It’s like Christmas for anyone in the racing industry, and thankfully it happens just a few weeks prior to Christmas. Indianapolis, the racing capital of the world, hosts the Performance Racing Industry conference. It’s a gathering of individuals involved in any and all parts of racing industry. The trade show is the ultimate in racing industry networking, it uses all of the large floor spaces in the Indianapolis Convention Center for product displays and another good portion of the convention center for seminars. It also uses the floor space of Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s over 750,000 gross square feet of trade space (http://www.performanceracing.com/tradeshow/about_us/company_profile.html last accessed December 14, 2019). This was my second year at the trade show, and it’s always overwhelming and surprising when you step floor into the convention floor. Working just across the from the convention center, I have a good mental map of the place…unless it’s jam packed of booths. Then I am completely lost.
The conference is always kicked off with a great breakfast. This year, aside from a fun panel of the races from Don Schumacher Racing, the discussion was on a new update and focus of PRI. The mission is to “build, promote and protect the racing community”. I could continue to list out all of the reasons, but I didn’t take pictures nearly every five minutes to just write thousands of words!
Not one to sit in the media center and listen to press conferences all day – most of my time was spent on the convention floors. There’s three main groups: merchandise, automobiles (and motorcycles), and exhibits. If you need a tool or a car part for anything in motorsports – you will find it on the convention floor. If you like chrome, you are in luck. Everything is chrome and it’s everywhere. There are so many types of welding and machines. I had no clue what nearly any of them did, but it is really fun to sit and watch. One vendor demonstrated their part cleaning machine by cleaning Abby’s rings using water, sound waves, and dish soap. It’s a great way to demonstrate how it works.
Also dear drivers, if you need anything – ANYTHING – you can also get it here. Helmets. Firesuits. Shoes. Gloves. Seats.
Every fifteen feet you were tripping over some motor-vehicle. Some had the engines view able and some had the whole vehicle turned over so you could see the undercarriage. It’s like Christmas morning for anyone who loves cars.
The third part of the convention space are the exhibits on loan. This year there were two main exhibits. IMS provided some pieces from their “Pieces from the Vault” exhibit currently featured at the museum. There was also selected pieces from the Mario Andretti Exhibit they had last year.
Aside from way too many booths to visit. This is the ultimate in networking. For those of us in INDYCAR, it’s been just long enough since our season ended that you’ve not seen everyone in a bit. Other series aren’t as lucky, some of them have just ended and you are still sick of everyone else. I had a few conversations with INDYCAR drivers and former drivers turned ladder series owners (shout-out Jay Howard, everyone put on some DMX haha). Aside from active drivers in your series, there are a few organizations I always look forward to catching up with. The International Women’s Motorsport Association always has a booth on the floor and it’s a good hour- to two-hours talking with them about what they’re hoping to do in the upcoming season and if there’s anyway we can help. We’re hoping to help them through our own contacts this upcoming season. While at the booth I met an up and coming karter from Michigan. She’s a ten-year-old driver who is ready to advance into the next level. I plan on writing more about this wonderful young woman we met and her father who is ready to make sure his daughter is advancing as she should be.
There’s also a lot of educational components to the conference, and in the next week I’ll be putting out a blog on one of the most interesting seminars I’ve attended. The Bonneville Flats and how the sale in the speedway has eroded and how they’re planning on fixing it. It was a lot to process.
The final part of PRI week is the Racers Know Dave Dusick Event. It’s a yearly event where the I Know Dave Dusick Foundation raises money for Riley Kids’. We interviewed Dave a few weeks ago to discuss the event and why it’s so important to him (it’s a fun fun listen – you can catch it here). This year – I got to be a celebrity bartender. Still feels weird to read that. In my day job I work for the State, and yet here I am a celebrity bartender. Abby and I set a goal for $3000, and we walked into the event with $1,265 all ready raised. Celebrity Bartender is a misnomer, since under specific liquor laws I can’t exactly make drinks. That’s fine. Instead it was getting tips from the crowd…find a better thing for Abby and I to do. You can’t. We raised an unbelievable amount: $2,250. The event as a whole raised $4,460ish that night in cash alone not counting the silent auction and pre-evening monies. Also it’s just a fun party!