Members of the racing industry have had Dec. 12-14 circled on their calendars for more than a year, with the letters “P,” “R” and “I” scribbled over the dates.
That’s because once again all roads and runways will lead to Indianapolis next month as the city hosts the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show at the Indiana Convention Center and the adjacent Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indianapolis is often referred to as “The Racing Capital of the World” thanks to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s also known as “the Crossroads of America” because many Americans live within a day’s drive and the “Circle City” because the city’s original design included a circle that now contains the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument. Whatever one calls it, it’s the perfect site for the biggest motorsports-only trade show in this country.
Registration is available for people involved in motorsports businesses. It’s important to note it’s a trade-only event and not open to fans.
The main reason the event exists is to give motorsports businesses the chance to sell or exhibit their products or services to people who may purchase them. More than 1,100 companies will have exhibits in more than 3,300 booths.
Attendees will come from all 50 states and more than 70 countries, and will include members of professional race teams, retail shops, warehouse distributors, engine builders, fabricators, dealers, installers, jobbers and the media.
Although the show is primarily held in the Indiana Convention Center, this year Lucas Oil Stadium will also be utilized to showcase race trailers, motor coaches, haulers, toterhomes, etc.
“PRI welcomes more than 65,000 attendees, generating an estimated $65 million in economic impact for Indianapolis,” said Lisa Wallace, associate director, convention marketing, for Visit Indy. For Indianapolis-based conventions “it ranks second in terms of economic impact, only behind Gen Con.”
She added that Gen Con, a convention for tabletop gaming enthusiasts, attracts approximately 70,000 attendees who generate $74 million in economic impact.
Indianapolis’ third-biggest convention is the National Future Farmers of America Convention, which generates about the same number of attendees as Gen Con but brings in about $39 million.
Since it’s rare for so many participants of such a diversified sport to be in one city at the same time, attending the PRI Show allows manufacturers involved in the sport to see firsthand what other companies specializing in other areas of motorsports are offering.
It’s the perfect place to “kick some tires” in a figurative sense, as businesspeople compare notes, and sometimes the result is a new market or a new product for a company.
In recent years, the reasons to attend have expanded, however, as there has been additional emphasis on new technology, safety and education in addition to traditional networking.
Networking always has been a key aspect of the show and it spills over to breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Some sanctioning bodies hold their annual banquets in the evenings since so many manufacturer representatives are already in town.
Although the show doesn’t begin until Thursday, several conferences and seminars will be held in and around the Convention Center starting Dec. 9. They include the Race Track Business Conference and the International Council of Motorsport Sciences’ Annual Congress.
Often manufacturers and other groups “save” their news for press conferences held during the show, and many sanctioning bodies release their schedules for the upcoming season.
Like all big trade-only shows, the event has always been a challenge to stage. It’s currently under the control of the Specialty Equipment Market Ass’n, which also organizes the famous SEMA Show for the automobile aftermarket industry each November in Las Vegas.
One thing almost all PRI Show attendees have in common is they receive the Performance Racing Industry magazine monthly free of charge for being a qualified member of the racing industry, also described as “retailers, distributors, manufacturers and racing participants within the United States.”
The PRI Show has a few “standards” each year. In Machinery Row one can purchase raffle tickets for a special engine. The Sunnen Engine Charity Sweepstakes is selling chances to win a high-performance street engine built by Sonny Leonard, owner of Sonny’s World Class Racing. The proceeds benefit the Victory Junction program founded by NASCAR’s Petty family.
Perhaps the best example of a PRI signature event, however, is the Grand Opening Breakfast on the opening day of the show. Besides offering breakfast to show-goers in the Sagamore Ballroom of the Indiana Convention Center prior to the start of the show, this year attendees will be treated to a talk-show style visit with Don Schumacher Racing drivers. SPEED SPORT’s own Ralph Sheheen will be the emcee. It’s free for convention goers to attend, but it’s on a first-come, first-served basis.
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