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Trade show attendees talk PRI's move to Indy

November 29, 2012, 11:29 pm
By Joshua Joiner
DirtonDirt.com staff writer
The Orange County Convention Center is hosting PRI for the final time. (DirtonDirt.com)
The Orange County Convention Center is hosting PRI for the final time. (DirtonDirt.com)

ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 29) — For the last time for the foreseeable future, the Orange County Convention Center opened its doors Thursday for motorsports enthusiast from all corners of the racing industry for the 25th annual Performance Racing Industry trade show.

Few Dirt Late Model drivers and teams took advantage of Orlando’s final year of hosting PRI, which heads back to Indianapolis, Ind., next year following last week’s announcement that the show is merging with the International Motorsports Industry Show. Less than 15 drivers were spotted perusing the aisles throughout the massive convention center on the first day of the three-day show. | Trade show coverage index

Of the drivers that were in attendance Thursday, most agreed that the merging of the two shows and the move back to the Midwest will create a bigger show and a more convenient location for the majority Dirt Late Models drivers and teams.

Even Jason Fitzgerald of nearby Jacksonville, Fla., admitted that the show is most likely better off in Indy.

“Having the show up there should make it back like it used to be for the Dirt Late Model side of it,” said Fitzgerald, who typically attends both PRI and IMIS each year. “For what we do, I think it’s definitely better up there. It’s a good down here if you’re into the hotrods or drifting, but obviously, that’s not what we’re doing.”

Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., agreed that the Midwest is likely a better location for the show, but noted that having two trade shows lowered attendance at each one. That may be a negative for trade show coordinators, but the smaller crowds were better for attendees.

“This seems more relaxed than what it used to be,” said Cook, who was at PRI Thursday for the first time since IMIS started in 2009. “It’s not like you have to have a grocery list of stuff and you’re rushing through to get everything checked off. It’s kind of nice to be able to relax and enjoy it and still be able to get you’re stuff done.”

Recently crowned Southern All Stars Series champion Randy Weaver agreed with Cook’s opinion. He’s attending both shows this year as he looks to continue to expand the Outlaws Race Parts South company he operates out of his Crossville, Tenn., race shop. Having both shows gives him plenty of time to meet with various vendors.

“It works out for us because we have to go to both shows anyway for the business side of it,” Weaver said. “Down here there’s not a lot of people standing at the same booth wanting to talk to the same one guy. It helps us so we can get a lot of things done down here this week. That’ll hopefully shorten our list up next week at Indy.”

Drivers aren’t the only ones who’ll be affected by the merging of the two trade shows. Curt Spalding of Allstar Performance noted that having just one show will cut out expenses for vendors, but said vendors who serve more than just short track racers might have trouble reaching some of their other markets in Indianapolis.

“A lot of companies, I think, our going to benefit from being able to go to one show, and so are the consumers.,” Spalding said. “It’ll just make it a lot easier to see everybody in one place. But there’s a lot of international flavor and a lot of markets at this show that aren’t covered at the IMIS show. Anytime you can get all these people together in one place, it’s a good deal.”

Veteran driver turned setup consultant, Randle Chupp of Troutman, N.C., agreed that some people will be left out by PRI’s relocating. He feels there’s plenty of room for both shows to have continued in their separate locations.

“I hate that they’re going back to one for next year, but I know they’ll do a good job with it,” Chupp said. “I feel like there’s gonna be some people left out of the equation that would’ve went to one of the two, but can’t go to the one that’s left.”

Motorsports enthusiasts in the Southeast have other options for attending a trade show rather than traveling to Indianapolis next year. The Great Racing Industry Trade Show, which was held for the first time earlier this month in Concord, N.C., is scheduled to be back again in 2013 and the second-year Carolina Auto Racing Show is scheduled for Jan. 4-5 in Hickory, N.C.

CARS co-owner Clint Elkins, who also promotes Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, N.C., said at PRI Thursday that interest in CARS has picked up since the announcement of PRI’s move back to Indy. He’s confident his show can fill the void left by PRI’s move.

“There’s a lot of questions going on right now going in the trade show industry,” Elkins said. “We’ve had a lot of phone calls since the big announcement last week. Our phones lit up like a Christmas tree.

“We have a lot of things we’re looking forward to announcing at CARS Jan. 4-5. We’ve partnered with quite a few people in the industry that wanna see CARS to get bigger and bigger, so we’ll see where that takes us.”