by Paul Gohde
Begun in 1986 as a trade show for the “grass-roots racer,” PRI (Performance Racing Industry) is a three-day event, now held at the Indianapolis Convention Center since its 2013 move from Orlando, Florida. The show attracts more than 1,000 manufacturers who display their racing products to an estimated 70,000 racers and teams who attend each December.
Though the main reason for the PRI show itself is to bring the latest in racing hardware to the grass-roots racing community, the show also brings sanctioning bodies, race teams, sponsors, etc. an opportunity to reach attendees with their latest rules, schedules and tracks.
Some highlights of the show:
● Each year PRI hosts an opening morning breakfast where a nationally known racing speaker answers questions from the audience. This year, speakers were Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT INDYCAR SERIES owner Roger Penske and IMS president Doug Boles. Among a list of topics they covered, Penske took the opportunity to remind the crowd that it is more important than ever to work together across the (motorsports) industry. “I can’t think of a better place to gather than the PRI Show. This is the perfect setting to communicate with race leaders,” he noted. Penske and Boles discussed issues related to IMS and Indycar racing in general, including the desire to to host a world class endurance race there, and eventually bring an F1 race back to the 16th Street circuit. Boles and Penske showed their mutual respect, often picking up the dialog of the other as one paused.
● Another highlight of the first day schedule was an appearance by drag racing champion John Force and his Peak team at the Chevrolet performance booth. Sixteen-time NHRA champion Force, Top Fuel driver and Force daughter Brittany, and teammate Robert Hight, 3-time Funny Car champion, spoke to the crowd with Jim Campbell, VP of Performance and Motorsports at General Motors, moderating. Greg Anderson, the NHRA Pro-Stock champion, who also runs for Chevy, spoke to the crowd earlier.
● Sanctioning bodies, such as the World of Outlaws sprint car series and the ARCA Menards stock car series, boasted large displays, handing out 2022 schedules and answering questions from fans. Missing from the ARCA booth was long-time ARCA VP of Business & Corporate Development, Mark Gundrum. The Wisconsin native recently announced his retirement from ARCA and will be missed.
● One of the groups taking advantage of the large, racing oriented crowds at the PRI Show was the Museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Museum, constructed in the track’s infield 50 years ago, is in the process of bringing its exhibits to more up-to-date standards, along with some talk of building a new facility. Their exhibit at PRI included several winning racers (Jimmy Clark’s Lotus Ford among them), and was museum staffed during the show. Eight levels of membership, along with various benefits, are offered to supporters. For more information on joining and supporting their efforts, see www.imsmuseum.org.
● The 2022 PRI Show will be held December 8th-10th, again in Indianapolis. It is open to racing suppliers, race teams, partners and sponsors involved in the sport.
Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.
Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.
The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.
Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.
He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.
Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”