Performance Racing Industry Show Highlights Busy Week In Florida

Orlando, FL (December 12, 2009) – It may be the offseason for auto racing, however Florida became very busy with the Grand-Am test at the interior road course at Daytona, the PRI Show and the all-star PRI/CKI go-kart event.

The activities kicked off Tuesday December 8th with the first test for the Grand-Am teams to figure out the new tire and for the teams that have make other changes like the Chip Ganassi team and the defending champions, the Bob Stallings/GAINSCO car who both switched power plants in the off-season.

After several years of skipping this test, Ganassi was testing their new BMW engine. “Typically, we don’t do this test. But there’s been a lot of work getting the new power plant fitted in the car, and we’re getting a jump on things. When you make changes, you want to be ready. When you come here in January, you don’t get a lot of time because you’re running all of your drivers through the cars, getting them acclimated, and then it’s on to the race. We haven’t had any hiccups yet – everything has gone real smooth – but we’ve got a lot to learn. The center of gravity and other things are different from what we’re used to, so we’re out of our window right now. But we’ll get there and we’ll be good for the race,” Pruett remarked during the test sessions.

Other news coming out of the test was that Jimmie Johnson will return to the GAINSCO car for the Rolex Daytona 24. Also the Brumos Porsche No. 59 will be driven by Hurley Haywood in his last trip to the Daytona 24. However, Haywood told me that last year too. But, I know after talking to him and he was feeling very confident after his win at Homestead, I wish him the best. The test went well for the Brumos team, both David Donohue and Darren Law really liked the tire and thought it was a big improvement from last year. A lot of the drivers felt the same way and everyone is looking forward to get the season started.

I chatted with team owner Michael Shank for a little while and he is really looking forward to the new season. He said last year was pretty tough and they did not have any luck, he’s looking for that to change. He was happy with the test, I also asked him about rumor that was floating around about Rubens Barrichello coming to drive in the 24 and he said he would like to have him, but his F1 test is too close to the race.

The next test is January 8-10 and the race is set for January 30-31.

The Performance Racing Industry Trade Show started the day after the Grand-Am test in Orlando. I was able make my way over there and catch up with a few of my karting buddies. Some of the drivers in Florida for the Grand-Am test made their way to the Orange County Convention Center to take in the activities at the fourth annual Performance Racing Industry/Championship Karting International (PRI/CKI) All-Stars Karting Classic. Eighteen of some of the best drivers from all racing backgrounds raced on the specially constructed track for the All-Stars Division finale with former Champ Car driver Jan Heylen taking the overall win. Heylen drove a CRG Kart for the SSC East-CRG team. Red Bull NASCAR driver Scott Speed came home second. Speed was running a Tony Kart. F1 driver Vitantonio Luizzi also in a CRG Kart finished third in the go-kart race on Thursday night. It was cool seeing karting bigwigs Buddy Rice and A.J. Allmendinger in attendance. Also competing were IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Justin Wilson, Tomas Scheckter, Ed Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alex Tagliani, defending champ Jay Howard and Townsend Bell; NASCAR’s Colin Braun and Jamie McMurray, AMA star Kevin Windham; Monster Jam driver Joe Sylvester; and NHRA’s Matt Smith. A first time visitor for the go kart race this year was the aforementioned Liuzzi who drives for the vastly improved Force India F1 team. Liuzzi was teammates with Speed at Red Bull and one could see there was going to be some bragging rights on the line.

At the PRI Show, many are still nervous going into 2010 racing season. The industry is in a tough state of affairs, but at this year’s show, attendence seemed a little light from last year. But after talking to some the vendors some do feel good about their prospects for 2010. I spoke to Russell Elrod from Stand 21, he said that the quality of people this year was up from last year and believes from the business they did in ’09, that 2010 will be very good. However, the general feeling that I got from everyone I spoke with was they were going to watch their budgets very closely.

Other news coming out of the show, officials from the USF2000 National Championship announced that Elite Engines of West Bend, WI will be the official engine preparer of the Mazda MZR power plant that is destined to become the spec engine for the series’ top division, the Championship class. Elite engines are owned by Wisconsin native, Steve Knapp who finished third in the 1998 Indy 500.

Boasting over 1 million square feet of floor space, the PRI Show is listed as the 48th largest trade show event in the world. Over 1,200 exhibitors shared 3,500 booths while 40,000 buyers, representing 60 countries, browsed the aisles. The event is a must for anybody involved in the world of motorsports.

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