of a show.”

You can catch that hell of a show when gates open at 8:00 am on Saturday, August 5th. Autograph Session is from 3:15 pm to 4:15, Pre-Race Ceremony at 5:30 pm, Showtime 7:00 pm, and the massive $125,000 Fireworks display is at 10:30 pm.

Ticket prices and other information can be found on the track’s website.

Eatmyink Motorsport Media will see you there!

story and photos by Tim Hailey

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