PRI – More Than Just A Trade Show

Several times a year, many of racing’s biggest names gather. Daytona,
Indianapolis and Sebring will see some of the biggest power brokers in
racing assemble to show off their cars, compete and make deals. However,
the king of all gatherings for the who’s-who of racing in the off-season
is the Performance Racing Industry Show (PRI) held in Orlando, Florida.

This is the third consecutive year that the show has been held at the
Orange County Convention Center in the warmth of central Florida.
Originally held 20 years ago in Columbus, OH, the show has continued to
grow. For many years it was held in Indianapolis until it outgrew the
facilities in downtown Indy.

This year over 40,000 registered attendees from 40 countries with
various connections in the auto racing industry attended to see products
and services of 1456 vendors in over 4621 booths. Whether you’re Matt
Kenseth looking for brake calipers for your son’s Legends car or a race
engineer looking for CAD software, PRI has it covered.

There are many layers to a race team. From a fan’s point of view, the
crew, driver and car show up with their trailer, tools, pit cart, etc.
ready to race. However, there is so much more. Even if the team buys the
car complete, many spare parts are needed, many supplies are needed day
to day to run the shop, safety equipment for the driver and crew members
are needed. The list goes on and on. At the PRI Show, all those needs
are laid out in front of you. Engine parts, suspension components, data
acquisition, machinery equipment, safety products, electronics, it is
all there. In fact, I challenge one of those reality-based racing
television shows to start a project entirely with products and goods
purchased from next year’s show. You can build an entire team from the
ground up. It doesn’t matter if it’s dirt, asphalt or road racing.

All attendees are required to be pre-qualified, they must prove they
own, manage or are employed by a racing-based business. The best way is
to pre-register. That way you avoid the lines to sign in upon arrival.
PRI is one of the top-50 conventions held in the United States and takes
place at the aforementioned Orange County Convention Center in the
‘tourist’ area of Orlando. The OCCC has over 1.3 million square feet of
convention space and is one of the ten biggest convention centers in the
United States.

This year, the festivities started on Wednesday December 5th when the
9th annual Industry Roundtable was hosted once again by FOX TV
Commentator Jeff Hammond. The roundtable featured prominent speakers
from motorsports who discussed important topics affecting the industry.
On Thursday it was 2007 NASCAR Busch Series Champion and NEXTEL driver
Carl Edwards who kicked off PRI’s opening day festivities. Edwards
addressed the gathering and shared colorful racing stories from the
world of NASCAR.

There are several racing events included on the PRI calendar.
Thursday night saw the exciting Snap-On All-Stars of Karting race, which
is held on a purpose-built course immediately outside the Convention
Center. Featuring many of today’s most outstanding racers, this year’s
event was won by Michael Valiante. Other drivers that participated
included, second place finisher and Karting champion, Gary Carlton.
Third place went to defending champion and Indy 500 winner, Buddy Rice.
Other participants included, IndyCar star Marco Andretti, NASCAR’s John
Andretti, Jamie McMurray and A.J. Allmendinger; Bryan Herta and
Christian Fittipaldi from ALMS; NHRA’s Steve Johnson, Lake Speed and Ron
Capps; Champ Car’s Katherine Legge and Nelson Phillippe; Moto-GP’s Eddie
Lawson; and sports car drivers Wayne Taylor, Memo Gidley and Joey Hand
along with Red Bull driver Scott Speed, among many others.

On Friday night, up and coming star, Dakoda Armstrong won the Midget
portion of the MOPAR-PRI Sprint & Midget Classic presented by DHL about
30 minutes away at the Orlando SpeedWorld in Bithlo, FL. The New Castle,
IN native won the 40-lap midget feature by almost four seconds over
second-place finisher Justin Melton. Former USAC Champion Bobby East
dominated the Sprint Car feature to win easily over Darren Hagen. With
four races and plenty of excitement, the night is a great way for the
short track fan to see the drivers run for the last time in 2007. East
was eligible to win the Crane Cams $50,000 bonus by starting last in the
Midget feature and try to win both events. However, East came up short,
as the track was tough to pass on.

Back at the PRI Show, Thursday and Friday seem to be the heaviest
attended while Saturday saw a bit of a drop. We had the opportunity to
chat with many who took time to explain the advantages of their
products, events, software, etc. Chris Paulsen of C&R Racing explained
the changes of their Gen 3 heat circulator, which is used in racing to
recirculate cool coolant back into the racecar, thus efficiently cooling
hot race engines, allowing more runs per session. Steve Potter from along with former driver Davina Galica took time to describe
their racing simulator, which drew an engrossed crowd. The’s
simulations are not video games. The sim uses groundbreaking proprietary
technology to replicate the track, it’s idiosyncrasies and
vehicle-handling dynamics. The result is an experience so authentic
that professional and amateur drivers can hone their skills prior to
on-track competition or testing. Norm Weaver marketing director of Old
School Racing, a stock car series started this year which will feature
drivers over 40 such as David Pearson, Jack Ingram and Dave Marcis.
Weaver discussed their plan to bring old school racing back to the fans.
Kevin Miller, the new president of the United States Auto Club was seen
shaking hands and discussing USAC’s direction in 2008. Many others took
time to speak with us and expand our understanding in what’s needed in
staying on top of the latest technology and strategies.

According to an English-based Motorsport Industry Association, the
estimated total value of the U.S. racing market at $13.5 billion. This
figure does not include OEM motorsport engineering investment. The PRI
Trade Show is ranked as the 45th largest trade show in the US by
Tradeshow Week magazine, which also named the Trade Show one of the 50
Fastest Growing Trade Shows in the country. PRI is the best place to
shop the latest new product innovations and have them in your inventory
for the next racing season.

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