The Shakedown Is Headed To Norwalk
Bill Bader Jr. is expected to announce formally later this week that his Summit Motorsports Park at Norwalk, Ohio, will restore “The Shakedown,” the heads-up outlaw-style door-slammer drag race that for a decade brought international attention to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at Englishtown, N.J.
New York Motorsports promoter Dave Hance, founder and promoter of The Shakedown, pulled the plug on the multi-class Northeast fall classic after its 10th anniversary edition in October. But he gave Bader permission to use the name — without compensation or any financial or creative consideration.
The hastily arranged agreement started when Hance received Bader’s phone call at the recent PRI Show at Orlando. The two parties hammered out final details last Friday during the IMIS at Indianapolis, according to track spokesman Kurt Johnson.
The event will be called The Shakedown At The Summit. It’s scheduled for Friday-Sunday, Oct. 4-6, 2013, with test-and-tune Thursday, Oct. 3 at Summit Motorsports Park, home to the annual Night Under Fire August classic and the National Hot Rod Association’s Summit Racing Equipment Nationals.
In a peculiar twist that defies business logic, Hance — an accomplished Drag Radial and Pro Modified racer — built the Shakedown brand for a decade, then gave Bader his blessing to use the name “Shakedown” gratis.
Bader offered to purchase the event or the name, according to both Hance and Johnson. But Hance said he trusted that Summit Motorsports Park would host an event worthy of his efforts and insisted he wanted no payment. He said he plans to compete in the Norwalk event but will not be involved with promoting it.
Hance had said he wouldn’t stage the event anywhere but Englishtown, although he did add one at West Palm Beach, Fla., in March 2011. Negotiations for an 11th Shakedown Nationals at Raceway Park broke down two months ago when the track denied Hance’s requests moving forward.
“We asked for a discount. We did not receive it. We asked to sell Shakedown memorabilia to help with revenue. They declined that, in the way we wanted it,” Hance said. “They spun it that ‘This race is too big. It’s too noisy.’ I don’t want people to think it was just a noise issue why it isn’t at Englishtown.”
Raceway Park adheres to strict noise and time curfews that Summit Motorsports Park does not have.
“It’s one of the largest heads-up outlaw-style races in the country, and we didn’t want to see it go away,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot more motivation here than profit or trying to do a large heads-up race. We didn’t want to see Shakedown disappear, because it’s got such good tradition to it. Dave has done a fantastic job. I respect him more than you’d believe. That’s one of my favorite races.”
Johnson said he and Bader approached Hance because companies wanting to sponsor the event encouraged them to do so.
“Obviously we’ve got the facility to create a first-class-event atmosphere,” Johnson said, “and we really think we can knock this thing out of the park.”
Hance agreed: “They’re going to give the racers a safe place and great track. Wait until you see the E.T.s that come out of that place. It’s going to pick up right where we left off and hopefully be better. So it was an easy decision. Trust me, I would not have given the blessing if I didn’t think it would be good for the racers involved.
“I didn’t get the impression that Norwalk just wants to make a fast buck,” he said. “Ultimately they will make a buck. And I hope they hundreds of thousands of bucks. But I think they’re going to earn it, put on a great show for the racer.”
Hance made it clear he will not profit in any way from the Shakedown At The Summit.
“I have no deal with them: no memorabilia deal, no T-shirt deal, no ‘If the race is successful, we’ll give you something,’” he said. He said he simply told Bader, “Feel free to use ‘Shakedown.’ I want no consideration whatsoever in return. Nothing. Zero. It just happened in a phone conversation. I wasn’t out looking for somebody to push it on.”
Johnson said he hopes Hance will change his mind someday about being involved.
“I still want him involved. The door’s always going to be open,” he said.
“Today’s world is so darn business-driven that some people forget about the respect side. In a lot of ways, that goes way further than anything you could do,” Johnson said. “We offered monetary support. He doesn’t want it. That just shows his character. I think he wants to see somebody that would carry it on the way that he would. And I think that’s why he’s supporting this. He knows we can run with this.”
Hance said he chose not to accept money because the rights to the name are, essentially, priceless and that no amount would be adequate to pay back those who worked for a decade to help him build the brand: “It really wasn’t mine to accept such money. So it was easier not to accept any money.””
Johnson said Summit Motorsports Park is finalizing details about the format of the race.