Hilltop Speedway only exists today due to the dreams and determination of a man I called the "Crazy Bastard" from the first time I met him. Way back in 2005 the rumor mill was going wild about a former racer not only opening up a new dirt track in the area, but bringing one back from the dead after more than 30 years. I certainly wasn't alone in thinking this was probably just a wild dream that would fizzle out before completion. Curiosity got the best of me so I made the trip to see the place and meet this man that insisted he'd make this dream come true. When I saw the property I was even more skeptical than before. The faint outline of the track could barely be seen through the trees, weeds and debris. The infield was now an overgrown swamp and the area outside the track was now a junkyard filled with tons and tons of scrap vehicles from the past 3 decades. The only buildings to be found were falling apart and totally worthless. I remember thinking just how the hell was this place ever going to be a racetrack again, and who was crazy enough to think they could do it in just months instead of years. Then I met Jeff Norris. He wasn't some millionaire looking to throw cash at an idea hoping for the best. He was a simple, down to earth, hard working man that had racing running through his blood. Since I'm not exactly known to sugar coat things I started that first conversation by asking him why the hell he'd even think of taking on such a project just to own a racetrack. His reply will always stick with me. He simply said "Why not, nobody else was gonna do it and it's something I really want to do." His determination and realistic attitude was obvious the more we talked, and just what it took for me to jump aboard the "crazy train" along with him from that day forward. There were others from the racing community that did exactly the same as I did after meeting Jeff. You just couldn't help liking the man and getting excited about seeing this dream come true. We would all give our best towards getting this project done successfully, but one fact is simply undeniable. There would be no Hilltop Speedway today without Jeff Norris and his family.
From the first time I met Jeff we became good friends and we shared some great conversations even after he left the track. Some of those conversations were hilarious, and others were very serious. It was never made public but we even took a tour of another overgrown and closed down racetrack after some discussions with someone about securing finances to make yet another dream come true. Those plans ended up falling apart after the seller got too greedy and jacked up the selling price. What a damn shame. I would have loved another opportunity to work with Jeff once again. It simply wasn't meant to be I guess. One of our conversations after that really struck me in a very serious way. Jeff joked that maybe someday after he was gone somebody would hold a memorial race in his name. I remember telling him that if anybody in the whole racing world deserved such an honor, it would surely be a man that had accomplished what he had done. We honor great racers so honoring a guy responsible for the very existence of a great track should be an obvious move. He may have been joking but I knew then that this was something that needed to be done in the event of his passing. Sadly we lost Jeff in July of 2017. Hilltop honored the family on a special night that year and I hoped for a memorial race in 2018. Unfortunately that didn't happen. Talking with Buck recently I brought it up again since the schedule wasn't quite complete yet. Buck was eager to make this happen this year as long as the Norris family was onboard. When I contacted them it was clear that they were behind this idea. So I'm very happy to announce that on Friday, April 19th, Hilltop Speedway and Holmes Tire will bring you the Jeff Norris Memorial Race paying the Late Models $2,000 to win. DFC Racing Carburetors will also bump up their Late Model fast qualifier bonus to a cool $100 for this event. All other divisions except Mini-Wedges will also be in action on that night. I'd love to see this become an annual event so let's pack the house folks. Let's show some support for a great man that gave so much just to make his dreams and our dreams come true to bring us the best place for side by side racing in the area. It's the very least we can do and we'll get to see a kickass show while we're there. Jeff may be gone but he will never be forgotten. His dream will live on as we witness and remember the sounds and smells of race cars at a place that many never thought would ever experience them again. We salute ya Jeff and the entire Norris family!
I've created a slideshow as a tribute to Jeff Norris and posted it on Youtube. Huge THANKS goes to Ken Cunningham for the use of his pictures that he took years ago to capture a very special time for our racing community. Click the link provided to see the slideshow and I hope you enjoy it.