CONCORD, N.C. — As SPEED SPORT prepares to celebrate its 85th anniversary during the 2019 racing season, the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show at the Indiana Convention Center provided the perfect backdrop to renew acquaintances with those who have supported our brand through the years.
It’s no secret PRI is the premier gathering place for the motorsports fraternity during the offseason. It’s the place where we celebrate the most recent racing season and kick preparations for the new year into high gear.
Selling your wares and drumming up business for the new year is everyone’s No. 1 priority during the three December days in Indianapolis. More than 1,100 exhibitors, including SPEED SPORT, occupied booths in the convention center with thousands of attendees roaming the aisles. It’s a virtual who’s who of motorsports.
Whether it be during the show itself or in the bars and restaurants of Indy, we’re all looking to retain our current business partners and acquire additional customers, whether it be advertisers and subscribers in SPEED SPORT’s case or race teams looking for sponsorship money.
While he’s been gone for several years now, the sound of Chris Economaki’s voice — or at least that of numerous imitators (including this writer) — continues to echo through the halls. Remembering Chris, and telling stories about him, is definitely part of the PRI experience for those visiting the SPEED SPORT booth.
Everyone has a story about Chris they like to share, and it seems as though we always hear at least one that we’ve never heard before.
Many of these stories are told by the numerous SPEED SPORT contributors we encountered during the week. Among the longtime members of the family we chatted with were Jim Howe, Ron Green, Dave Argabright, Susan Wade, Bruce Martin, Brad Doty, Frank Smith and Kent Steele.
Longtime Skagit Speedway promoter Steve Beitler, who was named Auto Racing Promoter of the Year by Racing Promotion Monthly last year, reported that when he’s asked to speak to other promoters, he starts with his beginnings in motorsports, selling single copies of National Speed Sport News and programs in the Skagit track as a youngster.
Sarah Carlson, who spent many years on the road with husband Brian racing with the World of Outlaws, has made a tradition of bringing sons A.J. and Seth to visit the SPEED SPORT booth.
Elder brother A.J., who is 17, is racing sprint cars in Indiana with younger brother Seth doing much of the mechanical work. Featuring two of the best dressed kids in the Convention Center, the family races under the 2 Bros Racing banner. Look for a monthly column from the brothers on SPEEDSPORT.com starting early this season.
SPEED SPORT presented Dominic Scelzi with a one-of-a-kind championship ring created by Jostens to commemorate his victory in the SPEED SPORT World Challenge, which was run for the final time during the Knoxville Nationals at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway. His dad, multi-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi, provided comic relief, while Dom’s younger brother Gio was also on hand for the presentation.
Corporate executives and other industry leaders also visited the SPEED SPORT booth. They included Jim Campbell, vice president of motorsports for Chevrolet; team owner Richard Marshall, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles, World Racing Group CFO Brian Carter, Memphis Int’l Raceway President Tim Packman, Must See Racing owner Jim Hanks, United Sprint Car Series owner Pete Walton and Kendra Jacobs, director of marketing for Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway.
We were also lucky enough to have some of the world’s best racers stop by the booth. Among them were Ken Schrader, Kody Swanson, Trey Starks, Colton Herta, Bobby Seymour, Tommy Johnson Jr., Brad Noffsinger, Charlie Schultz, Danny Lasoski, Mason Daniel, Jimmy Phelps and Jimmy McCune.
As has become tradition during the PRI show, plenty of new products were unveiled and a great deal of news was made, ranging from sponsorships to schedule announcements and driver hirings.
When the show closed on Saturday afternoon, the adventure was only beginning for many showgoers, including the SPEED SPORT team.
With winter weather bearing down on Charlotte, N.C., and much of the South, flights were being canceled one by one. We joined salesmen Chad Markel and John McMillan and Andy Parsons, who heads up our video department, first in a cab and then in a rented Ford Expedition, racing time and weather.
With Markel at the wheel, we arrived back in the Charlotte area just as the first of the snow arrived. Others, including much of the World Racing Group staff, made similar trips, while still others were left stranded until air travel into Charlotte returned to normal on Monday morning.
Business, camaraderie, news and adventure … what more could you ask for?