Not exactly the PRI Show but race industry week online was good

Episode 340

December 6, 2020

Finally able to attend motorsports conference…online

The timing of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) has served as a deterrent to attending the PRI Show in Indianapolis, Indiana the first of December annually. As a Christmas tree grower, I cannot simply leave the business during the prime season of the year.

This year EPARTRADE,com and teamed up with Penske Racing Shock, AEM Performance Electronics, ETS Racing Fuels, Miller Welding, and Full Race The Turbo Experts to put on a full week online series of webinars. In the comfort of HTF Motorsports World Headquarters (home) I was able to tune in to multiple sessions.

Interruptions during the week were expected with customers and other commitments arising. I was able to get online for a portion of each of the five days except Friday. I will comment about some of my favorite sessions. I hope to view others if they are archived. Did I tell you this was FREE?

Roger Penske at Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona 2018. I was unable to hear Roger’s opening remarks yet hope to listen to archived edition. As owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series, Penske was to talk about his first year in that role and the effect of COVID.  (Phil Miller photo)

Linda Vaughn, the unofficial “First Lady of Motorsports” was the final speaker day one. She recounted her upbringing in Dalton, Georgia where she worked as a dental technician in high school and post high school. She got started as “Miss Queen of Speed at Atlanta International Raceway” at age 18.

Next she held the title of Miss Pure Firebird with Pure Oil Company until they merged with Union Oil 3 1/2 years into her contract. She later went to work as “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter” working for George Hurst. She relinquished that title in the early 1980’s.

In the middle 60’s Vaughn teamed up with Richard Petty and Don Garlits to visit the troops in Vietnam. She mentioned she drove on several Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) races after successfully completing the course at Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.

She talked about the rare form of cancer, LMS and has had a heart attack in 2016. She co-wrote a book with Hot Rod Magazine former editor Rob Kinnan entitled “Linda Vaughn: The First Lady of Motorsports” in 2016.

Cover of Linda Vaughn 2016 book co-authored with Rob Kinnan, former Hot Rod Magazine editor. Vaughn told about growing up in rural Georgia in the 40’s and 50’s. How she got started in a lifetime of motorsports activities is unfurled. (Unknown who took the cover photo)

Tuesday highlights

Tuesday I was able to view a couple webinars. One I enjoyed the most was Antron Brown and Ron Capps with Don Schumacher Racing. Brown is a top fuel dragster driver and Capps is a funny car driver.

In 2006 Antron Brown was driving Don Schumacher Racing US Army Pro Stock motorcycle. Brown, center, was our tour guide for the day since the race teams were on the road headed to a NHRA event which I do not recall. FFA members left to right, Chris Rines, Jamie Huston, Brown, Tim O’Bar, and Dana Morrill. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Antron showed the FFA members his US Army Pro Stock motorcycle body kit since the actual bike was aboard a truck on its way to a race. Brown moved up to Top Fuel Dragster where he has won three championships and 66 races. After the tour Brown signed autographs for all the FFA members. From that point on, I became an Antron Brown fan. (HTF Motorsports photo)

During the webinar Brown described in great detail the three plus seconds of a typical top fuel run of 1000 feet. What surprised me was the greatest g-force is experienced is at about 3 seconds in the run near the 800-foot mark when the clutch locks in. I forgot how many g’s are experienced by the driver. Brown said it really sets one back!

Brown commented that in drag racing at the top level, ” You have no mulligans. You must bring intensity”.

In 2007, Caribou FFA once again toured Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), this time the tour was led by Tom Patsis who was Antron Brown’s mechanic/truck driver/fabricator. Patsis went on to found Cold Hard Art (CHA). Standing between the two transporters used to move Ron Capps Funny Car to the races is FFA member Tim O’Bar. DSR race teams work directly out of the transporters even when back at the shop. Capps has been sponsored by NAPA for several years. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Ron Capps told about his younger days growing up in southern California in the early 70’s dreaming someday of racing in the NHRA. In 1997 he was recruited by Don “the Snake” Prudhomme to drive his funny car. Capps mentioned that “The Snake” was a childhood hero and had to pinch himself when he was picked to drive for the racing icon.

He told about beginning his career with DSR in 2005 and after three years NAPA came aboard as a sponsor and have stuck with him 14 years and will be aboard his Dodge in 2012.

Sidenote…I should mention that my first car was a 1958 Ford owned by my grandfather. He rarely drove it in those days due to failing eyesight, so I put most of the miles on that car before it had to be taken off the road. Hand lettered on the rear fender about where mud would spew out onto the fender, I hand lettered “The Snake” in silver paint. Don Prudhomme was one of my early racing heroes.

I kind of felt bad when my Grandfather would use his car because people must have wondered about this 80-plus year old man driving with “The Snake” on each rear fender. “The Snake” was well known at Caribou High School.

Ron Capps said his first days with “The Snake” was when he realized that, “Prudhomme had never really held a ‘normal’ job. It’s all he ever did. I became aware of how intense he was”.

Both men talked about their boss Don Schumacher. Brown mentioned, “He is a man of big vision. He wants 8 of everything thus ends up with 4. He is brutally honest and straight to the point. Put the work in. If other teams are working 24 hours a day then we will work 72”.

Capps said, “We all have this different approach even within DSR, yet when it comes to race day we all are within fractions of a second”.

The DSR drivers both agreed that electric race cars have an excellent future in drag racing. Brown likened it to 1995 & 96 when the bikes were getting turbos and what a big deal that was. Now many road bikes have turbos.

