After outgrowing a succession of Midwestern venues, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show moved south for its 18th annual edition. This year's location was the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Beautiful weather greeted the show's attendees all three days as they navigated the nearly 1 million square foot show floor. The PRI Show, like the SEMA Show, is for the trade only and is closed to the general public. Quite a number of significant drag racing vehicles were on display and here is your chance to see the best of those.
Arnie Beswick suffered a horrific fire in 2003 during a match race that destroyed his Tameless Tiger 1964 GTO. On display in the Alston Race Cars booth was his newly reborn Tameless Tiger II. A two-year construction period has resulted in what is, arguably, the finest race car that Arnie has ever owned. It even features working OEM door handles. Long time Beswick fans are as eager as Arnie to see this vehicle hit the track.
Another new Illinois GTO also made its debut at PRI. This is the 2006 Pontiac IHRA Pro Stocker of Crete, Illinois' Pete and Cheryl Berner. After many years as a Ford man, Berner has made the switch to GM power for next year's IHRA tour. Created by Rick Jones' RJ Race Cars this baby is also a stunner and was on display in the Ram Clutch booth.
The new car derby continued in the TRD booth where the spectacular new 2006 Toyota Solara coupe of Matt Scranton was on display. Also built by Rick Jones, the Solara replaces Matt's Celica. Not ready to be put out to pasture completely, the Celica was on display in the Tial booth.
In the Suncoast Chassis booth was this fresh from the mold 2006 Corvette body. This body is Pro Mod ready with all of the modifications required to create a competitive race car. It features raised quarter panels, wheelie bar openings and a 45" front overhang. It has also been narrowed. Available in composite or carbon fiber, this is the composite version. Just visible at the top of picture is their 2006 Ford Mustang body. Also available in composite or carbon fiber, Brian Seward was the first recipient of a carbon fiber version.
Tony Schumacher was the recipient of this year's Economaki Champion of Champions award. Presented by Rockett Brand Racing Fuels, the award is named after Chris Economaki, the Publisher Emeritus of National Speed Sport News. Tony is the first straight-liner, as Chris would say, to win the award. He follows previous winners J. J. Yeley and Steve Kinser, both circle trackers. In this photo Tony is addressing the assembled media after being announced as the winner.
In the Jesel booth was the IHRA Pro Stock Chevrolet Cobalt of Rob Mansfield. We didn't see Rob at all of the IHRA events in 2005 but he was definitely competitive at the races that he did attend. Hopefully he'll be able to run the entire tour in 2006.
Rob was another of the racers whose cars were doing double duty. This is his Pontiac Grand Am, which preceded the Cobalt. It also was on display at PRI 2005.
This is the new Nissan 350 Z of Paterson, New Jersey's Carl Stevens, Jr. Built to compete in NHRA Modified, it has just 14 passes under its belt with a best run to date of 7.25 seconds at 189 miles-an-hour. It was on display in the Xtreme Race Cars booth. Look for Carl at all NOPI events in 2006 as well as East Coast Sony Xplod races.
In the Mickey Thompson Tire booth was the IHRA Corvette Funny Car of Mike Comella. Mike is one of several alcohol competitors that use M/T tires. Mike was the winner this past year of the inaugural Bar's Leaks US Funny Car Nationals, which was held at the US 131 Motorsports Park.
In the Vanishing Point Race Cars booth was this Pro Mod chassis. It lacked only a body to be race ready and is slated to receive, surprise surprise, a 1963 Corvette shell. Without its body the magnificent fabrication skills of Jim Geese and his staff at Vanishing Point were laid bare for all to see.
Shoe Box stalwart Charles Carpenter had his familiar 1955 Chevrolet in the booth of sponsor Embee Coatings. The '55 received some fresh body and paint work in preparation for the show and it looked beautiful under the building's lights. Charles reports that he will start the season with a freshened version of his venerable 728 cid engine while work continues on a new 738 cid power plant. He hopes to have that engine on track by midyear.
In the Quaker State booth was the 1993 Honda Civic of Kenny Tran. Powered by a 1.9 liter, highly-modified Acura Integra engine, the car has gone as quick as 8.16 seconds at 182 miles-an-hour. It uses a single turbo on methanol and Nitto NT320 tires to achieve that kind of performance.
PRI-14 Out in the registration area was the Cavalier of new IHRA Pro Mod World Champion Mike Castellana. Surprisingly the Cavalier did not yet sport a big number 1. The Cavalier was built by Tim McAmis Race Cars, who also built the number two, three and four points finishers in IHRA Pro Mod this year according to a sign in their booth.
Adjacent to the dining area was the Lexus GS race car of Justin Humphreys. Justin finished number 1 in the 2005 NHRA Sony Xplod Hot Rod points chase and recorded three wins during the past season. The Lexus was built by Telford, Pennsylvania's Vanishing Point Race Cars, who is more famous for their Pro Mod entries.
Another of the race cars out in the registration area was the VIP Sports Dodge Stratus of Frank and Dan Parker. This car was also freshened for this show and is now race ready for the 2006 season. According to Dan, their work with this body has resulted in the sale of 10 Stratus bodies to other alcohol competitors. Chrysler Corporation is so pleased with their efforts that they have been now been told that they will get the first Dodge Charger body that goes to an alcohol racer.
Adelbertus Kelkboom of Aruba had his Escort on display in the Aruba Tourism booth. An infrequent competitor stateside in recent years, Kelkboom promises more USA races in 2006.
Jack Wyatt had his familiar Pontiac Firebird NHRA Fuel Funny Car on display in the booth of sponsor, Race Girl apparel. Joining him was NASCAR Busch driver Kertus Davis with his Monte Carlo. Yes, that is how Kertus spells his name. Must be a "Southern" thing!
I wanted to pick the most spectacular drag car of the show but in the end it came down to a tie. Co-winner of my unofficial award was the new 1957 Chevrolet Pro Mod of High Ridge, Missouri's Andy McCoy. Built at his Andy McCoy Race Cars, the car features a full size (not shrunken) carbon fiber body, with correct wheel openings, that lifts off. A 526 cid Hemi by Jeff Fowler provides the go power and Andy hopes to run the entire IHRA season. The car was in the Percy's booth, which last year also hosted my award winner in the form of Mike Stawicki's then-unfinished 1968 Camaro.
The other co-winner of my award was the spectacular new Pro 5.0 Ford Escort of John Gullet. Very similar to a Pro Mod race car in overall shape and rear deck layout, the body was actually installed on the show floor after the completed chassis had been hauled in the day before.
The Escort is set up to take both 400 and 500 cubic inch engines and replaces John's current Mustang. FX Visual Custom Paint and Body of Jacksonville, Florida prepared the car and it should be quite something when it is completely done.