Jeff Norris will always be a HUGE part of any story that describes racing in this area. Without the man I've referred to as that "crazy bastard" since our first meeting, there would be no Hilltop Speedway in Millersburg, period. The place was closed and overgrown for more than 30 years before Jeff came along with a dream/crazy idea. Not one other person on earth wanted to take on the task of bringing this track back to action, and for good reason. Other area tracks that were already operating could have surely been purchased easier and without anywhere near the risk that Norris would take on with this dream of his. Anybody that took the time to get to know Jeff Norris quickly learned that he was a guy that didn't hesitate to act on his dreams, damn the risks. The first time I met him I obviously had to ask why the hell he would even think of taking on such a project just to own a race track. 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." Good enough for me, and I was more than eager to jump on the crazy train from that moment on. No matter what I may contribute to his efforts, it would be worth it, and pale in comparison to his own efforts and costs. Most people have absolutely no clue how much Jeff and his family sacrificed personally and financially to make his crazy dream come true in order to give racers and fans a great place to enjoy. He sure as hell wasn't in it for fame or glory. That really really really wasn't his style. He risk everything, and in the end lost everything, just for his love of the sport that we all love so much. He was a man with great passion for this sport, his family, and his dreams. A man that was "all in" on all of those things as his family and friends will always remember.
Jeff wasn't just a determined dreamer either. He was a great family man, musician (who knew?), and racer too. More importantly though, he was a great friend of mine even after leaving the ownership role at Hilltop. We got together at the track whenever we could and those times will always be fond memories. In recent years we even brewed up yet another crazy idea together that will sadly never be done now. His true friendship meant so much to me, but never more than the night of my Dads memorial service. We were just cleaning up after the service which was a Saturday night. Jeff called me from Hilltop and asked where the hell I was. When I explained the situation and he told me I needed to be at the track and he would save me a parking spot near the pit gate. I reminded him that I was an hour away and they should already be done qualifying by now. He told me that I knew damn well where my Dad would expect me to be and that he was "pretty sure they were running a bit behind tonight" with a smirk in his voice. That was all I needed to hear and pointed my Chrysler towards Millersburg at high speed. I may have straightened out parts of Rt.83 along the way ;-) I called him from Holmesville to let him know that I was close and he said I might just make it in time for the National Anthem and that he was standing in my parking spot. I of course thought that was a joke. My eyes got a bit misty as I pulled down into the parking lot to see him standing in the spot nearest the pit shack and I could hear the National Anthem coming from the track speakers. I honestly don't know what delayed the show that night, but in my mind that "crazy bastard" made my night absolutely perfect. That's just the kind of man that Jeff Norris was and will always be remembered as. When it comes to remembering Jeff, the most obvious way that I and many others think it should be done is an annual memorial race in his name at Hilltop Speedway. After all, there would be no Hilltop Speedway without Jeff Norris and his family. Let's make this happen folks!
Take a bow my friend, you've damn sure earned it!