This week marks the 15th edition of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, and the first one I’m forced to miss due to my “medical procedure,” (I still hate that term but I’m healing up anyway). In addition to those 14 races I attended there, I’ve also been there for the track’s IHRA national event held prior to their affiliation with NHRA.

People have often asked me “What is your favorite race track?” I guess the answer to that follows along the same lines as when I’m asked “Which is your favorite race car?

The answer to both quite honestly is “The one which turns on win lights,” or in the case of a track, one where I’ve won at.

Obviously, Raceway Park in New Jersey will always be home as it was the very first track my father brought me to as a youngster. Once I began racing, naturally I cut my teeth there as well as the other two tracks in ‘Jersey; Island Dragway and Atco Raceway. Going back to either of those in my later years was like going back home again; the people we know, the friends; it was like a family reunion. I’ve also been blessed enough to win several big races at E-Town, as was my son who won two national events there as well as my late partner Dave Heuwetter who scored his first national event win at that iconic track.

By 2013, I had been driving our Super Stocker on a regular basis for only a couple of years but quickly acclimated myself to bottom bulb racing having probably not done so for over 30 years. That car is such a great car and possibly the only one I’ve ever had where I could open the trailer upon first getting to a track, turn on the weather station and from the water grain reading, could come really close to predicting what the car would run. It’s a former national event winner driven by Monty Bogan and without getting too far ahead of this story, I’m glad I was blessed to carry on its tradition.

In 2013, when I first got to Summit Motorsports Park, I walked into the Press Room and noticed something really special. The Norwalk track is world-famous for its $1 a pound ice cream at Wild Bill’s Ice Cream Stand & Saloon. As a special treat for each eliminator winner, the track had a custom ice cream scoop trophy fashioned. I was so impressed and only wished I could earn one. Seven rounds later on Sunday afternoon with the win light on in my lane, all I could say was, “Where’s my ice cream scoop?” Just a very special moment and a trophy I’ll always treasure.

In 2018, again blessed to make it to the final round against veteran racer Bill Marshall, officials instructed us “The winner turns off to the right of the track and the runner-up turns left.” With the win light shining in my lane and obviously pumped with emotion, I made the right turn only to get out of my car and realize that Bill had followed me around. Now, “Was the win light really on in my lane?” Fortunately it was and the gentleman Bill is, simply congratulated me. Wow! Another Ice Cream Scoop!

Two thousand and eighteen was a weird year. The normally run in June event had the sportsman classes postponed due to the amount of rain the track received earlier in the week. Fortunately, the decision to postpone sportsman came the previous Sunday so as not to have anyone bother traveling to the track.

The postponed date was in September, the week following the U.S. Nationals, making it easier for me as it is on the way home to Pennsylvania. Due to the postponed date, the fields were rather limited, but six rounds later, I found myself meeting up with former world champ Keith Lynch who asked me, “What are us two old guys doing here in the final?” Old guys? Speak for yourself, kiddingly of course. And in the final, again I’m blessed to add another Ice Cream Scoop to my mantle, sharing the winner’s circle with my daughter.

Favorite race track? I have a lot of them, but Norwalk ranks right up there near the top. And yes, I’m missing not being a part of the place this week. -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO