announcement was met with anger, disappointment, sadness
and bewilderment by the track’s racers
and fans. “How could the track owners do this?”
was a common question. The current owners – the
third generation of Napps who took over the operations
with the passing of their fathers, brothers Vinny Jr.
and Richard, are being labeled as greedy sell-outs who
never cared about drag racing, and that their fathers
must be spinning in their graves. As a racer who called
Raceway Park his home track and spent countless days at
the facility both racing and covering events for The Dragtime
News, when I learned the news I said that many of us felt
a sense of betrayal by the Napps.
that a few days have passed since the announcement,
I wanted to put my thoughts out there for your consideration
and share some of my direct, personal experiences with
the track. Perhaps this will help put the situation into
perspective, maybe ease the pain just a little.
imagine how many battles the Napps had with complaining
neighbors and the associated constant legal battles
that came with them. Then there’s skyrocketing insurance
costs, a huge tax burden and a sport that is dependent
on the weather. The current Napp generation endured these
battles for nearly twenty years. That had to be exhausting;
to say they didn’t care about our sport I think
is not true. In the midst of it, I’m sure it didn’t
help when they’d see all of the negativity the track
would receive on the Internet. The track had many racers
who loved and supported it loyally, but the positive posts
from them on the Internet were routinely overshadowed
by those who would bash the track publicly. “Etown
sucks!” “The payout sucks!” “I’ll
never race there again, screw that place!” were
some of the sentiments that would be greeting the Napps
on a Monday morning as they went online. I don’t
know if this was a tipping point for them or not, but
it couldn’t help matters. If they were riding the
fence at all about the future of the track, this could
have put them over the edge. Who knows, but perhaps moving
forward, racers with a complaint will try to take it to
their track privately instead of publicly spreading this
sort of damaging toxic negativity.
all of this, they gave us racers a great facility.
The track was glass-smooth (at least for me at 125 mph,
anyway). Although the track might not have had the "bracket-racer's
track" status the way Atco Dragway once did or Numidia
Dragway currently does, they started re-developing their
bracket racing program with the input of track manager
John Hedenburg. The facility was always clean and neat,
the track prep was never an issue (again, at least for
me) and the staff and crew were great; very helpful and
friendly. Etown was home and it was family.
thing is, it is the Napp’s track and they have the
right to do with it as they please. The deal
with which they were evidently presented was so big that
they would have been fools to turn it down, and quite
frankly no one in their right mind would have turned it
down. Racers, the income from the bracket racing was clearly
not cutting it. I do not know this from the Napps; I know
this by standing in the lanes and doing a rough car count,
then estimating how much entry money came in the gate,
then ballparking the amount paid out to the staff, and
then racer payouts. We just could not compete with the
deal, plain and simple. By doing this deal they are able
to keep ownership of the facility and continue to make
money from the drifting and motocross events, while guaranteeing
non-weather-dependent income from the drag strip-portion
of the track. It is a win-win for the Napps and as tough
as this is to say, it makes perfect sense for them to
do. I’m sure as disappointed as Vinny, Jr. and Richard
would be if they knew, I think their disappointment would
not be from what their children had done but rather what’s
happened to our sport. After all, parents only want their
kids to do well, to be happy and to have security, and
the current generation has all but ensured those things
for themselves and for their families. Yet despite all
of this I will wager any amount that it was still not
an easy decision.
all of that being said, I still do feel that sense of
betrayal, but it is not personally directed at the Napps.
Part of it comes from the thought that perhaps this could
have been handled a little differently, but for all anyone
knows they might have signed a non-disclosure agreement
that prevented them from speaking about it all until it
was a done deal. It was also hurtful to know that it was
only the drag racing that was being eliminated, but it
probably had to be that way because the Copart cars need
to be stored on paved surfaces.
always liked the Napps, and I still do. If I
were to run into any of them tomorrow, I would extend
a handshake and would thank them:
all of the times I made a pass down one of the most historic
dragstrips ever, thank you.
giving me the opportunity to race against some of the
best bracket racers around, thank you.
the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made
at your track, thank you.
all of the times you would run the jet-dryer truck (a
huge expense) on our regular bracket days just to try
to finish one of our races after a rain delay, thank you.
the times you let me store the Dragtime Dodge at your
track when I had no other place to keep it, thank you.
the times that you would allow me into the track during
the week to work on the car, thank you.
the hospitality and respect you showed to The Dragtime
News, thank you.