PRI Trade Show
Day Two updates from Indy's PRI Trade Show
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 7) — The Indiana Convention Center doors reopen Friday morning for the second of three days at the 31st annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, where more than 30,000 attendees are expected to check out 1,100 companies, including many with a Dirt Late Model focus. Friday’s blog-style notebook (complete PRI coverage):
4:50 p.m. | Friday wrapup
With the 5 o’clock hour approaching, the aisles have begun to clear inside the Indiana Convention Center, signaling the end of the second day at the PRI show. Many people from the Dirt Late Model world are preparing to don their dress clothes and head across the way to the adjoining Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2018 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series awards banquet, where Jonathan Davenport will be crowned champion after winning his second title with the national tour and first behind the wheel of Lance Landers’s Double L Motorsports machine. The doors of the Indiana Convention Center will reopen at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The show will then end its three-day run slightly earlier on Saturday, at 4 p.m.
4:31 p.m. | Hiett branching out
After closing the 2018 season with seven victories, including a $3,000 payday at North Georgia Speedway in Chatsworth and several weekly triumphs at his home Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Ala., Jason Hiett of Oxford, Ala., is already planning to venture out more in 2019.
“We’ll probably travel some more this year, but we’ll just stay around the South or within three or four hours of our house,” Hiett said. “I’ve got a few more people working now. I’ve got some better people lined up. So we’ll be able to venture out a little more than we had been.”
Entering several regional touring events this past season, including some on the Ray Cook-promoted tours, Hiett said he’s always wanted to take a stab at running a regional series. But it’s never come to fruition for him.
“We went to a couple,” Hiett said. “That’s one of those deals every year where we’d like to do it and it just never has lined up. We’ve got good intentions on doing some of those. We’ll just see how it goes.”
As he has in recent seasons, Hiett will kick off 2019 at Talladega’s annual Ice Bowl in January. He finished runner-up in the unsanctioned special event last year.
“For us it is (hard to skip),” Hiett said. “It’s 15 minutes from the house. You hate to stand out there in that cold sometimes. But for us, that’s our home track and we win a bunch of races there. So it’s one of those kind you just want to win.”
4:18 p.m. | Out of the shadows
Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., is among other Late Model drivers with cars on display at the PRI show this weekend. While Moyer Jr.’s 2019 season is shaping up to be much the same as the second half of 2018, with the second-generation driver continuing to pilot a Black Diamond Chassis, the addition of Penske Shocks at the end of the year was a big boost to his racing program. He closed out the year with a career-high $14,500 payday in Duck River Raceway Park’s Deep Fried 75.
“We’re going to start at Brunswick and just kind of go from there,” Moyer said. “We made some changes there toward the end of the year. We’ve still got everything about the same. We’ve still got Black Diamond, Penske (Shocks) is my difference. We changed there toward the end of the year and I felt like it made me better. I’ve still got Accu-Force. Keith Berner is my right-hand man on everything. But Ronny Crooks has been phenomenal.
“I’ve got my own name, but still I had my dad’s shadow. I think I’m slowly starting to creep out of that, I think, after the last couple of years. We’ve won 15 $10,000 (to win), $8,000 (to win) races in the last five years. There’s a lot of guys that haven’t done that. I haven’t got a crown jewel. But as far as them $10,000, it’s a big deal. I think I’m getting myself out there, building my own name. When you surround yourself with Ronnie Stuckey, Ronny Crooks, Keith Berner, them names that want to support you and give you a little feedback here and there, it just makes your program that much better.”
Before the 2019 season begins, Moyer Jr. and his Hall of Fame father will host their annual chassis school on Dec. 15-16, trying to help other drivers and teams step up their racing programs.
“It’s kind of a seminar,” Moyer said. “We’re going to mess with the spring smasher. We realized in the first couple that I’ve done that people really want to know about that. So we said we’re going to devote at least half the time frame to messing with that smasher, setting up your right front, your left-rear stacks. It’s not like it’s a big secret on setting up your stacks. But if you don’t know how to get that left-rear stack set up or your extended number is way too high, instead of having a 12-inch spring, you might just need a 10. Little things like that, guys don’t realize … I’m not saying it’s always cut and dry like that. But it’s fun helping these people.”
3:27 p.m. | Sleepless in Ohio
Just a week after winning the Race of Champions at the Gateway Dirt Nationals in St. Louis, Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, had to hustle on to Indianapolis, with his car among the Late Models on display at this weekend’s PRI Trade show. With only a few days to get ready for the show, Schlenk found himself running on very little sleep.
