By TJ Buffenbarger
My feet have almost recovered from walking the Indiana Convention Center and the RCA Dome during the 1998 Performance Racing Industry Trade Show. Being a PRI rookie, I went with the mindset of just learning the ropes and enjoying the 1998 All Star Circuit of Champions banquet. Once I got rolling on the floor though, I lost the rookie stripes and decided to take in the wonderful sights and sounds of this great trade show.
For those that have never attended this event, it’s a gigantic playground of performance parts and other racing oriented companies. From tee-shirts, bolt kits, machinery, and race cars, PRI has it all. The show is also where many of the deals for upcoming season are made. So let’s just get into my notes from PRI ’98.
Caught my eye….
The Gambler Chassis booth was a real eye catcher with the gold painted 20th anniversary Gambler Chassis that will be the 1999 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame raffle car. It was also a pleasure to sit down for a few minutes and touch base with Gambler’s Tommy Sanders for a little bench racing. I didn’t have credentials that allowed me to have my digital at PRI, but we’re sure you’ll see the photo of the car somewhere along the road this season.
Duralite Wheels always has our attention because of their great support of the NAMARS/Auto Value Midget Series. Robert from Duralite showed us their new front wheel with a new mounting system that uses three pins to mount the wheel. The theory behind it was most teams only use three pins to mount their wheels, so they redesigned the inside of the wheel and shaved off about one pound of weight. The wheel will be tested on the rear of some stock cars as well.
Technique Inc. was a pleasant surprise because I never knew what USAC Midget driver Ronnie Johncox did for a day job. Technique does Rapid Prototype Stampings and Laser Cutting Services. Technique had some nice software on hand to demonstrate their product, and the photos of Ronnie’s car were top notch. Check them out on the web at http://www.techniq.com.
The most comfortable booth award for us goes to the people from Mudd-Off featuring a very nice couch with a very nice end table. Real Wheels brought over a tire and rim that supported a clear tabletop. I had the opportunity to sit down and learn more about the product that keeps sprint car racing a little cleaner.
Dave Freuer from the National Championship Racing Association took a lot of time with me to help me understand his organization better. The NCRA seems to have a great attitude towards rules and booking their shows. A major reason for this is because many of the NCRA head brass are promoters that book the races! There was also some talk about bringing the NCRA further east into Ohio and Michigan for a swing. I know fans would love to see an NCRA/All Star shootout weekend this side of Knoxville sometime in June since the NCRA is in the general area this time of year.
The News in Short:
Before the All Star banquet happy hour started I had a chance to speak with Frankie Kerr’s crew. The Shoff motorsports team is going back to the J&J Chassis Company with power coming from local builder Kistler engines. Kerr has been down at Kistler’s during the week working on cams for the new engines. I was very impressed with the way the Kistler performed at the end of last season with Butch Schroeder’s team, so look out for Kerr during the 1999 season.
Tim Hughes is working on a sponsor related to his Wheel & Axle business for his sprint car team. This is not a done deal, so we hope this company comes on board. Hughes’ team is first class and would represent the company very well. The most encouraging thing about this was the potential sponsor actually approached Hughes about sponsoring the team.
Sarah Fisher is going midget racing during the 1999 season (This has been reported off and on all season). I saw Sarah with her family during the last race at the Winchester Speedway, and she was a very interested onlooker. Sarah was going Indy Lights racing for 1999, but some problems with the money to fund the team killed that plan. Fisher also told us some of the chassis/engine combinations they are thinking about running, but will not attempt to build they’re own midget chassis.
Paul McMahon in the Warren Johnson’s U2 car. This is going to be an interesting combination on the All Star tour for the 1999 season. Also Brett Mann is going to drive an identical U2 pavement sprint car at Auto Value Super Sprint events. The one ride Mann had in a Johnson owned Domelt covered for pavement, Brett set a new track record and was moving up from his 12th starting position in the feature when a steering box became sluggish in the car.
Dean Jacobs will be All Star racing again during 1999 with the new Eagle Chassis he picked up at the banquet with Andy Potter turning the wrenches.
Judy Bates picked up a new Chassis at the banquet, and plans on trying the All Star Circuit again during the 1999 season. Judy feels her team will be more prepared for the rigors of the road next season.
