PRI 2014–the People

Yes, its all about racing and parts and cars, but there are plenty of things about the PEOPLE at the PRI show as well.  Sometimes its just the unbelievable number of people at the show:


As you walk along you will come across some people that you see in the industry like Tony Stewart:



You continue around the exposition hall and see a familiar face from Overhaulin’.


Why its Cherielynn Westrich!

Of course you don’t have to be a celebrity to be noticed.  There are always the people having the time of their lives, like this lady at an Iracing simulator that Indy had set up.



Keeping on the correct line is tough, but heck, these simulators sure are fun!

Then there was the Racemaker Press booth.  This company out of Boston, MA, produces books on cars and racing.  There was Jim McGee signing copies of the book about his career as a crew chief.


Sitting next to him was the author, Gordon Kirby.


It was great to be able to get a copy of his book as well as have a chance to chat with Jim. 

The quality of the printing of Racemaker Press is exceptional.  Having been in the printing business myself, I am impressed with the quality.

One of the high spots was when I came across the Isky Cam booth.


Isky has a long name in the world of racing as Ed Iskenderian not only became a legend in cam design, but he was instrumental in the formation of what is now known as SEMA, the entity that owns PRI.  He was at the booth and he and Don were nice enough to let me take their photo together.


PRI is a great show and one where you will always make new contacts and friends as well as run into some pretty special people.

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PRI 2014–Some Gems

Here is where I open myself up to more criticism than usual. As I’ve wandered the exhibition floors and hallways I have come across booths where there are things that catch my eye and impress me.  They may not be big names today, and maybe never will, but I think that they are interesting and just might be a big deal some day.



If you have a product that catches Jay Leno’s attention in a good way then you have probably got a good thing going.  Archhoil solved a problem that Jay was having with the lubrication of one of his steam cars.  It uses nano technology which means that its components are incredibly small.  We are talking beyond micron small.  So that constituents such as borate, boron nitrate, and other components that would normally be abrasive are made so small that they become a beneficial additive to oil.  Please don’t call it snake oil.

Race Shoes

OK, maybe this isn’t really in the gem category, but it certainly is in the gee-whiz category.  I dropped by the Sube Sports booth and Chad DiMarco, the president, showed me a pair of shoes that are what the top F1 drivers are using.  They weigh, get this, 8 grams.  For those of you that don’t know, there are 28 grams in an once.  These are incredibly light.




It was hard to believe until I picked them up myself.  So why does this make a difference?  Like unsprung weight carried by a suspension, light weight means quicker movement and less inertia to over come.  Plus, less weight in an F1 driver’s foot means another component can be a little heavier and stronger. Amazing.



DOCOL is a high strength steel tubing with many advantages over even chrome moly tubing, which used to be the “gold standard” of roll cage material.  DOCOL is stronger, and can be just as safe in thinner wall configurations than standard steel tubing.  It welds better and is of far more consistent thickness.  While it is making inroads in the drag racing arena, it still has to overcome the resistance to change in other racing organizations.  While chrome moly tubing is lighter than standard seamless steel tubing, it also requires heat treatment post welding in order to stress relieve the welds.  This step is not required nor necessary with DOCOL.  When subjected to stress such as compression at the welds it doesn’t crack like chrome moly.  This is the future folks.



Do we need another octane booster? This product started out in order to fill a need in high speed motorboat racing.  Its safe for catalytic converters and contains no alcohols.  A quart in 30 gallons provides 95 octane level, and 5:1 ratio provides 110 octane.  Wow.

So who needs this?  Obviously racers and maybe some folks west of the Mississippi that cannot get 93 octane gasoline at the pump, but so do countries like China.  Their demands for gasoline have meant that they have gone from adequate gasoline to poor and so there is a high demand for this product over there.  A container load at a time in fact.


Zenos Cars

What the heck is a Zenos and what do I want one for.  It’s a track car.  Maybe this is what we need now.  Developed in the UK and with left-hand drive versions being made for our market it could be a cheap, high performance track car, that in some states, you could license for the road and drive to the track.


This prototype is right-hand drive but shows off many of the features such as fenders that will act as sacrificial body panels if damaged and be simple to replace.


