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PRI News And Notes From Indianapolis

PRI 2016 [photo courtesy Performance Racing Industry 2016]

by Paul Gohde

The Performance Racing Industry trade show, held last week in Indianapolis, is known for annually bringing grass-roots racers together to get a jump on next season while attending seminars and shopping for the latest in parts, chassis and services offered by hundreds of motorsports suppliers.

But the get-together also offers opportunities for teams, tracks and sanctioning bodies to make announcements to the media. One of those press conferences was held by the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series to unveil the prototype of a new Pro Mazda series car that is scheduled to race in 2018.

“We are very excited to unveil the next generation Pro Mazda chassis,” said Dan Anderson, CEO of Anderson Promotions, whose company runs the Mazda series which is designed as a steppingstone for up-and-coming open-wheel drivers looking to someday compete in the Verizon Indy Car Series.

The PM-18 racer represents the completion of an entire overhaul of the three levels in the ladder series that replaced its Indy Lights car in 2015 and will bring the new Tatuus USF-17 to the grid next season; a car that will share its chassis with the PM-18.

“We know that the performance level is going to be a lot higher than the USF2000 and the aero is going to be more like the Indy Lights car which fits within the ladder quite well,” noted Project Manager Scott Elkins, Race Director for the Pro Mazda and USF 2000 series. “It allows drivers to transition to the next step much easier. We obviously will have more horsepower and more aero than the USF 2000 car, which was the entire intention.”

The PM-18, which will cost teams about $100,000 to put on the track, is scheduled for testing in March of 2017 and should be delivered to teams in July. It will debut in 2018.

Cooper Tires’ Director of Motorsports Marketing, Chris Pantani, closed the media announcement by declaring that, “Cooper Tires is proud to be associated with every step of the only dedicated driver development program that leads directly to a seat in an Indy car.” But therein lies an ongoing problem for some.

“A number of graduates (of our ladder series) are looking for seats. Indy Car is working on this to grow the field, but there are more drivers looking for rides than there are seats; it’s an issue,” explained Anderson after the presentation. “They are all talented kids and the (series’) veterans better be looking over their shoulders. I talked to Indy Car recently and they’re working hard to expand the number of teams for next year right now.”

Mazda series veterans Matt Brabham, Jack Harvey, Gabby Chaves and Zach Veach can only hope that Indy Car seats open up for them soon, before they find other places to race.

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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway would like to update, and someday expand, the Speedway’s Museum located in the infield of the 2.5-mile track. Opened in 1976, the current facility would like more space to show its large collection of race cars and to make those displays more of an interactive experience. But for now fundraising for the project has begun with a program called “Friends of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum”. As charter members, those who join will receive “special access to news, special events and the most important collection of racing memorabilia on the planet.” Membership is offered on five levels with various perks connected with each, ranging from free year-round Museum admission and bus tours at the $75 base level, to access to “The Basement” at the $1,000 “Founders” level. That lower area is where cars in the collection are stored and restored.

“The plan is to use the funds we raise to take care of our collection and expand the facility in the future. It’s been a slow process to bring it into the 21st century. We want to show special exhibits like the (Cars of Indiana) passenger cars display now showing. We want more diversity-more than just race cars-to show why the Speedway was built,” explained Museum Director Helen Bireley. “We’re celebrating our 60th anniversary- 40 years in the current building which opened in 1976. We are able to display around 80 vehicles at one time out of the 400 or so that we have. We’re hoping that our current fund-raising plan will allow us to expand in 3-5 years at our current site.”

For further information on joining the IMS “Friends of the Museum” program call (317) 492-6563 or email at museummembers@brickyard.com.

 

 

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Paul Gohde
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."