By Michael Duddy, PhotoTaylorSports
Having worked in the automotive industry for nearly 20 years, I have attended my fair share of trade shows. From the massive Detroit spectacle that is the SAE World Congress & Exhibition to Indianapolis’ own (and always enjoyable) Work Truck Show, I’ve mingled with more Automotive Engineers and truck guys than you can shake a stick at. It never ceases to amaze me how many innovative products and people you can cram into a single venue…and how much FREE STUFF you can collect in a day or two spent roaming said venue.
But, do you know what was always missing from all of those trade shows? Why, the family, of course! I know what you are saying, ‘Trade shows are for professionals…not children!’ True. Most trade shows are geared toward the industry professionals that largely attend them. I mean, have you ever met a 17 year old Automotive Engineer? I didn’t think so. Have you ever a met a 17 year old aspiring race car driver? No? Well, apparently, you’ve never attended the Performance Racing Industry (aka: PRI) Show held every year in downtown Indianapolis. 17 years old. That’s the age at which 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski first attended the PRI Show. Although, as Brad admitted to Dave Despain during this year’s Grand Opening Breakfast, he *may* have been forced to wear a family members’ credential that first year in order to get into the show. However, today, if you own or work for a racing-related business, you are good to go. I’m afraid that if you are merely a race fan, you’ll have to stay home. The Indiana Convention Center is big. But, not THAT big.
In addition to a tasty breakfast served by an excellent staff, PRI’s annual Grand Opening Breakfast this year featured yodeling cowgirl Mikki Daniel (yes, a yodeling cowgirl), renowned racing journalist Dave Despain, and racing professional Brad Keselowski, (Don’t worry, Brad was legally in attendance this year!) Brad shared stories about his early involvement in racing, spent primarily at his family’s race shop in Rochester Hills, Michigan. With a father, uncle and brother who raced professionally, it’s easy to understand Brad’s determination to do the same.
Family. It is undoubtedly the most prevalent theme in the motorsports business. In fact, as I made my way into the halls of the Indiana Convention Center, it really came as no surprise to see entire families all sporting a shirt from their own company or their own race team. We’re not talking Andretti, Petty, or Unser; the family names that often come to mind when you talk about racing. What I kept seeing were Mom, Dad, ‘Speed’ Jr, and Uncle Phil from Mom and Pop’s Speed Shop…or, other similar home-grown racing organizations. This seems to be what makes PRI unique, compared to the other trade shows in which I have participated.
On May 29th, 2016 the world will witness the 100th running of the greatest spectacle in racing…the Indianapolis 500. Several generations of families will pack the stands and the infield. Not to mention pit row. At least, that is the hope of PRI 2015 guest Matthew Brabham, third-generation racing driver, son of 10-time Indy 500 starter Geoff Brabham, and grandson of legendary 3-time Formula 1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham. Matt will drive the #61 PIRTEK Team Murray entry in both the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis AND the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. You may recall in 1961 when Jack Brabham drove the rear-engined Cooper Climax to a top-10 finish, ushering in the modern era of rear-engined Indy cars. If he qualifies successfully for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Matt, and the Brabham name, will be among an extremely elite group of third generation drivers who have competed in the Indianapolis 500. Who are the others you ask? Yukovich and Andretti…ever heard of them?