In 2013, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show will return to Indianapolis, and again be the king of all racing trade shows in the United States.
For decades there was no question of PRI's stature among racing trade shows. Some, such as Parts Peddler in Syracuse, N.Y., were good, but regional in nature. Others, such as Lenny Sammons' show in Philadelphia, were OK, but were geared as much for fans as they were for the hardcore racers. PRI stood alone as the show for hardcore racers and racing manufacturers.
PRI was held in a few different places -- Reno, Nev., Columbus, Ohio -- before finding a home in Indianapolis. But seven or eight years ago the show moved to Orlando, Fla., when it outgrew the Indianapolis Convention Center. The weather was great, but Orlando is not a "racing" town.
The city of Indianapolis worked hard to increase the size of the convention center to accommodate PRI and win the show back. The old RCA Dome was replaced by Lucas Oil Stadium, so the Dome's property could be incorporated by the convention center. But PRI was lured into signing a long-term contract with Orlando.
Some aspects of the motorsports industry -- short-track racing and drag racing in particular -- felt it was being ignored by PRI, which became more international in nature. As a result a rival show -- the International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS) -- began in Indianapolis, to be held annually within a week of PRI. And when Cup star Tony Stewart invested in IMIS, the show gained credibility.
But then the racing industry had another dilemma. Manufacturers and attendees had to spend the money to go to two shows. As the economy remained sluggish, more and more attendees and manufacturers felt forced to choose between one show or the other. Both shows were successful, but neither enjoyed the success of PRI in its prime.
This year it was announced that the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show purchased PRI. Then, only weeks before either of the December shows this year, it was announced that PRI purchased IMIS. And -- since new ownership is not bound by contracts signed by the previous owner -- PRI will move back to Indianapolis in 2013.
At this year's IMIS show there was a lot of talk about next year, when the show will once again be PRI in Indianapolis, and is expected to fill every square foot of the Indianapolis Convention Center. Once again it will be the meeting of the entire racing industry, as the split caused by the competing PRI/IMIS shows will no longer exist. PRI will again be the largest motorsports trade show in the world.
At all of these trade shows, many special events and seminars take place. The 2012 IMIS show launched banquets for both the Lucas Oil Dirt late Model Series and the ARCA racing series.
Jimmy Owens was honored at the Lucas Estate in nearby Carmel, Ind., as the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model champion on Dec. 6, the evening after the first day of the three-day IMIS show. Lucas Oil -- which concentrates much of its marketing in motorsports -- also held a Friday luncheon for media and invited guests on Dec. 7, and was a presenting partner of the show.
ARCA, which celebrated its 60th racing season, held its banquet at the convention center Saturday night after the close of the IMIS show. Chris Buesher was crowned ARCA's 30th champion. The 20-year-old cousin of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher has a bright future in the sport.
Many other racing celebrations were held in conjunction with IMIS, including the Lyn St. James' Women in the Winner's Circle Foundation, which honored NHRA, and Pro Stock racer Erica Enders as well as her Victor Cagnazzi-owned team at its 10th annual Women in the Winner's Circle Awards dinner on Friday evening.
At the annual celebration, St. James presented the Leadership Award to NHRA President Tom Compton. Enders received the Outstanding Achievement Award for her history-making season by becoming the first woman to win in the Pro Stock class. She scored two No. 1 qualifying spots and won four races to finish fourth in the 2012 points standings.
Enders became the third female to win this award and joins Ashley Force Hood, who received it in 2010, and 2011 recipient Danica Patrick.
As busy as Indianapolis was for the 2012 IMIS show, it will be even busier in 2013 for the return of PRI.
-- Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.