“We got this thing back a couple days before we left for Gateway,” Schlenk said. “So not only were we trying to get ready to go run the Gateway deal, I was trying to get this thing built. So we had a couple days. I hurried up and threw the cockpit and decking … I pretty much had everything assembled on the chassis. It went together pretty quick. Once we got back from Gateway, we got home I think 8 o’clock on Sunday evening. I had to drive up to the car owner’s house and pick up a bunch of parts. We worked until 2 or 3 in the morning that night and got up early the next day. Pretty much didn’t sleep all week long.”
Schlenk’s hard work has paid off as he’s heard nothing but praise from fans, drivers and the like over the first two days of the show. He knows just how big his Gateway victory was, with his $5,000 triumph coming over some of the sport’s toughest competitors.
“I haven’t heard a negative thing,” Schlenk said. “It’s been huge. To win on that stage, I don’t care if it’s $5,000, it was like winning a $50,000-to-win show to me. The cars that we beat and the stage that we did it on and the convincing fashion we did it in … to follow it up with this show, we unveiled this new car and this thing looks awesome. KBC knocked the graphics out of the park. It was huge. I haven’t had so much interest in a race car since I started doing this deal.”
Heading into 2019, Schlenk is looking to start the season with a little bit of Crate racing, planning to enter Georgia-Florida Speedweeks events at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
“We’re still up in the air,” Schlenk said. “We don’t know exactly what’s going on. I think we’re going to take this Crate stuff down to Florida. That’s what this car is here. This is a brand new Crate car we put together just to try and get some Crate cars sold down South. There’s a huge Crate market down there we’re missing out on by not getting down there and getting these Rayburns out down in the Southern states. Crate racing is huge down there.
“It’s five hours to my closest Crate track up here, so I haven’t done any Crate racing. I’ve raced a couple of times in another guy’s Crate car and had a little bit of success. So I think we’ve got a heck of a race car. Nobody else wants to get them down there and race them. So we’re going to take it down there and show them we can beat them with it.”
1:58 p.m. | Trade show payoff
So for manufacturers and others showing off new products at PRI, how long does it take to see a payoff? We asked Bryan Bernheisel, driving of the Lazer Chassis house car and reigning championship of Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway.
“It’s really hard to quantify that,” said the 33-year-old Jonestown, Pa., resident, who works under Lazer founder Jim Bernheisel, his father, and with his brother Brandon. “Some of that is mind-share, which can take years to play out. In the short term, we’ll probably take a few orders as a result of the show, and hopefully it’ll branch out from there.”
The Lazer focus is showing that a complete Late Model doesn’t have to reach to the stratosphere in price, putting a special number on its show car in the booth — $25K to representing the price of a Lazer roller.
“Our big push this year was that you (buy) a really good car for not as much as what everyone else is charging,” Bryan Bernheisel said. “We’ve been trying to drive that home, and that’s what this show car is about. We’ve had a ton of interest in it so far, so hopefully it pays off both for us and the sport. There are so many complaints that the sport is too expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.”
As for Bernheisel’s racing, while points racing can be “very stressful,” he’s going to try an defend his title at Selinsgrove to “show that it wasn’t a fluke.” He also plans to compete in a variety of special events around the region.
1:31 p.m. | Odds and ends
Sponsorship from T and K Trucking of Columbus, Ind., has provided Twin Cities Raceway Park a points fund for 2019, track publicist Chris Nunn said at PRI. Four classes will divvy up $50,000 with the Crate Late Model champion earning $5,000 (and $1,000 for 10th). After averaging about 20 Crates per week in 2018 without a points fund, “we hope to get a lot more,” Nunn said. … Zimmer's United Late Model Series was set for its first-ever visit to Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway in announcing its schedule this week, but a conflict with Bedford’s annual Super Late Model special before Labor Day scrapped the ULMS debut at Hagerstown, series promoter Chris Zuver said. … Zuver also said it appears his hometown McKean County Raceway in East Smethport, Pa., will sit idle in 2019 after Full Circle Productions, which operated the track in 2018, struggled financially. … The mid-morning aisles were packed mid-morning Friday as the trade show reached its crescendo, sending most of those walking the aisles into the “trade show shuffle.” … The first-year American Crate All-Star Series presented by PPM has released a tentative schedule opening March 30 at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway with the $2,500-to-win Charles Trammell Memorial. Other tracks set to host races are Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn., Wartburg (Tenn.) Speedway, Crossville (Tenn.) Speedway and Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va.
1:05 p.m. | Heckenast’s plans
After enjoying full-time status on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series, with guaranteed showup money and other financial benefits, Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., was a little worried about the economics of running the DIRTcar Summer Nationals last season. But WoO’s sister tour was more affordable than he expected, and his results were solid, too, with a victory at Shadyhill Speedway and runner-up finish in points.