Electric racers are the same way. Currently (pun intended) electric racers are somewhat of a novelty. In a few years they will carve out a huge niche in the racing scene.

It was mentioned that Fox was going to carry almost half of the 2021 NHRA National events which the drivers agreed would be a shot in arm for drag racing and their sponsors.

Wednesday one webinar but a good one

I am interested in rally sports especially the shorter rallycross type. In the past decade I have paid more and more attention to those involved in the sport. I think it began when I met John Cassidy somewhere near 2003 when I discovered that Maine actually had someone racing in the Open Class against top names in the sport. Cassidy continues to do so still based at his shop in Bangor, Maine.

I heard about M-Sport through their connection to rally racing. The Malcolm Smith led team has been to me similar to Penske Racing. M-Sport now has a huge English based shop and top manufacturer support, Ford since 1996. Dating back to 1125, the team headquarters at Dovenby Hall was purchased in 1998 by Smith who renovated the estate and built the race shop nearby.

Formed in 1979 under the name Malcolm Wilson Motorsport, the company was originally next door to Wilson’s house near Cockermouth in England. Following the career of Malcolm Wilson as a driver, the company grew steadily through the 1980s, with rapid expansion in the early 1990s reflecting the success that the company was having throughout the world with the Ford Escort RS Cosworth.

Smith talked about early racing years as well as the MEC Evaluation Center nearing completion. The 111,000 square foot production facility has an accompanying 2.5 km (1.5 miles) test track with an off-road testing site nearby. He provided photos of the off-road portion of the facility under construction to test rally cars. Smith also talked about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives for young folks. I am not sure if M-Sports was going to launch such a venture.

This is an August 2020 look at the MEC provided by DirtFish:

Thursday with Chip Ganassi

I have never talked with Chip Ganassi except a passing “Hello” at a race track. I have visited his IndyCar shop several times while in Indianapolis as well as witnessed the IMSA team in action at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. It was with great anticipation as I joined in on the 10 am webinar with Ganassi.

He did not disappoint. He talked about everything from recently signing of 28 year old F1 driver Kevin Magnussen to drive the Cadillac Daytona Prototype international (DPi) car. This marks the return of Ganassi to IMSA after a year off when in 2019 they finished out a three-year commitment to race the Ford GT.

Magnussen will be paired up with Renger van der Zande for the 2021 season. Drivers for the longer races will be announced soon.

Ganassi spoke about hiring the watermelon farmer, Ross Chastain, for the #42 Cup car. He mentioned that Chastain earned his way to the top. The so-called merit based seat can be rare in racing today. Ganassi mentioned that they have had drivers in the past who did bring sponsor money which helped to move them up the ladder.

When asked about advice for those wanting to get into motorsports at the top level, Ganassi replied that intense dedication was required with a never give up attitude. It is not an easy path to follow. You cannot sit around at the local track and lean on the fact that you may be the winningest driver in that county and expect to get a call from top level teams. You may need to move to areas where you can show your talent on a larger screen.

Throttle Car Club Update

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that three friends Jamie Nonni, Derek Parent, and Kevin Gross combined forces to begin construction of Throttle Car Club, a 35,000 square foot multipurpose building for automotive enthusiasts.

On a recent excursion to southern Maine, I met with Nonni and saw first-hand the construction site. The day I arrived the bottom floor concrete pour was just completed. In fact, the steam from curing concrete was still rising.

Nonni took time out of his busy construction schedule to show me some of the features we had talked about on the phone in preparation to write about Throttle Car Club in Episode 336, October 25, 2020. I was able to see first hand some of the interesting features including where the four bay garage for members is located as well as the detailing area. It became more apparent how the storage of up to 72 cars would be possible.

The large glassed-in entryway would provide a light and airy look and feel to the building. In addition, a meeting area would be located above and adjacent to the entryway providing members a place to meet others of like mind and eat lunch.

Throttle Car Club co-founder Jamie Nonni showed this writer around the new building under construction near Scarborough Downs. Nonni was able to point out where several key features will be located. (HTF Motorsports photo)

New overhang that was installed at Throttle Car Club in Scarborough. This is located at the rear of the facility. (Throttle Car Club photo)

Newest Gymkhana 11 debuts Tuesday

Travis Pastrana will make his Gymkana debut on Tuesday December 8th. This will be the first episode without Ken Block at the wheel and the first time in a Subaru since Gymkhana 2. The special Subaru STI was built by Vermont Sports Cars in Milton, Vermont. I have visited VSC several times and hope the next visit will include looking at this STI in person. Go AWAY Covid!!!!

Here is the test to get you warmed up for the debut. Filmed at a remote airfield in Montana courtesy Yokohama and Hoonigan Media Machine.

A funny weight loss tale

In conversations with my brother Bob over the last several months, he noted that he was losing weight, 27 pounds. Such rapid weight loss raised concerns about his health.

He reported for his annual physical and confronted his primary care physician with the weight loss situation. His doctor ordered several test and asked if he was experiencing signs of blood in his urine or fecal matter. Bob said no blood.

When all tests came back in the normal range he declared that his patient was okay and had lost the weight due to the stress of remodeling his kitchen until 10 pm every night for the last several months in addition to holding down his regular job.

What was my brother’s secret to success? He claims a double cheeseburger and fries daily from a local fast-food emporium. Who would have thought?

Next week an update on another Swanson racing in USAC on a more regular basis. Until then…

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Isaiah 9:6)






Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine