PRI 2015: In Reverse

PRI 2015 was a huge success. (PerformanceRacing.com Photo)

PRI 2015 was a huge success. (PerformanceRacing.com Photo)

It left just as quickly as it came.

Last week the 2015 rendition of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show made its yearly invasion of downtown Indianapolis. More than 50,000 attendees from all corners of the globe crammed into the massive confines of the Indiana Convention Center. Almost every crook and cranny of the sprawling facility was filled with a vendor booth or at the very least some type of display.

PRI 2015 was truly three days of everything motorsports situated right in the middle of “gasoline alley.”

Once again, this show was something spectacular. I mean what’s not to love for any gearhead. I don’t care if you are a straight-liner or a circle-tracker, this event had something for you. Multiple aspects from the show floor caught my eyes and ears. As a result I thought it only appropriate to put in print my most notable takeaways from the extravaganza.

In no particular order, here we go with five thoughts from the mega event that was PRI 2015.

1. A record number of more than 50,000 racing enthusiasts took part in PRI 2015. I had a pretty good idea that this was going to be a record year early Thursday morning, when you could barely move down some of the aisles. I wasn’t the only attendee caught by surprise.

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Racing veteran, Dale McDowell. (Heath Lawson Photo)

“Typically you can plan on coming to PRI on Thursday and getting a lot done because it’s not just terribly crowded,” said Dirt Late Model veteran, Dale McDowell on Thursday afternoon. “This year is clearly different. I cannot believe how packed this place is.” He concluded by noting, “Hopefully this just means things are looking up across the motorsports landscape for the future.”

I fully concurred with McDowell’s observations. I even joked with DirtOnDirt.com’s CEO, Michael Rigsby that perhaps the Thursday of PRI is the “Black Friday” for the racing world. The better this day is supported, the better our outlook for success might be for the following year’s racing calendar. Only time will tell.

2. It was a true honor to have the opportunity to interview Antron Brown for the first time. The New Jersey native is the 2015 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Top Fuel Dragster champ. While he makes his living going in straight lines, he quickly indicated to me his love for dirt track racing.

“Several years back I raced in a charity Dirt Modified event, and it was a blast,” said the competitor, who was also the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel champion. “Larry (Shaw) put me in one of his cars and it took a few laps to figure it out, but I got good pretty quick and ended up finishing 2nd to Doug Kalitta.”

With a smile he wrapped up the conversation by saying, “I was actually talking to Larry Shaw a little while ago here at the show, and he said he would be more than happy to put me in a car again. I fully plan to take advantage of that offer.”

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My lucky chance to interview the legendary, Larry Shaw.

3. While Antron Brown looked to the past, when he drove a Larry Shaw-prepared, race car, Shaw was on hand at PRI 2015 to look at the past, present, and future. The undeniably-likeable, chassis builder from Batesville, Arkansas had a very special car on display at the COMP Cams booth.

“This car is the 4,999 chassis that I built since I started in the business in October 1979,” proudly stated the proprietor of Larry Shaw Race Cars. “The 5,000th race car has already been built and purchased by Mark Martin.”

The former NASCAR racer, Martin, and his father, Julian are the ones that first got Shaw involved in racing and building cars almost five decades ago.

“I’ve loved every minute of doing this so far, and hopefully I get to build another 5,000,” Shaw said with his signature grin. “When I was in elementary school I asked my teacher the reason she became a teacher. I’ll never forget her answer. She looked at me and said ‘I love teaching and always have Larry, and my best advice is to not do something if you don’t love it.’

Man, oh man was she ever right.”

4. Rules? Are we talking about rules?

After a dominant year in 2015 by Jonathan Davenport and his cohort, Kevin Rumley, most everyone at PRI 2015 in the Dirt Late Model ranks wanted to talk about speculated rule changes for 2016. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) scheduled a closed-door meeting with its regular teams on Friday evening. The focal point of the meeting was a roundtable discussion, where drivers and teams could voice their thoughts and concerns on rule changes that were necessary to control costs.

