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PRI 2017 is Almost Here

Words & Photos: John Gunnell

I just received an email saying that the annual PRI Show is coming up. The show takes place Dec. 7-9, 2017 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Ind. This year will be the 30th anniversary of this event.

Here are some bullet points on the show; take a look before I tell you my personal experiences from attending the past few years.



  • More than 1,100 racing businesses exhibiting in over 3,400 booths, showcasing the latest developments in racing products, technology and services.
  • Among the exhibitors are many companies exhibiting at the PRI Show for the first time in 2017.
  • Every type of racing discipline featured under one roof: drag racing, sprint cars, stock cars, road racing, modifieds, dirt late models, karting, off-road racing, tractor pulling, open wheel, muscle car, performance marine and more.
  • Tens of thousands of credentialed buyers from all 50 states and 70 countries.
  • Leading manufacturers displaying their trailer, motorcoach, hauler, and toterhome lineups on Georgia and Maryland streets, as well as Capitol Avenue, just outside the Convention Center.
  • More than 100 manufacturers on Machinery Row displaying cutting-edge machining equipment and providing hands-on demonstrations.


  • Activity begins December 4 with Race Industry Week, featuring more than 45 conferences, seminars, and social gatherings.
  • Exclusive events: PRI Happy Hour, Grand Opening Breakfast, Student Breakfast/Career Day, International Motorsports Trade Seminar, Advanced Engineering Technology Conference (AETC), International Council of Motorsport Sciences (ICMS) Congress, Race Track Business Conference (RTBC) and Day at the Speedway
  • New Features: Featured Products Showcase, PRI Simulator Challenge and Tribute to AJ Foyt exhibit.


  • PRI Show occupies 750,000 gross square feet of race products, services, machinery, simulation and testing technologies throughout the Indiana Convention Center.
  • 93% of buyers say PRI was well worth the time and cost.
  • 92% of buyers say the quality and quantity of new racing products is excellent.
  • PRI Show will have an estimated economic impact of over $70 million on the local economy.

PRI connects manufacturers of racing products and technology with the all-important distribution pipeline of racing retailers, race engine builders, race car builders and warehouse distributors, in addition to thousands of professional race teams.

Visit or for more information.


Okay, so that’s all the basics. Now, let’s talk about how cool the show really is. I went for the first time in 2014, and I was amazed. SEMA had just purchased the PRI Show, and at that time, the trailers and motor coaches were displayed inside. The convention center was very crowded, with displays in the main hall and several smaller rooms.

A few of the younger drag racers in attendance.

As a first timer, it seemed impossible to take everything in. Following the floor plan map was difficult that year, but has become a lot easier since then. I wasn’t prepared for the size of the show and I did not know the lay of the land. I did have a good time attending the USAC Dinner and meeting some of the younger racing drivers.

Doug "Burton" Brown's streamliner.

I went back to PRI in 2015, and that year my friend Doug “Burton” Brown of Victory Motorsports had his big, gold Bonneville streamliner displayed in the lobby. Myself and a couple of friends were the “pit crew,” helping Doug set up the car and move all his display equipment in. We got to meet George Callaway, a veteran hot rodder and racer, and I did a three-part interview with him.

George Callaway.

One thing I really enjoyed seeing in 2016 was Machinery Row. I had attended a technical high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the mid-‘60s and the machine shop lathes on which we learned dated back to the 1940s. In contrast, PRI’s Machinery Row had all the latest and greatest machine tools and CNC machines on exhibit in the same place. It was fascinating watching the machines in action.

Machinery Row.

A real treat in 2015 was taking in a talk presented by Bobby Unser. He relayed some great behind-the-scenes stories of racing in the good old days. One of our crew worked for machine tool maker Giddings & Lewis, and they sell machinery to drag racer John Force. So, on Friday morning, we got to slip out of the PRI Show and visit John Force’s unforgettable shop near Indianapolis.

Bobby Unser (on left).

Since we had raced a little at Bonneville ourselves, my friend Dave Sarna and I contacted Danny Thompson about the idea of doing a “World’s Fastest Indian” type movie about his dad Mickey. Jay Leno discouraged us, saying Hollywood wasn’t too keen on car movies these days. When we talked to Danny on the phone, he also said he had tried and failed to get producers interested.

John Force.

I had almost forgotten about this when I went to the 2016 PRI Show and got hungry. After purchasing a hot dog, we saw an empty seat in the lobby and sat down. A thin fellow all dressed in black sat next to me. I asked where he was from and he answered “Colorado.” Then I asked what kind of racing he was into. “Mostly Land Speed Racing,” he said. “You must know Danny Thompson,” I told him. “I am Danny Thompson,” he answered. We both had a laugh over that.

Danny Thompson.

But the main point I’m trying to make is that PRI is always exciting to attend. You can see some great racing cars, talk to exhibitors who sell racing stuff, take a walk down Machinery Row, cruise outside to check out the trailers and listen to (or bump into) some famous racing drivers. It’s a trade show for racing professionals, so get out your business card and click one or both of the links given above for more information about this great wintertime event.