After the tour's conclusion, “I looked up my (earnings) and what I tore up on the Summer Nationals, and then I went and looked at (finances) and what I had to spend on the Outlaws, and the Summer Nationals works out way better every way you look at it,” Heckenast said while touring the aisles at PRI. “Because you can get away with one crew guy for the year, and then just hire a young kid or somebody to help you for the four weeks (of the Summer Nationals). For the Outlaws, you gotta have somebody for the whole 12 months of the year pretty much. So I love it. I encourage everybody to do it.”
It was enjoyable for the 30-year-old to compete on a series that he watched as a youngster.
“When I was a kid and grew up racing and went to local tracks and got to watch Shannon Babb and Billy Moyer and Don O’Neal and all those guys race each other really hard on the Summer Nationals, that was like the series to me,” Heckenast said. “When I started racing it kind of fell off a little bit. No disrespect to the guys that were running it then, but I feel like now, this year, with me and (Brian) Shirley, (Jason) Feger, Babb, Bobby (Pierce) coming back, and then the other guys that are going to join in, I think it’s going to be pretty awesome for everybody to watch.”
Heckenast, who plans to run XR1 Rocket Chassis with Clements powerplants and Penske Shocks, won’t be racing deep into the fall, though.
“My season’s going to end at the end of the September, because I’m getting married the month of October,” he said. “So I think once I get married this winter I’m going to talk her into letting me doing a tour next year. If I can go out and accomplish what I want to do on the Summer Nationals, and win a couple of races, to add on to the ones we have, I think I’ll be pretty close to wanting to go back to Outlaws or Lucas."
12:37 p.m. | Brooks moving up
To use the word good to describe Booger Brooks’s 2018 season might be a bit of an understatement. The Oglethorpe, Ga., driver piled up 23 Crate victories at 10 racetracks in four different states. Brooks has found much of his success in the 602 division, which he’s found to be very budget friendly for a weekend racer like himself.
“We’ve got a shock rule,” Brooks said. “There can’t be anything adjustable. The 602 motor is $3,700 or something. It’s a lot cheaper than if you’re going to race Supers. The parts you have to buy for these ain’t as bad as other classes. The tires, we can run a whole lot longer.”
Partnering with veteran Georgia racer Gar Dickson, who owns both a Super and Crate car, Brooks plans to branch out and enter more Super Late Model events in 2019. Dickson said the move has been a long time coming for Brooks, and one that works out well for the entire team.
“We’ve already been dabbling in it some last year and the year before,” Dickson said. “We’ve talked about this for three or four years and he’s wanting to move up. So it works out good for everybody.”
12:25 p.m. | Effects of tariffs
Wrisco Industries is one of Dirt Late Model racing’s largest providers of pre-painted aluminum - the massive 4x10 sheets that teams use to construct decks, body panels, spoilers and more. Getting aluminum pre-painted gives race teams the ability to quickly reskin a car without worrying about painting or powdercoating to get a unique color.
“It’s been an interesting year,” said Wrisco Aluminum representative Jim Neff, a six-year veteran with the company. “With the tariffs and all, it’s definitely been interesting to say the least. In the past we could quote a price and it was good for 30 days. Now a quote is good for 24 hours.”
11:42 p.m. | Satterlee’s little one
Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., just wrapped up his second season on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, scoring a July victory at Muskingum County Speedway in Zanesville, Ohio. As he makes the rounds at the PRI Trade Show, Satterlee is still considering his plans for the upcoming 2019 season.
“No plans made right now,” Satterlee said. “We’re kind of just enjoying the off-season and getting ready to go race. We’re just kind of undecided on when and where that will be. Nothing is set in stone. We’re kind of just now getting reset on going forward next year.”
Right now, Satterlee is enjoying spending time with his wife Kelsey and daughter Prudence, who was born just days before last year’s PRI show. The 1-year-old is keeping both of her parents on their toes, but Satterlee said it’s fun to have her at the racetrack with him.
“It’s a full-time job,” Satterlee said. “My wife’s busy all day chasing her down. She’s walking and everything now, so she is on the move. She was at maybe three or four races. Actually, the Lucas Oil win I had a Zanesville, she was at. So that was pretty awesome. The family was there for that one.”
While his racing plans for next year may be uncertain, Satterlee is looking forward to having both his wife and daughter at the track with him more often now that Prudence is a bit older.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Satterlee said. “I think she’ll maybe be able to have a little bit of an idea of what’s going on. Last year she was just an infant. But it’s fun. We definitely enjoy having her around. It’s changed life, so to say. It’s good.”
