Bill Bader Jr., a second-generation drag strip owner from Norwalk, Ohio, understands the old saying, "To whom much is given, much is expected."

Now, make no mistake, Bader was given little. He had to earn it. It was indeed one of the lessons he had to learn from Bill Sr., as he eventually took over the Norwalk Raceway Park his dad built into an incredible facility and summarily took it to the next level. 

"I've completed 46 years in motorsports entertainment, and I've had the good fortune of being mentored and being taught by a number of really bright minds," Bader said. "I feel that after so many years, my father, myself, my family, the dear friends that work with us here, we commit our lives to this. I think it's important at some point that you start to give back to an industry that has been very good to you."

This sense of obligation is why one of the most dynamic and charismatic drag strip operators is running for a spot on the SEMA Board of Directors. He wants to make a difference in an industry that has tested his emotions on both ends of the spectrum.

"Listen, this industry will rip your heart out," Bader said. "It ripped my heart out in 2020. It rips my heart out when it rains, but it's also an industry filled with really, really good people, very family-centric, God-fearing people. I feel as though I have an obligation to do my part to keep us moving forward."

Credit Steve Wolcott of ProMedia for putting the bug in Bader's ear. 

"I took a few days, and I thought about it, and I looked at where I was at in life," Bader explained. "I looked at my workload, I looked at where [wife] Jamie and I were at, and I thought the timing for this is right. And so I called him back. I think Steve reached out to me because of our relationship. I think Steve volunteered, 'Hey, I'll call Bill, just measure his receptivity." 

This pathway to a further leadership role is undoubtedly one off the beaten path for Bader, who grew up working at the drag strip and learning Bill Sr.'s hard work delivers results mentality. He was so focused in those younger years that he had no idea what SEMA was or its function.

SEMA's role and value became more apparent as he got more involved in the industry beyond the dragstrip. 

"I knew as I matured, I started here when I was 10," Bader said. "I graduated from college. I came here in the role I now serve in 1994. By that point, I had a familiarity with SEMA. I was more familiar with PRI, obviously, but no, I didn't when I was younger. But I certainly see the value and how essential SEMA is today."





Bader doesn't need a title, as he says, "I have enough of those."

What he needed was a platform to help the industry grow and prosper. 

"I think there are a couple of things I hope to accomplish," Bader said. "I see the importance of youth marketing initiatives. I see how generationally family members, I think we in a traditional sense look at Dad as being the ambassador that introduces the family to the automobile to motorsports. I think that's changed a little bit. I see lots of mothers and daughters. I see grandmothers and daughters and granddaughters. 

"I think youth initiatives are vitally important to the sustainability of the automotive world, whether it's automotive aftermarket, whether it's high performance, whether it's motorsports. We need to educate youth. We need to inspire youth. We need to motivate youth because cars are still pretty cool. I'm starting to see with the newest crop of young people, a renewed interest in the automobile, which is very encouraging, certainly to me. So, youth initiatives are essential.

"We have several lawmakers who don't understand the hobby, don't understand the importance or the magnitude or the net that we cast in terms of how many lives are touched, the economic impact. Our industry is under attack to a certain degree. So, I think we need to defend ourselves. You do that through intelligent quantitative measurements, and we need to prove our worth, and we need to fight that fight, and we need to fight it intelligently and passionately. 

"God knows I love a good fight, and there's no shortage of passion. So, I think the government piece is important. I think motorsports needs to be represented. The long-term health and sustainability of motorsports is paramount to the long-term health and sustainability of the automotive aftermarket. When you've got a family-owned mom-and-pop business manufacturing parts, they don't get TV time. They don't get notoriety or exposure or editorial. What generates that is when those parts come to the racetrack bolted into an automobile that goes 200, 300, or 340 miles an hour. That's sexy. That creates column inches, and that creates YouTube content, and that creates TV shows. I think an area that is vitally important is we have got to preserve motorsports. And by preserve, I don't mean to hold par. We need to grow motorsports."

Bader believes motorsports can hold its own in a society that puts stick-and-ball sports on a pedestal. 

"The collective economic impact of motorsports so far in a way exceeds stick and ball sports; it's mind-boggling," Bader said. "Those are the three areas that are of personal importance to me. But obviously, SEMA has ten initiatives, and each board of director is obviously going to have something that is near and dear to their heart. And between all of us, we cover all 10 of those priorities."

And at the highest priority, Bader says, and echoing his father's dreams, "I want to make a difference."

To vote for the SEMA Board of Directors, one must be a member of the organization. For more information, visit