Scott Barman from racing world happened to run into Randy Furr at the show. The Furr team, with driver Brad Furr, plan on starting the season with the All Star Circuit of Champions and running the Thunder Through the Plains tour.
Running into Cathy Barrows from the Mox Motorsports team, I was hoping to meet Rob Hart at that time, but he was busy resigning from Two Winners Racing (A little more important than meeting me.), so I had a chance to say hi to him at the All Star Banquet. I’m glad I did have the chance because Rob is a nice guy.
So as of the time I left the show, the DOCC Motorsports, Ashworth Motorsports, Sonner #47, and the second Hollbrook car were still unclear. Some of the top “free agents” seem include Greg Hodnett, Johnny Herrera and Danny Smith. There is a good chance that some of these cars and drivers could end up together.
Non Wing World Series
Ron Shuman was walking the PRI show handing out information for the Non-Wing World Championship Tour. The dates as of now are June 15th at a track to be named later (We’re hearing it might be Kokomo). Then June 17th, 18th, and 19th the SCRA heads to the Terre Haute Action Track. The Midwest dates end with Hales Corner on June 22nd, Knoxville Raceway June 23rd, and Lincoln Speedway on June 24th. The last two races of the series are on SCRA turf for $10,000 to win at both events. Manzanita Speedway on November 5-6, and Perris Auto Speedway November 12-13th are the places and dates.
The World Championship will pay $10,000 to win for the points champion and will pay five spots back in the year-end point standings. The rookie of the year award will also pay $1,000. This could pay back more depending on what kind of other sponsorship Mr. and Mrs. Shuman can come up with.
Knoxville Raceway is getting pumped up for the SCRA events with handouts about the event during the show. “The Tradition”, is the billing name for the event that pays $4,000 to win and $300 to start. Also, “The Hall of Fame Challenge” will pay $1,000 to the top SCRA and Non-SCRA driver in the main event.
A stop at the ASCS Sprint Car booth inquiring about the future of the Ohio 360 Sprint Cars turned out to be very interesting. A meeting on Saturday was going to make things a little clearer on who will be in control. Also William’s Grove has apparently turned down the opportunity to host the 1999 Tournament of Champions, and the event appears to be coming back to Ohio.
The Other Show….
Saturday I stopped by the Expo Center at the Indiana State Fairgrounds to check out what was going on there. With the PRI credential it was only $2.00 to get in, but the $7.00 general admission price seemed a little bit steep. For a fan looking for tee-shirts, autographs die cast sprint cars, and very up close looks at races cars, this was the show for you. All the cars in the show were not roped off, so people could get very up close and personal looks at all the equipment.
The show did give me a chance to sit down with Dave Darland for a moment. Dave will be driving the Hoffman Sprint Car on the dirt and pavement next year. This was kind of old news because most of us figured out what was up when Dave wasn’t at the Gas City I-69 Speedway banquet and it was said he was in Ohio.
Now for the real story, it was what Dave and I were sitting on to talk! I can guarantee I will “go out on a rim” with a Wheel Tough Barstool. I first saw this product at the Hannig Construction pit at Kokomo Speedway. Wheel Tough makes Bar Stools, Sport Chairs, Gas Grills, Charcoal Grills, Tables, and a Deep Fryer out of racing wheels! This is one of the coolest products I have seen in a long time. Check them out on the web at http://www.wheeltough.com.
A close second for best product at the Expo went to Jeff Hampton’s midget team. Hampton picked up a new sponsor that has a division that makes custom bottles for water similar to what you would buy at the grocery store. Hague Quality Water Products put Jeff’s midget on the label. Hague also does work for fund raisers, race teams, race tracks, and much more.
Will “The Thrill” Newlin’s new winged sprint car on display at the Expo. Newlin is planning on doing more winged sprint car racing with the All Stars, IRA, and locally for the 1999 season. The team also seemed very interested in the payoff at the New 96 Speedway.
It’s fun as well….
As much as I tried, I couldn’t help but have a lot of fun at the 1998 PRI show. For myself, I learned a lot more about our sport from the parts and deal end of things. It was a chance to see people I had not seen since the last races at Eldora and Winchester this season. No doubt that I’m planning on going back for the 1999 show.