Yeah, the Sema Show is great, and we see lots of girls, bling, and well, girls and bling, but the Performance Racing Industry show is my favorite trade show on the planet. Here, you rub elbows with Dick Trickle in the bathroom (I try get that joke in every year, and once again, it worked), see the latest hardcore racing components, and get the undivided attention of the industry's movers and shakers. At this Indianapolis show, people have time to show you stuff.
Those looking for an economic indicator should look no further than this show. Things are looking good. We used to think that the street performance industry, and the racing biz to some extent, was a great barometer of a solid economy. When a company is up 30 percent over last year selling parts that no one really needs for survival, it's a good sign.
The racing side doesn't operate under the luxury economy pretense anymore. The three NASCAR professional classes drive the racing business more like a financial index these days. Actually, the Nextel Cup Series only fits under that label since the Craftsman Truck series and Busch series are under scrutiny for their ridiculously high budgets and lack of fan following. You didn't see attendees stopping in their tracks when a Busch driver walked down the hallway. For Dick Trickle, however, that's another story.
Mark Stielow and I cruised the aisles in search of cool parts, new trends, and recently-finished projects. There were more than a few.
The Gale Banks booth had Rick "Speed" Lefever's mind-boggling Mercedes SL Pro Mod car on display. Regular PHR readers who remember the Mike Moran/John Meaney Quad Turbo drag racing engine might recall a mention of Lefever's 8-year project. It was Rick that gave them the inspiration to use four small compressors rather than two big ones, which miffed "Speed" to no end! Hey, it's not their fault that the Mercedes took so long to build! At least they gave him credit. Rick looks to have added a fifth turbo charger to this museum piece. At least, we think he did. Like Aeromotive's Steve Matusak questioned, "How does that thing work?" Not, how well, but scientifically, how does it operate! Arguably the most talented fabricator in the hot rod business, let's hope he has the courage to stand on the gas in this racecar of unthinkable time spent building.
A stop by the Afco booth produced the thought, "Why aren't guys building street machines out of stock car parts?" We've seen a few, but from looking at the complete Afco front suspension assembly, it seems there should be more. The geometry is correct and the price is right, Pro Touring fans.
Fuel system ace Sid Waterman has finally found his way into NASCAR's top class. After putting good 'ol American fuel pumps into CART and the IRL, this drag racer read right through the NASCAR rulebook (that was recently revised for fire safety) and applied a fuel-cell located pump to replace the ungodly expensive mechanical pumps that racers are still forced to drive off the side of the block. Good for Sid, knock 'em dead.
Are street machines ready for data acquisition? Stielow and I think so after seeing AIM Sportsystems (www.aimsports.com) latest line of low-cost computers and dashboards. Those looking for the high-tech look, a clean instrument panel, gauge playback, and lap timing for track days could get their wishes filled for around $500. Speaking of gauges, Auto Meter was showing off even more electric gauges at PRI. In particular, we saw an easy-to-read boost gauge that shows both boost and vacuum, yet centers itself back to zero with perfect accuracy. Before electric gauges, that was tough to do.
Tony and Cruz Pedregon finally got a chance to show off their new racing partnership and Quaker State sponsorship. Are they going to have the technical know-how to compete with Tony's former boss, John Force? One would think you'd want to get one car (that being Cruz) into the NHRA Top Ten before adding a second entry into the mix. Good luck, guys. It's gonna be tough, but they know that.
The NMCA is now under the banner of PRO and the NMRA. Do you think they'll finally be on the radar of NHRA? What will become of the NSCA? Can you come up with another acronym for my next sentence? In all seriousness, I think this move by PRIMEDIA will put some identity back into the world of Fastest Street Car racing. However, I still think that the only way to regain popularity in this struggling drag racing arena is to build huge fields in a simple class for our readers to become experienced drag racers over time.
The next star is you, I say. I like to joke that fistfights are the only way to put excitement back into the street-legal wars, but the latest episode on the starting line at Piedmont Dragway involving racer Marc Dantoni and promoter/track operator Bob Harris isn't the sideshow that'll build interest in the sport. We're supposed to put that energy into racing-otherwise, people would just follow boxing.
A fist fight with Dick Trickle in the bathroom at PRI? That, might mix the two mediums well.