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Bill Bader Jr. finds another mountain to climb

By Joe Centers • Apr 3, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Bill Bader Jr. said on a good night he might get four hours of sleep.

This is a busy time for the president of Summit Motorsports Park, with the season set to open the last weekend of April.

But if running one racetrack wasn’t enough, Bader has another challenge on his plate.

“I am now managing Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.,” Bader said. “It is 60 miles from Philadelphia and 425 from Summit Mortosports Park. I am going back and forth between the two tracks.”

Bader has spent the last eight weeks working at the two tracks and said he is happy with the progress at both of them.

“We have come a long way,” he said about Maple Grove Raceway. “I would say to me it was a wonderful opportunity. It was a challenge. You become proficient in something and Mike Lewis and his family own Maple Grove. They contacted me and they said they have some needs. Jamie (Bader’s wife) and I flew there to make a decision. There are a lot of family decisions to be made with something like this.”

Why another track?

“Climb the next mountain,” Bader said. “It takes a lot of passion and maybe a little ignorance. We have done a lot of work in eight weeks. You definitely have to be passionate about it and be willing to do the work.”

With that new challenge on his plate, there is plenty of work to do at home.

Last week local contractors poured the east lane from start to finish, and then some, but weather kept them from completing the west lane. That will be done as soon as possible with the Season Opener less than a month away.

“The weather just hasn’t cooperated,” Bader said. “We engaged great contractors and spent a lot of money. I have high expectations of this surface — I am not going to shove it in. We are going to do it right. It has to be above freezing day and night. We are really trying to do everything right, if possible.”

Summit Motorsports Park is considered by many as one of the best racing surfaces on the National Hot Rod Association circuit.

But, Bader said, it wasn’t good enough.

“There were sections of that racetrack that were pre-1980,” he said, adding there were multiple surfaces and the track had lost its crown.

“Over time in Ohio everything freezes and shifts,” Bader said. “It was maybe an 8 1/2 or 9 (out of 10).

“My goal now is to have a surface as 10. It is one solid slab of concrete. It’s kind of a good to great scenario. Our surface was tired. It was time. Ohio weather is tough on racetracks.”

For Bader, who will turn 51 in August, is starting his 41st race season. The track was build in 1963 and Bader’s father, Bill Sr., bought it in the spring of 1974. 

"We have been blessed. We have come a long ways,” Bader said. “It’s funny, when you are so immersed in it you are not as as appreciative or thankful of that.”

As the facility has grown, so has the attendance and the workforce. The track now has 26 full-time people working, including 17 in management.

But, as Bader points out, “You are only as good as your last race.”

Maybe that’s why he is lucky to get four hours of sleep each night.

Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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