Updates from the final day of PRI Trade Show
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 8) — The Indiana Convention Center doors reopen Saturday morning for the third and final day 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. Saturday’s blog-style notebook (complete PRI coverage):
3:53 p.m. | PRI wrapping up
With the aisles significantly thinning inside the Indiana Convention Center, the 31st annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show is coming to a close. If you couldn’t attend or perhaps missed some of DirtonDirt.com’s coverage, simply look back through the PRI Index Page to catch up.
3:48 p.m. | Fergy good with 40-plus
Taking time away from the Butlerbuilt Seats exhibit, where he was helping promote the company’s line of safety equipment, Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C., talked briefly about his plans for 2019. Ferguson, who plans to kick his year off at Georgia-Florida Speedweeks, said he definitely doesn’t have a schedule etched in stone.
“We’re gonna to to Brunswick. I think we’re gonna start out there for the Lucas Oil opener,” Ferguson said. “I had a heck of a time at Volusia last year. We might do that again. I don’t know if I’m gonna make East Bay or not.
“For me, we are able to run Gaffney (South Carolina’s Cherokee Speedway) in the March race that pays $10,000 to $15,000 to win and the Outlaws race at Smoky Mountain that pays $10,000. There’s a couple like that. You know there’s a bunch of races that are within four or five hours that are about four different sanctions that all pay $10,000-to-win there in March. I think I’m gonna do that. I don’t foresee me going back on a tour right now. I enjoyed hitting all the crown jewels we did … going to Portsmouth. I want to go to I-80 this year. I think it’s cool to race both regional and national, do a little bit of both.
Ferguson said he’s looking forward to an hit-and-miss schedule.
“Two years ago we went out to Fairbury twice and had a blast, ran good both times. Ran good at the PDC and the FALS Frenzy,” he said. “Go out there and do a race or two in Illinois one weekend and surprise everybody. I’ve talked to the Cedar Lake guys probably six or seven years in a row and I’ve yet to make it up there. So if we run good enough at Fairbury, I might go up there to Cedar Lake.
Last season Ferguson competed in 24 of 40 World of Outlaws events while winning three non-WoO races in three states, including a $10,000 Southern All Star triumph in Lancaster, S.C.
“I think we’re gonna go back and do more or less what I did in 2016-2017, just kind of run our 20-25 regional races and 20-25 national races,” Ferguson added. “Typically for us 40 to 50 (race per year) is our goal. That means we’re racing every weekend. It’s so hard to go to the Thursday shows and Sunday shows, especially when everybody’s working. Do 40 to 50 and if the year goes well we can race more. We ran a bunch of races at the end of the year just because we could, because we were running good. We’ll to the same thing again. If everything is going good, then we’ll probably race more then we have the last couple of years.”
3:19 p.m. | Odds and ends
Saturday at PRI is all about “just trying to see the new products,” according to Roben Huffman of Clinton, Ill. The Crate Late Model racer who frequents Lincoln Speedway - he was second in Lincoln’s points in ’18 — Farmer City and Fairbury rolled into PRI for Saturday only with an eye on getting a first glimpse of the products he hopes can help him “just get a little better.” … Brothers Rodney and Randy Hamby of PPM Race Products in Rockford, Tenn., said Saturday’s crowd was solid, but not as good as Thursday and Friday. “It was busy Saturday, but if you just take the dirt crowd, it was about the same (as in year’s past). I call it good quantity,” said Randy Hamby, adding that Thursday and Friday were much better than Saturday from a business perspective. … Debuting new all white throwback uniforms on Saturday, the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series officials looked like they just stepped off the set of a Burt Reynolds movie. “They look good on (someone else),” quipped DIRTcar Summer Nationals director Sam Driggers when told how snazzy the outfits looked. “It’s not summer,” added Driggers, suggesting that the crew’s white pants shouldn’t be worn after after September.
1:47 p.m. | AFCO on the rebound
Entering his third year at AFCO, shock specialist Jerry Link feels like he finally has the company’s venerable shock line headed in the right direction. Link was on hand at PRI, working AFCO’s display booth answering questions about the brand’s latest dampening devices, which are available for Late Models as well as other applications.
Link said when he was hired away from Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based SHY Racing Suspension — a devision of Sloan Honda Yamaha — he was tasked with “rebuilding” the company’s declining shock sales. First he had to rebuild the product itself said Link. It hasn’t been easy because according to Link the company’s reputation had been hurt due to an underperforming product. Fast-forward three years and Link said he feels he has a shock capable of competing at a high level.
“We had to start at the bottom and completely rebuild,” said Link. “So that’s what we did. We started there and now we’re working our way back up.”
12:48 p.m | Erb's new perspective
Attending the PRI Trade Show as the newly announced driver for the Ohio-based Best Performance Motorsports team is an all new experience for Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas. Now solely a driver instead of running his own equipment, the 21-year-old Erb is taking in the show from a whole new perspective as opposed to of constantly weighing his own personal racing budget.
“Right now I’m doing a lot of making amends with people I’m not going to get to do business with,” Erb said. “They have their own deals existing and I have to make sure I please them and my people. I’ve got to go up to my drive shaft guy and tell him, ‘Hey, I appreciate everything you all have done. But we can’t make that switch. It’s not in the cards. They already have their connections and their deals. But if something were to ever happen, don’t ever forget me.’ Basically don’t burn any bridges with anybody. Then at the same time, meet all of their people for the first time and just try to make a connection.
