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Thursday's live reports from the PRI trade show

November 29, 2012, 10:18 am
By Joshua Joiner
DirtonDirt.com staff writer

ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 29) — The doors of the Orange County Convention Center have opened for the first of three days of the Performance Racing Industry trade show, a gathering of professionals from all types of motorsports including many drivers, teams, manufacturers and promoters from the Dirt Late Model world. Below are DirtonDirt.com’s blog-style updates from the show: | Trade show coverage index

4:38 p.m.: First day wraps up

The first of three days for the PRI show is coming to close as attendees head toward the exits of the Orange County Convention Center. The show continues Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. We counted just 11 Dirt Late Model drivers in attendance today. Here’s the final list of drivers we spotted:

Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Randy Weaver, Crossville, Tenn.
Daren Friedman, Forest, Ill.*
Casey Roberts, Toccoa, Ga.
Randle Chupp, Troutman, N.C.
Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.
Jason Fitzgerald, Jacksonville, Fla.
Brandon Dewitt, Morven, Ga.
Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.
Dillon Wood, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Matt Miller, Whitehouse, Ohio*

* attending as vendor representative

4:14 p.m.: Wood plans WoO rookie campaign

While checking out the Keyser Manufacturing/Integra Shocks booth, Dillon Wood of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., said he plans to chase the Rookie of the Year Award on the World of Outlaws tour next season.

Excited about his chances on the series, Wood said he’ll see where he stacks up in the series standings following the first 10 races in the Southeast region, but he’s confident he’ll be sticking with series all season.

“We’re not getting any better with how we’re racing now, and to be the best you’ve gotta beat the best,” Wood said. “We’re gonna go through the spring and see how it goes, but we’re pretty committed to it. If you can stay in that top 12 it’s a pretty good deal.”

4:02 p.m.: Lucas Oil ready for 2013

Series director Ritchie Lewis said the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series is all set for next season and is expecting “another great year.” The series released its 2013 schedule in October. With 43-race schedule boasts 10 races paying at least $20,000 to the winner.

3:35 p.m.: McCreadie happy with Warrior

Tim McCreadie may have had an up-and-down season in 2012, but the ups were good enough to keep the Watertown, N.Y., driver excited about the possibilities of his partnership with Sanford Goddard’s Warrior Race Cars after just one season in the car.

“We struggled at times, but I mean we won eight races. That’s not a bad year.” said McCreadie, who finished the season fourth in the World of Outlaws standings. “For us just jumping in those cars for the first year, I think that’s definitely something to be happy about.”

3:12 p.m.: Exciting WoO slate

World of Outlaws Series director Tim Christman said he is pleased with the national tour’s 2013 schedule released Thursday morning. Christman is happy about a number of traditional events returning to the WoO slate, but says five new tracks for the series helps build excitement for the tour.

Tracks scheduled to host their first series event include: I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark., Whynot (Miss.) Motorsports Park, Lavonia (Ga.) Speedway, Brighton (Ontario) Speedway and Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway.

2:48 p.m.: Double duty for Cook

Veteran driver and Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals Series promoter Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., doesn’t typically race in events he promotes, but says he’s definitely pulling double duty today at PRI.

Cook, who plans to release the schedule for next summer’s Southern Nationals tour Friday morning, said he’s been plenty busy today visiting both product sponsors for his race car and sponsors for his series while also trying to take some time out to check out new products and technologies on display.

“It’s about a 50-50 split,” Cook said. “I’ve got some great sponsors that have helped my racing program for a long time, and you always want stop and see those folks just to say thanks. But this is a great place to see the series sponsors and potential sponsors, too. I guess it just makes for a busy day.”

Fresh off a $20,000 Crate Late Model victory in last weekend’s Turkey 100 at Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway, Cook said he plans to mainly run Super Late Model events in 2013 while mixing in a number of Crate specials.

“My heart’s in Supers, but this Crate deal is pretty nice,” Cook said. “We’ve won two out of the four races we’ve ran in (the Crate car) and they’re good paying races. It’s hard to beat that.”

2:12 p.m.: No Late Models

While the list of Dirt Late Model drivers at PRI today may be slim, the number of Dirt Late Model cars on display at the show is even slimmer. There are plenty of booths featuring Late Models on their signage, but not one actual Late Model car has been spotted on display.