Still in development, but promising.

Royalton Polishing Co.

I sat next to John Causevic at breakfast and discovered the kind of guy that every restorer is looking for.  He not only polishes components for restorers and custom show cars, but he restores stainless steel and other trim pieces for classic cars.  The kind of damaged trim pieces that appear hopeless he looks at and unbends them, restores them to the factory profile and polishes them to better than new condition.


John’s style says a lot to his work ethic, too.  When a piece is sent to him to be restored or to be polished he treats it as his own.  He even explains to the customer that when they send it to him he now becomes the owner and when he is done he then gives it to them.  What he means is that he treats the piece as if it was his.  He actually takes on the attitude that as it was his own property he will do the finest job possible, better than if he was just doing something to someone else’s property.  He takes ownership.

You can find this amazing craftsman at 11110 Don Mar Road, North Royalton, OH 44133.  Or give him a call at 440-237-1533.

That’s it from my explorations.  There are probably more gems out there.

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PRI 2014- Snake and Mongoose

Attendees gathered anxiously for the opening breakfast of this year’s PRI in Indianapolis.


The doors to the Sagamore ballroom opened early and everyone found a place to enjoy the complementary breakfast that was followed by a rousing bit of entertainment from some USO singers. 



Following an introduction to this year’s PRI followed Good Morning PRI with Dave Despain.


Dave shared his forty years of being in the racing broadcasting business before introducing Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen, also known as the Snake and the Mongoose.


Questions were asked and stories were told.  It was very entertaining to hear these guys talk about how they changed the world of racing with Tom’s initiating talks with Mattel that led to true sponsorship of professional drag racing.  Soon thereafter this concept spread to other forms of motorsports and the genie was out of the bottle.

Entertaining as it was, we were all anxious to get to the industry show that was waiting in the hundreds of thousands of square feet of the Indiana Convention Center. 

I followed the crowds and chose my entry point, knowing that I would be covering a lot of territory in terms of products, services, and technology.

All the familiar names were there, Edelbrock, Ford Racing, Penske, Honda, Crane, Scat, and others.






Roush Yates was there and Borla who showed intakes as well as exhaust products.





The ford Racing booth showed off a couple of Mustangs as well as some of their aftermarket suspension offerings. 




This car on its side offered an unusual view of what a modified suspension consisted of…


…along with the well known names are some ones that you might not have heard of with products that will catch your eye and tickle your wallet.





Here were some competing products that are key tools to setting up a car – scales.




On I went to Machinery Row where all kinds of fabrication and machining products were on display from five axis milling machines to burr removal tools.









We came to a display of 3D printing that gives a glimpse into where this technology is and a promise of where it might take us…




The shapes possible spark the imagination.  Today 3D printing allows fast prototyping and the production of parts that are used to produce castings in a more traditional manner, but in the future 3D printing will be producing the end product.

On the other end of technology are the racing simulators.  Mobil1 had one for people to try out:



Formula SAE students had a car on display.  While not well publicized, this is what racing is all about with a formula that encourages creativity, innovation, and allows these students to really invent.  It is almost a shame since today’s professional racing is far more restrictive.  We can only hope that by the time they are able to involve themselves with the sport it will have become more like Formula SAE.





Staubli electrical connectors showed off the car that won this year’s pole at the Indy 500.  Ed Carpenter, a local Indianapolis driver/owner has managed to take the pole two years in a row and may go for three in 2015.




People I talk to always remark at how nice the people of the team are and how down to earth Ed is.


An important part to racing today is Grassroots Motorsports.  This is their $2014 challenge car winner.  That is all the team’s budget can be so it involves a great deal of creativity and many, many hours of work.



There were many, many, many more exhibitors at this show.  I’ve tried to feature some of the highlights from my point of view.  In my next entry I will focus on what I feel are the nuggets – the real gems of the show.  More to come.

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Landed in Indianapolis and looking forward to the PRI show!

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Coming Soon, Very Soon–PRI

Yes folks another year of Professional Racing Industry show in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I’ll be heading there next week and will bring you photos and commentary on this huge gathering of the racing fraternity.