“When a guy gets a ride, those people that were there before him will be there after him. You want to make them people understand and feel like you’re going to be there for a long time. That’s what our goal is with Best Performance. I plan on being here as long as they want me to race. I think that’s what they have in store for us. I want to have relationships with everybody that’s helping that team because I’m part of that team now.”
Just as he’s progress on the track over the last few years, Erb has also grown as a trade show attendee. He now understands the importance of networking and maintaining relationships with the business and people who help his race team find success.
“The first time I ever came here, I was 17, I think,” Erb said. “I walked around just in awe. Like, ‘Oh hey, here’s so and so,’ and ‘Oh hey, there’s that booth here.’ And now it’s kind of like I have more of a plan. I’m like, ‘I need to go talk to this guy. I need to go talk to this guy. I’ve got to go eat dinner with this guy.’ You don’t see those people a lot and these companies want to be involved with me and I want to be involved with them. But at the end of the day, if I don’t have them in my corner on my team, we’re in bad shape.”
11:25 a.m. | Francis right at home
Steve Francis is among the thousands taking in this year’s PRI show, but for the second year in a row the Bowling Green, Ky., native isn’t doing so from a driver’s perspective. Francis, who just wrapped up his first season as the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series tech director, has a whole new appreciation of the show.
“It’s different. When you’re here as a driver you’re meeting your sponsors, you’re (about) what’s the latest, greatest (new product), new ideas, so on and so forth,” said Francis. “Coming on this side, I’m meeting all of our Lucas sponsors and Lucas partners, talking to them, asking them about the same things. But they’re asking us, ‘What can we do for this series? How can our product help the series?’ So it has a lot of similarities and some little differences.”
Francis has seemingly made a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the tech shed.
“They put such a staff (together) … Rick (Schwallie) and Richie (Lewis) and the Lucas family … to back me up that it made that transition easy,” he said. “Yes, there was a little bit of a learning period, but I kinda knew that going in. I was a 35-year racer, so I had to take that racer hat off. That was a little bit of an adjustment for me. But I’m just really, really happy with the way everything turned out this year. I’m happy with the job, enjoying it, and look forward to doing it for awhile.”
Heading into 2019 Francis is undaunted in knowing that the Lucas Oil Series has a record 65 events on tap.
“I was that racer that always wanted 80 sanctioned events because, you know, I didn’t have to worry about going anywhere else,” Francis said. “I’d run our 80 sanctioned events. I got the benefits of being a perfect attendance driver with the tow money, so on and so forth like that. So that side I liked it. The down side is it takes time away. But now we have two less weekends of racing this year. But we’ve done away with where you practice one night, qualify and have heat races the next night and run your feature the next night and turned them into a feature on Thursday, a feature on Friday and feature on Saturday.
“The racer in me thinks that’s great because I get a check every night. I may be a little bit more work of the teams, because that practice night is a really relaxed night, where, when you’re points racing, every race is a pressure-packed thing. So there are pluses and minuses on every part of it. But as a series, we’ve upped purse money for the year. How can you go wrong with that? We had 20 different feature winners last year. I think 12 of our top 14 (drivers) won a Lucas Oil feature event. It’s gonna be hard to top this year.”
10:37 a.m. | Bronson eyes Lucas return
Working his way through the 31st annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., isn’t unlike many of the other drivers attending the show. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series regular — Bronson finished 13th in 2018 tour points — is hoping to secure more sponsorship. While product sponsorships are always welcome and are typically one of the biggest gains of attending the show, Bronson said he’s in dire need of the funds to hire another crew member.
“We’ve been talking with a couple different guys trying to get some help sponsorship-wise there,” Bronson said. “We’re gonna try to run the tour again next year as of now. Everything is about the same. We’re gonna start out with Speedweeks. So hopefully everything falls into place and lets us do that, ‘cause I had a blast this year.
“All these guys are tough. The main thing for us is we’ve got to get a little bit of help. It was just me and (crewman) Tanner (Birdwell) pretty much all year long and he worked his butt off. It’s just tough. When you get behind like the couple times that we did it’s just tough getting caught back up, getting all your spare stuff ready. So I gotta really try to find us another crew guy to help us out a little bit.”
If that falls into place, Bronson said he’s looking forward to getting a second crack at tracks that were new to him a year ago.
“I think we will be a little bit better next year. We’ll have a little bit of a notebook next year,” he said. “This year was the first time we’d been to a bunch of those racetracks and when we go back it’s always a lot better I feel like. Overall just going back to the racetracks for the second time will be a really big deal for us. I feel like heading to Speedweeks, where we’ve raced at a lot and had a little bit of success we can carry that on through the rest of the year.”
8:05 a.m. | Finale in sight
DirtonDirt.com staffers will be out and about again today, tracking down more video interviews, stories, photos and other tidbits from the 750,000 square feet of exhibit space, where you can rack up a ton of steps (21,966 for one reporter on opening day).
The show’s final day wraps up an hour early, but there’s still plenty of time to get out and see what all the fuss is about. If you can’t make, check this page throughout the day for updates from the showroom floor.
In the meantime, check out Friday’s PRI coverage, including video interviews from Bobby Pierce Ray Cook, Don O’Neal, Gregg Satterlee, Kyle Berck, Billy Moyer Jr., Kevin Rumley, Rusty Schlenk and more.
Editor’s note: Reporting by Robert Holman, Ben Shelton, Derek Kessinger and other DirtonDirt.com staffers; remote assistance from Alli Collis.