SHEHEEN: Big Doings At 30th PRI Trade Show

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Ralph Sheheen

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — December’s Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis was one of the largest we have ever seen. The massive show drew an equally massive crowd for the 30th anniversary of the racing industry’s annual gathering in the Circle City.

Numerous announcements, schedule unveilings and driver and car reveals kept our SPEED SPORT crew busy trying to stay on top of the news. Here is a sampling of what we heard while roaming the aisles and hanging out in the SPEED SPORT booth:

– More tweaking is scheduled for the Charlotte Motor Speedway “ROVAL.” The plan is to open up turns seven and eight, which should help make the lap times a little quicker. They also have a hump in the track they want to smooth out. Officials are also considering different ways to continue to use “500” in the event name.

When they are finally finished with the road course overhaul, Charlotte Motor Speedway will have seven or eight different road course configurations. This has sanctioning bodies such as the SCCA anxious to get dates on the calendar at Bruton Smith’s Queen City speedway.

– Newly crowned World of Outlaws Crafts­man Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz says he can’t imagine retiring anytime soon.
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“I can easily see myself racing into my 50s,” Schatz said. The key for Schatz is an investment into his travel that helps with the quality of his life. “It gets expensive but it’s well worth it,” added Schatz, who flies his own plane to the majority of WoO events.

Schatz says he is planning on running more dirt late model races — as many as his schedule will allow, without impacting the quality of his life.

– Swiss race car driver Alex Proh recently tested a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series machine for Bobby Dotter. If Proh can put a deal together, he hopes to race a truck this season, followed by the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2019 and a move to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2020.

– Longtime Indianapolis Motor Speedway credential manager Tim Sullivan retired in mid-December after 14 years of deciding who deserves the highly coveted passes. Sullivan began working at the speedway in 1981, handling timing and scoring responsibilities for an Indy car team, and he’s worked in the media center over the years as well. Thanks for making sure we always had the credentials we needed to get the job done Tim!

– Winchester (Ind.) Speedway promoter Charlie Shaw says the 2017 Winchester 400 was the biggest in years, even with a threat of bad weather. As far as the 2018 schedule, Shaw is booking quality over quantity, which should provide for another exciting season on the Winchester high banks.

– The United States Auto Club’s quarter midgets will kickoff the season on a one-twentieth-mile track inside Daytona Int’l Speedway. USAC’S Danielle Frye tells us 350 cars are entered and another 100 are on the waiting list for the Feb. 8-11 event.

– Tim Seebold was understandably excited about the great things happening with his NGK F1 Powerboat Championship. He has a  two-year deal with NGK and a two-year TV contract with CBS Sports Network. Seebold is planning a six-race calendar for his championship this season.

The series features four different classes. The top division, Formula One, is averaging more than 20 boats racing on a regular basis, with more than 30 different drivers competing in the series in 2017.

Seebold says new engine rules have opened up the competition. The machines are blisteringly quick on the water, reaching top speeds in excess of 120 mph. However, it’s their ability to turn on a dime that leaves fans and racers alike breathless.

– Legendary racer Scott Bloomquist reports it is difficult to get more than $225,000 to $250,000 from a major sponsor in the dirt late model world these days.

– Ron Shaver is one of sprint car racing’s biggest horsepower producers. He built his first engine for Tom Hunt in 1971 and it pumped out 457 horsepower. The engines he built for Tony Stewart Racing in 2017 topped out at 942 horsepower. Shaver continues to find even more power, saying that his 2018 power plants are producing 18 horsepower more than last year. That’s 960 horsepower.

Shaver says the Ford sprint car engine for Donny Schatz’s No. 15 probably won’t be ready for competition until July.

– Gio Scelzi is anxious to climb behind the wheel of one of the hotly sought after Clauson-Marshall Racing midgets during this month’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway.

– Tommy Johnson Jr. says Terry Chandler’s love for drag racing will continue. Both Johnson and Jack Beckman have signed with Don Schumacher Racing for three more years. Beckman will wheel the Infinite Heroes machine while T.J. will continue to pilot the Make-A-Wish Funny Car.

There was some concern after Chandler’s passing last year whether or not the programs would continue. Johnson said, “Terry’s husband, Jack, told me this is what Terry would want.”

– Austin Prock’s calendar will be full of busy Mondays. He will be doing extensive Funny Car testing for John Force Racing on the Mondays following NHRA National events. He will also be working on race days, servicing blowers on Top Fuel champion Brittany Force’s machine.

Prock, the son of veteran tuner Jimmy Prock, is hopeful that the possibility of a few opportunities to actually drive a second JFR Top Fueler in competition will come to fruition.

– Former Indy car racer and team owner Robbie Buhl is from Detroit, and he believes like many that Detroit is making a comeback. Buhl has invested in his hometown by opening a multi-use facility in the Corktown area of Detroit.

Part of the building will be used as a race shop for Robbie’s Racing 4 Detroit Global Rallycross team. Buhl is offering numerous opportunities that tie his passion for racing and his love of Detroit together, including holding Teen Street Skills events.

– It’s always nice to meet some of the young and upcoming racers. We were introduced to 13-year-old Dakota Earls.

Earls has been racing an IMCA modified since he was 9 years old. Last season, he battled to a seventh-place finish in the points in his first year racing at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.

This year, Earls will continue to improve his skills in the IMCA modified while also competing in a Lightning Sprint for the first time.

– Tim Clauson says more than 7,000 organ donors have signed up to save lives since the passing of his son, open-wheel star Bryan Clauson.

If you would like to register, you can do so at driven2savelives.org.
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