There are often many celebrities and we expect to see Randy Pobst to be there.  Randy gave me some hot laps around VIR a few years back and he was entertaining as he was skilled.

So stay tuned – more to follow.

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What to Spend Your Next $529,000 On

Okay, I have a hard time getting excited about electric cars.  I have a very hard time.  All my best experiences with batteries have been – well, limiting.  Be it cell phones, laptops, flashlights, or most any battery powered device there always comes the time when the charge is gone.

When people and companies try to stick batteries in cars and expect me to get a charge out of it, things just seem to fizzle.  Sure Tesla has produced a high end electric that performs with some alacrity and style.  The car is impressive, up to a point.  Not quite the point that I would get excited though.

Now comes an electric car that grabs my attention.


First – who could resist a body that Peter Brock designed?  The Daytona Cobra in itself is pure sex and to take this iconic chassis and bring it into the 21st Century, not with a body re-design, but replace the rumbling V8 with a total of 500 horsepower provided by two  electric motors that provide 1000 pound/feet of torque.  You read that correctly.  So it should be no surprise when it is able to do 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.

Great you say, and how long will the battery last?  Renovo claims a total capacity of 30 kWh and a range of 100 miles.  You don’t have to wait over night to re-charge either.  Think 30 minutes using fast-charge technology or 5 hours using a 240 volt level charger.  All using three separate lithium-ion battery packs.

With a gorgeous body and supercar performance like the Renovo I just might be talked into an electric car.  Now where did I put that half-million dollars?

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What Can We Learn From the Russian GP?

After watching Nico Rossberg travel one lap on flat-spotted tires (tyres), changing to a new set and being able to complete the race with no more tire changes you have to wonder just how much are tires rigged to wear out.  The commentators felt that the Sochi Autodrome had a new and very smooth surface so it did not cause tire wear that is typical and causes race strategies to take into account more than one tire stop.

But if Pirelli can have a race tire that can easily last a full race without the often seen issues of heat degradation, blistering, etc., and performance that varies (sometimes drastically) from lap to lap – then what is stopping Pirelli from just supplying the perfect tire?

Does this mean that Pirelli can create a tire for each track that can last a race?  Since Pirelli had no experience with the Sochi track it appears that might be so.  If that is the case and Pirelli did (or was allowed by F1) provide long-lasting, grippy tires the races would be quite different.

In one aspect this season’s races have not been that different.  Mercedes won this race, and secured the constructor’s championship.  Mercedes powered F1 cars have dominated the 2014 season.  While Mercedes should be commended for what they have achieved, it certainly appears that they have enjoyed an “unfair advantage”.  How is that you say?  Well, F1 regulations put a freeze on engine modifications/engineering improvements once the season commences.  This means that Renault and Ferrari are stuck with what they have for all the races with the exception of some limited ECU tuning.  The power unit manufacturers can continue to develop their engines and power recovery units, they just cannot implement the improvements until the next season.  While Mercedes plays by the same rules it also means that they can make further improvements and continue to stay ahead.

So what’s wrong with that? It means that any changes made by the power unit manufacturers will no be exposed to the real racing environment and by the time they are introduced the teams will be stuck with the problems they encounter.

Especially with this year’s new power unit rules development is an iterative process that does not flourish in a stop-start schedule of 12 months.  I content that it would be far more exciting for the fans and provide a much more competitive environment if the manufacturers could continue with engineering advancements on the power units just as they can on the body/chassis designs.

Mercedes domination was clearly illustrated by Nico when he pitted on the first lap, changed tires and then was able to blast his way through the field to second place.  This was against not just the Red Bull Renault team, but the other Mercedes powered teams.  They are that good.

Factor in all the regulation constraints on the rest of the cars and F1 is dangerously edging toward a spec series and we all know what that can do to fan interest.  Mercedes has invested over $517 million on its power unit development.  Compare that to another $304 million spent to run the team itself.  That’s a huge investment with a big payoff and twice what they spent three years ago. So Mercedes is not interested in allowing power unit improvements during the season.

That will work until a competitor figures out how to leapfrog them and gains the competitive edge.

Oh yeah, and Honda is entering the fray next year, too.

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