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All-Time Great
By Dan Schechner on August 29, 2016

“How much space do I get?”

This was the first question that crossed my mind after deciding to devote my September 2016 Editor’s Note to our special guest for this year’s Grand Opening Breakfast, the traditional kickoff event of the annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show.

Just in the past few years, the Breakfast has featured industry luminaries like the magnificent Richard Petty, the incomparable John Force, the legendary Snake and Mongoose (Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen), and the hard-charging Brad Keselowski. And each year we’ve been fortunate to showcase MAVTV’s Dave Despain as host of our own live AM wakeup program, “Good Morning, PRI.” Served up alongside a hearty, catered meal and the camaraderie of 3000 or so fellow racing professionals, it’s a pretty perfect way to set the world’s premier motorsports industry showcase in motion.

Which brings us to 2016…and my aforementioned dilemma. For it is indeed our honor to present, as this year’s Grand Opening Breakfast guest speaker, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time IndyCar/CART series champion Rick Mears.

Born in Wichita, Kansas, and raised in Bakersfield, California, Mears cut his teeth racing motorcycles, buggies and pickup trucks in the surrounding desert. By his mid-20s, Mears had made the switch to open-wheel cars, and in 1976 he won the Formula Vee and Super Vee SCCA nationals; that same year he was named USAC Rookie of the Year.

Soon after he would partner with race safety pioneer and then-team owner Bill Simpson to pilot his first Indy car. Simpson led Mears to Penske, which paved the way for a historic run of Indy car success that included 26 wins, 68 podium finishes and 38 poles, including a record six in the Indy 500.

Mears was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1997, and to this day remains a trusted advisor and consultant for Team Penske. Career accomplishments aside, he’s known throughout the sport as one of racing’s truly good guys. Fellow icon Al Unser called him “probably one of the best teammates I ever had.… He didn’t pull any shenanigans, he told you the truth.”

A real buzz spread throughout PRI headquarters when word came down that Rick Mears was appearing at this year’s Grand Opening Breakfast. Many here have followed his career for decades. And all regard him among racing’s elite.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see Mears and Despain live on stage in the Indiana Convention Center’s Sagamore Ballroom—exclusively and free of charge for PRI Show attendees and exhibitors. Doors open at 7 a.m., and the program starts at 8 a.m. sharp. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early. We’ll see you there!

About the Author
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Dan Schechner is the Editor of Performance Racing Industry Magazine.
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