11:17 a.m. | Promising outlook for Bare
Piloting the Bryan Klinedinst-owned No. 43A, Tyler Bare of Rockbridge Baths, Va., enjoyed a breakout 2018 season, which included nine victories and a $20,000 payday in Ultimate Southeast Series action at Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica. Now, the second-generation driver is focused on improving in 2019.
“We had a pretty successful season last year,” Bare said. “A lot better than we thought we were going to have, I think. We went downhill there at the end a little bit, but you’re going to have your ups and downs. I hope next year we can get a few more wins.”
Moving up to primarily race Supers in 2018, Bare’s plans are much the same heading into a new season. While he will be racing for Klinedinst again next year, the pair has yet to work out a race schedule. Bare’s just hoping he gets to make the trip to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, for its crown jewel events.
“I think we’ve got a new car coming and we’re probably going to keep the old one, too,” Bare said. “We’re probably going to sit back on the Crates this year and focus more on the No. 43A. We’ll go run my dad’s stuff when we’re not running the No. 43A stuff. We ain’t really got a schedule together. We’re supposed to sit down right after Christmas and figure out what we’re going to do. I think we’re going to run a few more races than we did. Hopefully, we can hit the Eldora races though.”
Bare’s unsure of where he’ll kick off his 2019 season. Right now, his focus is on testing and getting both himself and his car better heading into the new year.
“First and foremost, we’re going to test five or 10 times. Hopefully we can get a little bit better when we go to the Outlaws or the Lucas stuff. Just stay up on our game, really. If we can get a track the whole day, that would be great. It’s going to be a big thing for us, just going to test, practice, change stuff, see what we need, what does work and what doesn’t work. That’s where we struggled at last year.”
11:10 a.m. | Burroughs-Richards connection
It was just last week that Clint Bowyer Racing announced Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., would be replacing Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., behind the wheel of the No. 14. Long-time CBR crewman Anthony Burroughs is looking forward to having Richards, a former Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion and three-time World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series champion, come on board.
“I’m really excited about it,” Burroughs said. “He was at the shop last week and he’s real hands on and really, really smart. He certainly brings a lot to the table. I’ve enjoyed working with every driver I’ve ever worked with. You always learn something different from each and every one of them.
“They’re all the best in the business, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been very fortunate as far as that goes. But (Richards) is very hands-on from a technical standpoint. There’s a lot that he’s going to bring to the table and help us grow, I feel like.”
Burroughs has worked with a few different drivers in his time with CBR, primarily with Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., in recent seasons. He’ll serve as crew chief to Richards in 2019.
“Really everything is status quo,” Burrough said. “Nothing’s really changing. Just instead of being with Don (O’Neal), being with Josh. Other than that, everything’s pretty much the same.”
10:59 a.m. | Carvin the consultant
After spending years on the road working for a string of drivers that includes Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., Riley Hickman of Ooltelwah, Tenn., and Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., long-time crew chief Brad Carvin is enjoying his new role as a racing consultant. Taking a step back was a tough decision, but he knew he wanted to be there for his family.
“You’re riding up and down that road and you get that phone call, ‘Hey, how’d the ball game go?’ And it’s ‘Dad, you should have seen this catch!’ or ‘I made this tackle!’ After a while, you realize you need to be there to see the majority of that. You’re still going to miss some, but I want to be there to see the majority.”
Coming off the road has made life much less stressful for Carvin, who everyone calls Urkel. He said the average fan doesn’t see just how much time and work goes into the sport and producing good results.
“The outside world don’t really realize the stress that goes into racing,” Carvin said. “You devote your whole life to racing. And that’s the truth. If you don’t, you’re not going to run good. And that’s the thing that as a fan, I don’t think some of the fans realize the work, the time, the effort that goes into racing. If you’re not thinking about racing 24 hours a day at this day in time, you better get out of racing. If you don’t give 110 percent, you’re going to waste a lot of money and a lot of time.”
But working with different drivers has given Carvin different perspectives on racing that are helping him as a consultant. He’s a stickler on being prepared when you show up to the racetrack, a lesson he learned from veteran Ronnie Johnson.
“Working with Ronnie was probably the best outlook as far as my racing will ever be,” Carvin said. “He taught you preparation for one. We were the last ones to get to the track. We were always the last car to get to the there. But you knew when you got there, you were going to win. He built that in your mind before you left. There were a lot of times before we left we already knew that we had won the race. All we had to do was go through the motions once we got there. We were just confident in what we were doing.