1:35 p.m.: Big year for Carolina Speedway

Carolina Speedway promoter Clint Elkins is among the dirt track promoters at PRI today. He’s excited about the upcoming 2013 season, which he plans to be a big year for his 3/8-mile oval in Gastonia, N.C.

Major Late Model events scheduled for next year at the track include the Skyler Trull Memorial and the annual Shrine Race, both sanctioned by the Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series. The track is also slated to host the $7,000-to-win King of the Carolinas for the Battle of the Eastern All Stars Tour in October.

The inaugural event was originally scheduled for this past October but was cancelled due to pending construction of a toll road near the track. Elkins is determined to make the race happen in 2013.

“I don’t care if we have to run it in my backyard, we’re gonna have that race,” Elkins said.

12:58 p.m.: Race officials at PRI

Drivers and crew members aren’t the only ones checking out the PRI show today. It’s a popular spot for series officials and track promoters. Just to name a few, we’ve spotted Lucas Oil Series director Ritchie Lewis, United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series race director Ken Kinney Jr. as wells as a number of DIRTcar and World of Outlaws officials.

12:35 p.m.: Championship crew chief tours PRI

Fresh off helping driver Mark Whitener of Middleburg, Fla., claim his second UDLMCS championship, crew chief Mike Ray is having a hard time focusing on planning for next season after the excitement of the team’s title-clinching victory in the regional tour’s season finale last weekend at North Florida Speedway in Lake City, Fla. With the $3,000 race win, Whitener overcame a 70-point deficit to narrowly top Keith Nosbisch of Valrico, Fla., the points chase.

“It was a thriller,” Ray said. “We’ll be excited about that one for quite a while.”

12:04 p.m.: Slim list of drivers

The list of drivers spotted by lunchtime of the first day is relatively slim. Here's who we've seen so far:

Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Randy Weaver, Crossville, Tenn.
Daren Friedman, Forest, Ill.
Casey Roberts, Toccoa, Ga.
Randle Chupp, Troutman, N.C.
Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.
Jason Fitzgerald, Jacksonville, Fla.
Brandon Dewitt, Morven, Ga.
Matt Miller, Whitehouse, Ohio

11:44 a.m.: Fitzgerald still catching up

Former Earl Pearson Jr. crew chief Jason Fitzgerald, who returned home to Jacksonville, Fla., to resume his own driving career this season, is walking the trade show aisles with new teammate Brandon Dewitt of Morven, Ga. Fitzgerald had an up-and-down season this year as he struggled with the transition back to full-time racer after parting ways with Pearson and Bobby Labonte Racing.

“It’s been tough getting back into it, cause you kind of gotta build your stuff back up,” Fitzgerald said. “You get back going and you think you have everything you need, then you realize you don’t have a grooving iron or whatever. Little stuff like that just keeps popping up.”

After teaming up and running mostly spec-engine Late Model events for the second half of this season, Fitzgerald and Dewitt plan to run a mix of open-engine and spec-engine events in their GRT Race Cars. Dewitt, a multi-time winner on the National Late Model Series, plans to run some Super Late Model races during Speedweeks in February.

11:20 a.m.: WoO schedule released

The 2013 World of Outlaws Late Model Series schedule was one of the first major announcements made in conjunction with PRI. Forty-nine races at 38 tracks in 21 states and Canada are currently confirmed as part of the most ambitious slate ever for the national tour. Read more about it here.

11:09 a.m.: Early attendees

Attendance by Dirt Late Model drivers and teams at PRI has declined noticeably over the past few years, but perhaps the show’s final year in Orlando will be different. Within just a few minutes of walking through the doors, DirtonDirt.com has already spotted two high-profile drivers.

Recently crowed Southern All Stars champion Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn., was seen as he entered the show floor and former World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Rick Eckert of York, Pa., was located checking out a booth close to the entrance. We plan to catch up with Weaver, Eckert and as many other Dirt Late Model drivers attending the show as possible throughout the day.

11:00 a.m.: Final show in Orlando

This week’s PRI show will be the final time the show is held in Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, at least for the foreseeable future. PRI officials announced last week that the show is merging with the International Motorsports Industry Show, which will send PRI back to Indianapolis, Ind., beginning next year.

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