In fact, not only are the tour’s regulars being involved in the decision making process, but independent drivers are also being contacted about their thoughts via online surveys. In an extended interview with DirtOnDirt.com, LOLMDS assistant series director, Rick Schwallie made the following statement.

“Everyone in the (meeting) room was an important factor to our business, but that’s not our complete business. It is important that all those other guys that race with us across the country have a voice — I mean, they’re just as much our customers as anybody at the meeting. We want to research and hear out other people involved in our sport to get the grand scheme of things because at the end of the day we just want to make the right decision … and we left that rules meeting not knowing what that decision is yet.”

The LOLMDS staff plans to evaluate the entire scope of the feedback received from drivers and teams before making a concrete decision. They also indicated that they’ve been communicating with officials from the World of Outlaws Late Model Series (WoOLMS) and the UMP DIRTcar Series to ensure uniform rules across the prominent, sanctioning bodies in any changes.

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Jonathan Davenport enjoyed a phenomenal year with K&L Rumley Motorsports. Davenport (center) is pictured here with Leroy Rumley (left) and Kevin Rumley (right) after winning the World 100. (Brendon Bauman Photo)

Team co-owner, Kevin Rumley, who has an engineering background, introduced new technology in 2015 that was utilized on Davenport’s championship-winning car. Some said that these innovations gave Davenport unfair advantages on the track and would only lead to cost escalations in the sport. However, Rumley took a different stance in a post on his Facebook page.

“I feel like I’m being persecuted for having an education. The left rear device was using common sense to solve an obvious problem, no real engineering used at all. When a rule is blindly created that’s when it gets expensive. It’s going to take $36k to do the same thing within the proposed rules. That’s about how much it would take to design a mono-leaf to function as a current 4-link. See where I’m going with this?”

Any rules changes for 2016 are expected to be released in the next few weeks.

5. Countless series and tracks take advantage of PRI each year to release schedules and to make major announcements. While the past few years have seen our sport getting trigger happy with most releases coming out in the weeks leading up to PRI, there was one exception that really caught my attention this year.

Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway made it public that the 2016 Four Crown Nationals would be posting a very special bonus. Any driver, who can sweep the USAC Sprint Car, USAC Silver Crown, USAC Midget, and All Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) finale during the 35th running of the event will be rewarded with a handsome $100,000 bonus. If a driver can win any three of the finales, then he or she will receive a $25,000 bonus.

“One of our goals with returning the Four Crown to four divisions on Saturday was to give the USAC and All Star drivers an Eldora-like prize to go after,” said Roger Slack, general manager of Eldora Speedway. “As race fans, I believe we’re enjoying this latest era of drivers who are proving to be both extremely versatile and competitive in midgets, champ cars and with or without a wing on a sprint car. With four wins and the $100,000 bonus we’re putting up, one of these drivers could elevate to superstar status on that Saturday, September 24.”

Social media has been abuzz since the announcement as fans have been taking guesses at what driver could claim the lucrative payday.

This concludes my brief recap from PRI 2015. It would be impossible to share everything that I learned and saw during the show, but this piece hopefully provided you with some fun insights. I encourage any and all racing enthusiasts to add PRI 2016 to your schedule. You won’t regret the trip.

On a personal note I want to thank each and every person, who stopped by the Xceleration Media/OneDirt booth. I also want to thank everyone, who gaveOD front-and-back me well wishes on my new role as editorial director of OneDirt. There are some very exciting things happening here, and without everyone’s awesome support there is no way that it would be possible.

Also it’s worth noting that with PRI in the rearview mirror that one thing is certain. Christmas is just a few days away. If you are still looking for a stocking-stuffer for that hard-to-buy-for person in your life, then by all means please get them a OneDirt subscription, a t-shirt, a license plate, and some other cool swag. You can find more ordering info at http://www.powerperformancenews.com/shop/ .

About the author

Ben Shelton

Ben got his start at historic Riverside International Speedway. His accomplished motorsports media career includes journalist, race announcer, and on-air personality.
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