CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What happens when three racers get together at a North Carolina barbeque?
They talk racing, of course. It starts with their war stories of dramatic wins and tragic losses. Then they discuss the state of racing. At one particular barbeque in the summer of 2011, the conversation shifted to racing trade shows and how odd it seemed that the most concentrated area in the world for racing didn’t have a racing industry trade show.
The conversation could have stopped there, but an idea was sparked, so the group decided to look into it. The results were shocking. Motorsports provides a $6 billion impact to the state of North Carolina.
More than 25,000 jobs are attributed to the motorsports industry in the state. There are more race tracks and drag strips within a 300-mile radius of Charlotte than almost anywhere in the world. The number of tracks relates directly to the number of racers in any given area and 300 miles is the average maximum travel distance for a race team. And yet, there was no racing trade show that reached out to this market.
The next question to ask was whether they could do it. The three racers were Dick Schiltz, Jimmy Schiltz and Clint Elkins. They each brought different skills and experience.
Dick began his racing career in 1971 at the dirt tracks in Minnesota. He later moved to Iowa, because there were more tracks, and started a successful chassis building business. When the opportunity arose for him to join a NASCAR team, he moved to North Carolina. He has spent countless hours in wind tunnels as a crew chief. He has continued to build and race dirt late models off and on.
Jimmy is Dick’s son. He grew up at race tracks and always knew that racing was his passion. To solidify his skills, he attended N.C. State and graduated with a mechanical engineering degree. After graduation, he bought his first dirt car. To finance the venture, he started Dirtwrap, a company that makes decals and wraps for race cars. The business took off and every day he is immersed in the racing world.
Like Jimmy, Clint Elkins also grew up at the race track. His father is the famed promoter, Ernie Elkins, formerly of Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. Clint raced dirt late models for several years before following in this father’s footsteps.
He is currently the promoter for Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, N.C., where he promotes weekly shows as well as big events.
They decided to pool their collective talents and resources to launch the first CARS Trade Show in Hickory, N.C., in January of 2012. This regional show focused solely on the dirt late model market. It was well received by both exhibitors and attendees alike. The show brought racers and companies together in a fun environment.
Seminars conducted by exhibitors allowed racers to interact in a way they hadn’t experienced before to learn the latest tips and tricks, and ultimately, help them win.
With the success of the first show, the team decided to organize the second show and expand. In January of 2013, Hickory was once again the host city, but the audience was expanded to include not only the dirt market, but the asphalt circle track market. There were so many exhibitors that the show had to expand into an additional area of the convention center. This was not ideal, so a new venue needed to be found that could accommodate the show in one room. The show needed to move to Charlotte.
The third edition of CARS will take place at the Charlotte Convention Center Dec. 5-7. The audience has expanded to include not only dirt and asphalt circle track. Drag racers, road course racers and young drivers of all types are invited to attend.
CARS is currently estimating 8,000-10,000 attendees for the Charlotte show.
The free seminar series will be offered again, with topics focused on braking systems, cooling, engine tuning and more.
CARS has also partnered with the A2 Wind Tunnel to provide Aerodynamics Seminars at a cost of only $59 per person. Racers will walk away with knowledge, new product information, and a winning edge. Companies will share their research with an engaged audience and gain new customers.
It all started with three racers at a barbeque.