By Mary Lendzion
Photos Courtesy of Summit Motorsports Park
The flames and fireworks were flying just as fast as the cars at the 42nd Annual Kelly Night Under Fire, Aug. 10, 2019 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
The production presented to a packed house also featured several surprises.
“I could not be more proud of how hard our team worked or appreciative of the overwhelming response from our fans,” said Bill Bader Jr., Summit Motorsports Park president. “It was the largest-attended Kelly Night Under Fire in the event’s 42-year history. Great weather, great performances and perhaps the best Kelly Night Under Fire we’ve ever produced!”
During opening ceremonies, Bader Jr. enthusiastically introduced all of the performers as they paraded down track and waved to more than 40,000 cheering fans. He also delivered an impassioned speech, and Rhythm ’n Rhyme performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a giant American flag was unfurled over the track and military planes flew by in formation.
Among the major draws were NHRA Funny Car drivers John Force, Robert Hight, Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Dale Creasy Jr., and when it was time to ratchet up and race, Robert Hight took the win with a 3.91 in his Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro over over Ron Capps, who was right there with a 3.96 in his Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger RT Funny Car.
Also on the bill were Richard Hutchins, who went wheels-up in his Chevy-powered VW bus, Chevy Rebellion, and Danny Sullivan and Chicago Rush, Ernie Bogue and Beast from the East, Robert Albertson and Blazing Angel, Josh Graham and Eastern Raider, Tony Franco and MAV TV, Al Zukaskas and Hot Blade and Shelly Segal and Fire Starter, who were competing as part of the North American Jet Car Championship. Scotty “Heat” Holdridge, who had a wreck in his 50 Cal jet engine-powered dragster a while back and is in the process of building a new dragster, joined Bader Jr. to call the action for his fellow drivers, and Ernie Bogue blasted to a 5.24 in his Beast from the East to take the win over Josh Graham, who gunned to a 5.31 in his Eastern Raider.
Delivering a double dose of heat were big, bad Bob Motzand Hayden Proffitt II. Motz was welcomed with wild applause when he shot flames from his jet engine-powered truck which partially burned the massive sign behind the burnout box on his first pass, and when he shot even more flames to completely burn the sign on his final pass of the night. Proffitt II, whose appearance was a secret, surprised fans when he slowly paraded down track with 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force standing on the back of his truck before belting up, blasting off and blistering the track.
Top Alcohol Dragster drivers Corey Michalek and JP Gutierrez may be friends off-track, but when Michalek fired his Energize dragster and Gutierrez fired his MGM Grand Detroit dragster to face each other on track, they meant business. In their exciting match-up, Michalek motored to the win with a 5.31 to Gutierrez’s close 5.38.
The R&R Auto Body, DeCerbo Construction and P2 Contracting Rumble Wars Extreme 8 drivers were also in action at this event, and earning the win was Jason Kalso, who turned in a 3.83 against Kurt Steding, who stopped the clocks at 3.85.
The four quickest Edelbrock Super Series Wiseco/Cycle Tech Super Bike racers during time-trials were invited to take part in the Whiskey Grade Fast 4, and making it to the final round of eliminations were Justin Hughes and Kevin Adams. In the double breakout race, Hughes rode to the win with a 7.67 on a 7.73 dial while Adams was 7.84 on a 7.94 dial.
For the Summit Racing Equipment Junior Dragster Shootout, spotlighting the top eight junior dragsters in the park’s Bear Motorsports Junior Dragster Advanced, Intermediate and Novice categories as of Aug. 1, Aubrey Collins collected the win over Callie Martel in Advanced, Tyler Crowell cruised to the win over Roman Iocoangeli in Intermediate while Keegan Beverly picked up the win over Brylan Biondo in Novice.
The ScottRod’s AA/Gassers did some high-stepping at this event, and Micky Hale hopped to the win with a 5.53 after Ed Kasicki turned on the red light.
A jaw-dropping $125,000 worth of fireworks presented by R&R Auto Body was shot from multiple locations at the park as patriotic music played, and that served as the exclamation mark for the magical and memorable event.
The Summit Motorsports Park staff has already begun planning to make next year’s event even bigger, brighter and boisterous. It’s set for Aug. 8, 2020.