“That was the best thing about racing with Ronnie. When I left there and moved over to Riley, it was same way. Ronnie had already built that into me, so you could always carry that on to the next one. … We want the end result. We come to win. We didn’t come over here to be buddy-buddy. Everybody’s coming there to do one thing. Win that race and get that check.”
10:09 a.m. | Carpenter scales back
Dean Carpenter of Coldwater, Miss., spent his 2018 season following the MARS Racing Series, finishing third in the final points standings behind Tanner English of Benton, Ky., and Tim Manville of Highland, Ill. But with all of the traveling he did last year, Carpenter is planning to race a bit closer to home in 2019.
“We enjoyed it,” Carpenter said of his time on the MARS tour. “It was a little traveling, but we enjoyed it. I don’t know if I’m going to do it again this year. I may. I’m going to probably start off with the Mississippi State series and go from there.”
Following the regional tour meant visiting several racetracks for the first time, with Carpenter entering MARS events across Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. But the racing was good night in and night out, so he’s not complaining.
“I love the racetracks up in Illinois,” Carpenter said. “They all seem pretty racy. They get the slick and cushion up on the high side. They’re pretty nice tracks.”
Carpenter was often faced with the dilemma many national touring drivers deal with on a weekly basis. Running a series meant traveling several hours to race when a high-paying event was running in his backyard. While he’s not planning another stint on the MARS tour, he had nothing but praise for the series.
“When you have a race close to home and you have a series race far away, it made the decision harder to go. But we decided to just go ahead and do the whole MARS deal. That’s a good series, a real good series to run. Chris (Tilley) does a real good job with it.”
9:32 a.m. | Southern All Star champ
In his first year following the Southern All Stars tour, Jay Scott of Fayetteville, Tenn., did more than just earn the series Rookie of the Year honors. He also clinched the 2018 SAS championship. It was a special accomplishment for Scott, who has raced on more of a local level in recent seasons.
“It means a lot really,” said Scott, among hundreds of drivers at PRI. “Just being a local guy and not every really having any help and then Anthony Bruce enterprises helping us out this last year, really helped us go a little bit extra to be able to run a series.”
Indeed, a partnership with Bruce was just the boost Scott needed. In a sport full of expenses, every little bit of help makes a difference. Scott was able to return the favor by earning Bruce a regional championship title.
“It’s better for him than it is for me really,” Scott said. “In my opinion, I’m always hard on myself. Running seventh or 10th is not a huge accomplishment for me. But winning points is a pretty big deal. It means a lot to him because he’s a guy that loves racing. He’s all about it.”
Racing with Bruce again in 2019, Scott is considering tackling the Southern All Stars tour again next year. However, he’s waiting for his new Rocket XR1 to arrive at the end of February and that time table could factor in to his season-long plans.
“Our plans are still the same as it was last year,” Scott said. “Right now our plan is to run 90 percent of the Southern All Stars stuff, still not 100 percent dedicated yet because of a new car we’ve got on the way. It’s kind of still semi up in the air.”
7:52 a.m. | New products galore
The first of multiple video installments of new Dirt Late Model products on the PRI show floor is on the site. Find overviews of exhibits by Quickcar Racing Products, Dyer's Top Rods, Comp Cams, Tiger Rear Ends, Racingjunk.com, Accu-Force Dynos and Testers, Schaeffer Oil, Five Star Bodies, Allstar Performance, Bilstein Shock Absorbers, PPM Racing Prodcuts and Butlerbuilt Professional Seat Systems. Staffers Gilly Hanson and Tim Truex will continue finding more new products today.
6:38 a.m. | What to look for
DirtonDirt.com staffers will be scouring the show floor again today for video interviews, stories, photos and more from 750,000 square feet of exhibit space, where you can rack up a ton of steps (21,966 for one reporter on opening day).
We don’t have a line on any scheduled Silly Season driver changes or sponsorships to be announced, but we are looking for a few schedule announcements today. The Ultimate Southeast Series will reveal its schedule before the show opens while Ray Cook’s three Schaeffer Oil-sponsored tours — the Spring Nationals, Southern Nationals and newly renamed Fall Nationals — will reveal schedules at 10 a.m. with slates that include an Alabama track on the Spring Nationals for the first time.
Otherwise, check out our other PRI coverage including video interviews from Thursday with the likes of Devin Moran, Tim McCreadie, Tyler Erb, Josh Richards, Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley, Chris Ferguson, Earl Pearson Jr. and Tanner English.
Editor’s note: Reporting by Todd Turner, Robert Holman, Ben Shelton, Derek Kessinger and other DirtonDirt.com staffers; remote assistance from Alli Collis.