While the 2016 Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show opens for business December 8, the excitement has already begun. Amidst exhibitor setup were several conferences, seminars and special events in which participants gathered, networked, learned and prepared for three days of dedicated racing business at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.
Indeed, throughout the Convention Center enthusiasm headed into Day One of the 29th annual PRI Show ran high Wednesday.
“You have to create programming that reaches a broader audience,” said M1 Concourse CEO Brad Oleshansky, who offered up several tips and insights during a marketing session at the fifth annual Race Track Business Conference (RTBC), which recorded its largest-ever attendance and once again provided attendees an opportunity to hear from race industry leaders such as Chip Pankow, Paul Pfanner, and Shaun Johnson, among others, on topics including market research, risk management, track operations, sanctions, track design, and media.
“The conference offers a different perspective that we don’t get anywhere else,” said Motor City Racing Promotions President Scott Menlen. “It’s a good opportunity to get a diverse set of views, because there are speakers from all over and different areas. It was a rare chance to get this particular panel and listen in.”
RTBC speakers also found value in their participation: “It’s good to get our experiences out there, to share with the industry, because it’s an industry everyone works hard at and everyone loves,” said Shaun Johnson, executive director of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We need to see positive growth in all aspects of the business.”
Meantime, the annual Advanced Engineering Technology Conference (AETC), which began December 6, brought more than 100 engine builders, designers, engineers, manufacturers, business owners, racers and media to the Indiana Convention Center for a two-day exchange of engine technology, ideas and information.
"There’s been a real good buzz in the air, not only for AETC, but for the PRI Show in general, with great energy from the attendees," said Zane Clark, SEMA Senior Director of Education and organizer of the AETC. "What really makes AETC unique is the number of networking opportunities available, [allowing] attendees to interact with some of the leading manufacturers and some of the industry's top engine designers."
This year's sessions featured presenters from Ford Performance Motorsports, Roush Yates Engines and ECR Engines, as well as George Bryce from STAR Racing and Gale Banks from Gale Banks Engineering, among other top speakers. With topics ranging from big bore, high rpm engines to torsional vibration to engine bearing design, the conference offered attendees invaluable information and insight.
"I don’t think there’s another platform that offers attendees that kind of access to the industry leaders that AETC provides them," Clark added, noting a healthy increase in attendance over last year, and some 25 percent of conference attendees as first-timers. "To sit down and rub shoulders with somebody you’ve seen from afar and respect their business is a unique opportunity."
Added AETC attendee Benjamin Baloga, an engineer from Murrieta, California: “I’ve come to the conference approximately 15 years in a row, and if I get just one thing of it, it’s worth the show in its entirety. But I end up getting 20 or 30 or 50 different things every single time I come."
Focused on the advancement of motorsports safety, the International Council of Motorsport Sciences (ICMS) Annual Congress attracted more than 120 medical and safety personnel from the US, Canada, and seven other countries on Wednesday. The first of the two-day event covered topics including diagnosis and management of concussions, track safety, Formula E and electric hazards in motorsports, and more.
In his presentation, “Software Systems with Crash Prediction Capabilities for Drivers and Riders,” Jarno Ziffadelli, M.E., Director at Dromo Circuit Design in Italy, discussed the safety enhancements he's designed into race tracks he's worked on, including GoPro Motorplex in North Carolina, and how to design safer track conditions for worst-case scenarios. For example, his company’s DroCAS software can correlate accident data with race circuit design.
Speaking to the value of attending the Congress - as well as presenting at the event - he cited the connections made, “but more than this, the chance to explain what is possible to do," adding that yet another benefit involves using the knowledge he has gained and using it to help racers, promoters, and the entire motorsports community.
At another end of the Convention Center, the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow (HROT) Engine Challenge resumed for its march toward the National Championship, which will be decided at PRI on December 10. Some 19 teams of high school students from coast to coast are competing this week to disassemble and reassemble a small block Chevy engine in the fastest time for the right to be crowned national champs. Offering the largest prize since its start in 2008, HROT will award a total of $4.8 million in scholarships on Saturday.
“Hot Rodders is fantastic for high school students - I mean, this is a way to introduce them into the automotive trade: aftermarket, dealerships, independents; everybody gets a part of this,” said Team Edelbrock coach Jim Lafevers, who mentioned that without HROT’s scholarship money, many of his students would not have gone through automotive schooling.
Across town, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, more than 50 Show guests experienced PRI's Day At The Speedway, which included a behind-the-scenes tour of IMS - areas only open to drivers, teams and track personnel during events. After a lap around the famous oval and a stop at the Yard of Bricks, attendees visited the race track's Media Center, Pagoda and more. Lunch was included, followed by a return to the speedway for a stop at the IMS Hall of Fame Museum.
"The tour was great - it was very interesting, very historical, and intriguing to see how old the speedway is and that it's still being used," said Chris Younger of Mooresville South Iredell Economic Development Corporation, Mooresville, North Carolina. "It's different inside than what you might imagine it to be. It still has that historical feel to it.
"I loved being out on the track itself with the bricks, the finish line, and being on the podium," he added. "And going through the museum and seeing some of the old cars was pretty great, too."
This year’s edition of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show takes place December 8-10, 2016, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. For more information on this trade-only event, visit www.performanceracing.com.