The Race & Performance Expo, now in its fifth annual edition at the expansive Pheasant Run Resort in the Chicago suburb of St. Charles, Ill. represents the premiere motorsports and automotive aftermarket trade show in the upper Midwest, playing host to a number of the biggest players in the industry to regional racing facilities and manufacturers.
This year, the Race & Performance Expo expanded beyond the MegaCenter hall at Pheasant Run to incorporate an all-new Circle Track Expo, located across the street at the DuPage Expo Center. This facility would also house the popular Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge, featuring 21 high school automotive teams from as far away as Georgia, along with manufacturers and race tracks encompassing every form of left-turn racing, from dirt, to asphalt, to water.
SEMA Town Hall Meeting
Prior to the opening of the Race & Performance Expo on Saturday morning, the staff at SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) hosted the first of their yearly Town Hall Meetings in the New Orleans Ballroom at Pheasant Run.
The SEMA Town Hall Meeting opened with an honorary guest and introductory speaker, Illinois 14th District Congressman Rep. Randy Hultgren, who shared with the assembled masses of exhibitors and manufacturers his drive to assist small businesses – like those in the automotive market – in the struggling marketplace and economy. Hultgren, strong supporter of the performance aftermarket industry and a member of the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, spoke and fielded questions from the crowd before turning the program over to the SEMA representatives.
SEMA Board Members Kyle Fickler (Weld Racing), Jeep Worthan (Auto Meter), Chris Thomson (Airaid), and Scooter Brothers (COMP Performance Group) fielded questions from attendees on a range of topics, from business sales taxes and emissions approval practices to college scholarships for youth and the struggling state of high school automotive programs.
A pair of the weekend’s featured celebrities, Vic and Christi Edelbrock, also answered questions from the crowd during the lengthy Q&A session. This was, of course, also a networking event, with plenty of time spared both before and after the main speakers to share a beverage and talk business with other industry professionals.
These meetings are meant not only to openly discuss industry issues with current and potential SEMA members, but to bring about new concerns and suggestions from members for future growth of the automotive performance hobby. Said Brothers to the attendees: “this isn’t our meeting, this is your meeting. We want to hear thoughts and concerns.”
Race & Performance Expo
The sixth annual Expo got underway bright and early on Saturday morning with the ceremonial ribbon cutting at the entry doors to the MegaCenter hallway, followed by the admission of thousands of eager attendees who poured in the doors and flooded the halls of exhibitors.
The floor of the MegaCenter was a virtual whos-who of major manufacturers from all across the nation, who combined with more regional vendors and race track personnel, delivered an all encompassing collection of exhibitors to rival any other trade show in the industry.
The Race & Performance Expo is one of the few events of its kind where the general public is allowed to attend, and Event organizer Jim Bingham and his staff at Winners Circle Speed and Custom Inc. have gone out of their way to make this a friendly event to attend, with free parking, free seminars, highly affordable food and drinks, and a free shuttle to carry attendees back and forth between the MegaCenter and DuPage Expo Center.
While a larger venue would suit this already overflowing Expo, Bingham, who genuinely values his customers, indicated to us that continuing to provide free parking to his attendees is high on his list.
On the second floor of the MegaCenter overlooking the exhibitor hall, a number of informative seminars were hosted throughout the weekend by industry professionals, including Advanced Fuel System Dynamics hosted by Aeromotive’s Jared Cox, Drag Race Suspension with QA1′s David Goldie, Atomic EFI with MSD’s Ed Monte, Selecting The Right Carburetor with Quick Fuels’ Phil Vickous, and many more.
“We hosted our seminar on New Developments in Valvetrain and EFI, and the room was absolutely packed,” said FAST’s Kevin Winstead, who assisted COMP Cams’ Tim Cole in instructing the Saturday course.
Circle Track Expo
Adding to the whole experience of the Race & Performance Expo, organizers this year brought in shuttle buses to transport attendees back and forth from the Circle Track Expo across the street, which was certainly a welcome addition with the frigid winter temperatures in the Chicagoland area.
Like the main hall of the Expo across the street, the DuPage building was packed to capacity from the get-go, featuring a large number of manufacturers from the round-round industry, including chassis builders, engine builders, wheel and suspension manufacturers, and a good number of race tracks for everything from dirt sprint cars to pavement stock cars, karting, and even Grand Prix boats.
Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge
Twenty one high school from around the Chicago region and from as far away as Peach County Georgia made the trek to the Race & Performance Expo to complete for a chance to travel to Las Vegas in November for the Hot Rodders national title, and there was certainly anticipation in the air each and every time the frenzied competition got underway.
Located in the DuPage Center, the Hot Rodders competition was by far the hottest attraction at the Expo, with fans, family members, and fellow school students lined up several people deep all the way around the competition.
Teams competed four a time, with three rounds taking place on Saturday and three more on Sunday. The team with the quickest time would be declared the winner and advance to the finals in Las Vegas, and that honor went to the team from Belvidere North High School in Belvidere, Ill., competing as team Hedman Headers, with a time of 29 minutes, 33 seconds.
In the Hot Rodders competition, teams were judged not only on their overall time to tear the engine down and reassemble it, but on their accuracy and quality. Judges place a keen eye on every step of the process, and also inspect the engines after the rebuild to determine any missed or inaccurate steps, thereby determining the final time.
Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge Results:
- Belvidere North High School ( Team Hedman) 29:33:00
- Fremd High School Team #1 Team ( Team Edelbrock) 31:26:00
- Joliet Township High School (Team MSD) 31:57:00
- Thomas County Central High School ( Team Egge Machine) 38:52:00
- Fremd High School Team #2 ( Team Howard’s Cam) 39:05:00
- Peach County High School ( Team Motive Gear) 42:56:00
- Tri County Team #1 ( Team PRW) 50:06:00
- Lockport High School Team #2 ( Team Flowmaster) 50:35:00
- Tri County Team #2 (Team Aeromotive) 56:45:00
- Glenbrook North Team #1 (Team Royal Purple) 57:12:00
- Lyons Township High School (Team Dart Products) 57:25:00
- Lockport High School Team #1 ( Team Moroso) 58:48:00
- Glenbrook North Team #2 (Team Dee Zee) 61:06:00
- South Elgin High School Team #1 ( Team Parts Pro) 63:46:00
- Tech Center of Dupage ( Team Eng Suspension) 64:45:00
- Larkin High School Team #1 (Team Comp Cams) 76:43:00
- South Elgin High School Team #2 ( Team ARP) 79:59:00
- Larkin High School Team #2 (Team Airaid) 91:02:00
- Glenbard North High School Team #2 (Team Holley) 96:00:00
- Glenbrook North Team #3 (Team Fel-Pro) 97:28:00
- Grundy County (Team Painless Performance) 123:47:00
Not many high performance trade shows out there offer the public access that the race & Performance Expo and Circle Track Expo offer, nor do they provide the same value to attendees. If you’re in the Midwest and interested in checking out new products and meeting face-to-face with industry professionals, this is where you want to be next February. Bingham and his staff have already indicated to us that another expansion is scheduled to take place next February for the 7th edition, but while some parts of the show grow, one thing will remain the same: a commitment to providing an affordable venue for the racer to chat with the experts and do a little bench racing.