2008 PRI (Performance Racing Industry) Trade Show

overview

The Performance Racing Industry trade show has been an annual event for two decades, filling up the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida with racing and performance products and famous racers and engineers. While the show is dominated by the domestics, numerous import manufacturers were also represented along with supporting aftermarket companies.

Attendance is limited to people involved in the industry - wholesalers, racers, speed shops, and performance manufacturers - but the show was still crowded. All the famed performance equipment makers were represented, both new names and legendary players, niche groups and mass-market suppliers. Every year racers, engineers, and marketers meet old friends, make new ones, and see new product introductions; most performance gear is unveiled either at PRI or SEMA.

nuforms no hood

The show is crowded with new introductions. This year, on Thursday alone, announcements were made by GM, West Race Cars, Toyo Tire, Mazda, Atech, Revolution Racing, Engine Masters, Mopar, Lucas Oil, and Vapor Trail Racing. NASCAR announced a ten year partnership with Comp Cams, and SCCA announced the return of the Trans Am championship.

inside

Over 40,000 people from 50 countries attended the three-day show, which boasted 1,350 exhibitors. NASCAR crew chief Dale Inman, who worked with Richard Petty, was the opening day breakfast speaker, and Budweiser sponsored the PRI Happy Hour on Thursday night.

PRI breakfast

A full slate of motorsports business seminars were held on Friday and Saturday morning. Inside, the atmosphere was cordial and friendly, despite the overwhelming amount of performance products, the often massive and lavish displays, and the crowds of people.

viper

The big Mopar event for the show was the presentation of the first new made being presented to “Big Daddy” Don Garlits. The heavily autographed car was displayed for the show.

Headlining Mopar's PRI Show presence was Mopar’s Steve Shugg’s presentation of a certificate to drag racing legend "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, honoring Garlits' purchase of the first production Super Stock Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.

The factory-developed Dodge Challenger Drag Pak is based on the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8® and will be eligible to run in popular categories (Stock, Super Stock and Comp Eliminator) and potentially 40 classes in NHRA/IHRA competition. Garlits plans to race his Dodge Challenger Drag Pak Vehicle in NHRA Division 2 and is aiming to make it to the U.S. Nationals in 2009 to commemorate his sixtieth year in drag racing.

inside super stock dodge

Garlits was not, by any means, the only legendary racer from the formative days of NHRA/IHRA racing at the show; a veritable Who’s Who of Mopar performance figures from the 1960s and 1970s have attended every year. Normally, the Mopar Performance head honchos have had a presence, albeit not necessarily the most welcoming presence, according to some show-goers; but some representatives of the former Direct Connection were present to show off their hot line of racing goodies. Dodge executives were, of course, on hand for the Super Stock Dodge hand-off.

As in prior years, Stewart Pomeroy took members of the Missile teams to lunch at the nearby Sonny’s BBQ. The tradition started in the early 1970s, when, according to Stewart, the team did R&D work in nearby Gainesville, Florida. At the time, Stewart acted as a gopher for the gang, getting food from Sunny’s and running other errands; he wrote,

“You had eight or ten guys, and that was it; they did everything or they worked with the foundry or [cylinder] head guys to get it done. It was a real labor of love, and they did all the work, the engineering, the building, and the racing. They drove them and knew what they needed. They worked so hard to tune up the master cylinder, for example, getting the right parts, experimenting, retuning. When they ran the aero tests they had to hang out of the window to take pictures, and there was no digital camera, so they had to drop off the film and wait a day or two to get the pictures back. The Missile crew worked as R&D for different types of parts, and shared everything they learned with the contract racers when they found what worked. They did week after week after week of testing, instead of doing more match racing. Never have so few done so much for so many with so little.”

Stewart also noted that while the Super Stock Challenger was a hot item, there was some desire expressed for a body-in-white version, sans engine; some racers already have engines ready and waiting for a good body like the Challenger.

"It's going to be a lot of fun to meet the fans head-to-head on the drag strip during my 60th anniversary tour this coming season," said Garlits."We have a lot of work to do to complete my Dodge Challenger Drag Pak Vehicle and fine tune it and dial it in, but it's no different than anything I have ever done before. We expect to be competitive."

Garlits also joined Team Mopar drivers Allen Johnson and Samuel Hübinette in a Mopar autograph session at the Mopar Stage prior to the certificate presentation.

nuforms dodge

Mopar-powered vehicles on display at the PRI Show included Hubinette’s Mopar Drift Dodge Challenger; the Retro Dodge Challenger Drag Pak Vehicle Garlits piloted at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals; the 2008 Targa Dodge Challenger SRT8, built by the Mopar Underground group; the Mopar Accessories 2009 Dodge Ram R/T; the Yankee Peddler Dodge Challenger; and a Dodge Viper Competition Coupe.

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