PRI 2015

The 2015 Performance Racing Industry Trade Show at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. [Chris Owens 2015-IMS Photo]

The 2015 Performance Racing Industry Trade Show at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. [Photo by: Chris Owens]

Indianapolis, IN – The Performance Racing Industry show held annually in Indianapolis, Indiana, boasts buyers from 50 states and more than 70 countries. It is a huge marketplace for thousands of racers to mix and mingle with manufacturers from 1,200 exhibiting companies that man over 3,000 booths in the immense downtown Indiana Convention Center complex.

Yes, it is a get-together for racers from many disciplines: short tracks, road-racing, NASCAR and drag strips. And with 45 conferences and seminars presented over the three- day schedule, it is an educational experience for all.

But lately PRI has also been used by teams and sponsors, especially IndyCar-related groups, to announce plans for the upcoming season.

Following are some of the biggest news to come out of the 2015 PRI show.

• On Wednesday night we spoke with former Indy car and F1 driver Derek Daly who is now a racing commentator on Indy’s WISH-TV. The subject was Daly’s son Conor and his hopes for a full-season drive for 2016 in IndyCar. At that time he said they were working hard toward a regular ride and that there was nothing new to report. But by Friday a press conference at PRI revealed that Conor would fill a full-time seat for Dale Coyne Honda in 2016 with Bryan Clauson as his teammate for the 100th 500, with both cars supported by long-time entrant Jonathan Byrd Racing and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “It’s an amazing thing to think that I actually get to prepare for races before the weekend,” said the soon-to-be 24-year-old who has only six IndyCar starts on his resume’. “In the past I’ve had to go in and make the best of every situation since I never knew what would happen next.” But now he will be participating in all 16 races; more than he’s ever done in the past.

• Chocolate shakes will be the beverage of the day again in 2016 as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda announced that Steak n’ Shake will return as sponsor for the entire season for Graham Rahal. The younger Rahal is still on his honeymoon with new wife Ashley Force, but dad Bobby had a satisfied smile on his face as he and S&S executive Jim Flaniken spoke to the media. “We’re glad to have Steak ‘n Shake back again for a full season,” said the 1986 500 winner. “We started turning our season around when they came onto the car during last season,” noted Bobby Rahal, “and we hope we can carry that into the entire 2016 schedule.” Graham Rahal finished fourth in the 2015 IndyCar chase, scoring wins at Fontana and Mid-Ohio along with 10 top-ten finishes after a slow first half of the season.”

• Another proud father stood by as his son was announced as driver of an IndyCar for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th 500. This time it was Brabham family youngster Matt, hoping to follow grandpa, F1 legend and Indy 500 innovator, the late Sir Jack, and father Geoff who ran ten times in the 500. The entry is a team new to IndyCar racing as Australian PIRTEK Team Murray brings 21-year-old Matt to Indianapolis for the first time after his success in Indy Lights and championships in Pro Mazda and F2000. PIRTEK, international fluid transfer systems specialists, will be using the 500 to launch the next phase of their business in the US market. The team will have a supply and technical alliance with KV Racing Technology. “I’m so grateful for everything my dad and my family have done to get me here. It’s great to have a team like team PIROTEK supporting us as well as our alliance with KV Racing,” said Matt, whose grandpa brought F1 rear-engine technology to the Speedway in 1961 with his under-powered Cooper-Climax. “We lost my grandpa just before the 500 (Matt was there running the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race) last year but I know he’s watching down from above. I’d love to run the full season, but right now our budget is built around the 500 and the Grand Prix.” And what about advice from Dad? “He’s been giving me advice since I started racing. He’s good at knowing when to step in and when to stay out. He’s got a lot of motorsports knowledge.” Brabham has recently tested DTM series cars and has raced Super Truck series vehicles but is also open to a K and N series ride in his spare time however he says that “IndyCar and the 500 are 100% his main focus at this point.”

PRI Notes:
• The sculpture of 2015 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya was unveiled Wednesday evening at the IMS Hall of Fame. It will be his second winner’s “face” on the Borg Warner trophy and after comparing the 2000 winner’s bas relief to the current likeness, Montoya quipped that, “I think I’ve aged gracefully.”

• Remodeling of certain areas of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is progressing nicely given the warm, spring-like weather that has allowed construction to continue far into December. New seating in the upper level on the main straightaway is the main focus right now along with a new roof over those seating areas. Dubbed “Project 100”, six elevator shafts have been constructed to provide much-needed handicap access to those second-level seats. Other areas of improvement include technology, gates and entryways, concessions and restroom upgrades. Pray for a warm, construction-friendly winter.

• Things seem to be smoothing out regarding the initial running of the Boston street race to be held in September, 2016. Negotiations with some of the residents who live along the urban course seem to have helped alleviate their initial anxiety toward the race weekend.

• Bobby Unser and Juan Pablo Montoya, who have five 500 wins between them, were interviewed by IndyCar, and due to their wins having come in different eras, they had interesting viewpoints on racing in general and especially on the state of open wheel racing today. It was an entertaining half-hour.

• The Indianapolis Motor Speedway displayed cars from six eras of competition at the PRI show in celebration of the upcoming 100th 500. Cars included Tom Sneva’s Texaco Star March, a 1938 Samson Spl. that ran from 1939-1946 and a 1967 Dean Van Lines Spl. driven by Mario Andretti.

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”