Friday News from the PRI Show

Rob Morgan and Nick Lester of GT Celebration

The floors, hallways and meeting rooms of the huge Indiana Convention Center were jammed for this year’s 34th annual Performance Racing Industry show, with the intensity growing on Friday as racers arrived in town to learn about new products, new business alignments in the motorsports trade. 

One thing not in doubt is the health of the industry, as every single booth space was occupied for this December gathering. Amateur racers, professional racers, shop runners, mechanics, crew chiefs, machinists, marketing mavens, series principals, public relations specialists were all on-site for the biggest and largest gathering of racers this year.

As occurred on Thursday, there were plenty of announcements made that will influence the trajectory of the sport, whether straight-line, circle, dirt, oval and road course events. One of the first such announcements came from Morgan Performance Group (MPG), the founders of GT Celebration, a series of events that allows owners of older GT3 cars to operate their vehicles on well-known circuits around the United States. There’s as much camaraderie in this group, which has daily post-racing gatherings of its participants to keep the atmosphere as familial as possible.

GT Celebration Expands

Started in 2019, GT Celebration’s goal was to provide owners of older GT3 cars a place to race against similar vehicles. With more and more car owners picking up cars that are no longer on primary circuits, such as IMSA, WEC and/or Trans Am, the need for more events and more inclusion became apparent to founder Rob Morgan, a longtime sports car racer who has participated in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (he took a class win in that grueling race) and is a former NASCAR truck team owner. He was joined at PRI by Nick Lester, executive vice president, who is the former Porsche Motorsports technical director.

Morgan’s father, Charles, initially called his team Morgan Performance Group and his son honored him by using that name for his company. And now, with more prototypes, Porsche GT3 Cup cars and BMW M2 CS Cup cars, the GT Celebration name didn’t fit the growth Morgan’s initial thrust into this arena. 

At GT Celebration’s 2022 season finale, the Prototype Celebration series made its informal debut. The M2 Series had its second successful outing at that same event after a trial run earlier in the season. The sheer number of Porsche Cup owners looking for more places to race made creating Cup Celebration inevitable. 

The new Cup Celebration will have four classes based on each generation of a GT3 Cup car: Platinum for the 992, Gold (991.2), Silver (991.1) and Bronze (997.2), similar in fashion to professional sports car racing. Prototype Celebration has two classes: Prototype for LMP3 cars and the ORECA FLM09 that ran in IMSA’s LMPC class, and Prototype Lite for Revolution, Radical, Wolf and similar race cars. GT Celebration continues with three classes: Yellow for first generation GT3 cars, Red for second generation and Blue for GT4.

MPG will run seven weekends of two races each. The 2023 series will run on seven premium race tracks: Spring Mountain Motorsports Park, Road Atlanta, Sonoma Raceway, the new Flatrock Motorsports Park in Tennessee, VIRginia International Raceway, Utah Motorsports Campus and Watkins Glen International. Winter/spring tests will trace place at Autobahn County Club near Chicago and Apex Motor Club on the West Coast. M2 Celebration will be featured at Spring Mountain, Sonoma and in Utah.

Women in Motorsports Organization Generates Funding for More Races

Beth Paretta and Lyn St. James of Women in Motorsport NA with VSCDA and Road America reps

Women in Motorsports NA had a big announcement as well, with the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association (VSCDA) announcing its 2022 celebration of Women in Motorsports generated added funding for the group, giving checks to founders Lyn St James and Beth Paretta after using the Vintage Fall Festival at Road America to honor the many women participating at all levels of the sport. VSCDA is one of the few vintage race groups that has a woman president, Barb Nevoral and she steered the momentum forward.

That particular weekend hosted St James, Victoria Thomas, co-owner of Kelly-Moss Racing, Trans Am driver and team owner Cindi Lux, media veteran Pam Shataw, driver/engineer Sabre Cook, Connie Ensing, who has worked tech for both CART and INDYCAR, and Nevoral. The check for $5880 is only the beginning, as VSCDA intends to take this program back to Elkhart Lake next fall.

Juncos Announces Two New INDY NXT Drivers

Mattewo Nannini, Ricardo Juncos and Reece Gold celebrate their new INDY NXT teaming

Juncos Hollinger Racing, the former two-time championship-winning team in Indy Lights, has two drivers for the 2023 campaign of the newly-renamed INDY NXT SERIES, as the team rejoins that series. Co-owner Ricardo Juncos, who brought rookie standout Callum Ilott to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2022, introduced drivers Reece Gold and Matteo Nannini as its INDY NXT by Firestone drivers for the 2023 campaign. 

Gold was affiliated with the team during his vice championship year in the Indy Pro 2000 series last season, and will drive the No. 76 Ticket Clinic car after spending the last two seasons with JHR in the Indy Pro 2000 series, where he scored five wins, 14 podiums and earned seven pole positions. The 18-year-old Miami native is “happy to be staying with Juncos Hollinger Racing for INDY NXT in 2023. I have had two great seasons with JHR in Indy Pro 2000, with this past season being our best.”

Nannini will gain his first taste of single-seater racing in the United States after impressing JHR during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course. He’s committed to driving the team’s No. 75 machine. The 19-year-old Italian/Argentinian has competed in the FIA’s Formula 3 and Formula 2 championships. He’s a race winner and podium finisher in F3 and he’s also the former F4 UAE champion. “I am very excited to have confirmed with Juncos Hollinger Racing after the positive tests. It’s a great opportunity to be able to race in America and I don’t want to waste it.”

Driven2SaveLives BC39 Announces 2023 Event

The 2023 edition of the Driven2SaveLives BC39 on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s quarter-mile dirt oval inside the third turn of the venerable 2.5-mile oval will be a four-day, stand-alone weekend event, to be held Sept. 27-30 at The Dirt Track at IMS. A new format will give the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship an even bigger spotlight, with format details to be announced well before the weekend’s date.

 

Next year’s Driven2SaveLives BC39 race on The Dirt Track at IMS will be a four-day extravaganza

“The BC239 continues to draw fans and competitors from around the country; it’s become one of the most prestigious dirt track races in the United States,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president. “In 2023 fans will see more racing on more nights, which is great news for everyone who shares the passion for this incredibly competitive series and its talented drivers. An expanded schedule,” he noted, “will also encourage more people to register for organ donation through the Indiana Donor Network, a cause that was so important to Bryan Clauson and remains a focus of the Clauson family.” Two-time consecutive USAC National Midget champ Buddy Kofoid won the August 2022 race.

Drag Illustrated 30 Under 30 Announced

The biggest press event, in terms of participation and general attention at this show is Drag Illustrated’s 30 Under 30 celebration of young participants in the drag racing community. Started in 2015, DI’s founder Wes Buck stated he received thousands of suggestions for this year’s class, most of whom took the stage to receive their celebratory jackets and other goodies from the many sponsors who participate in this award. New this year was the awarding of equipment from Lincoln Welders, with the winner chosen from a random draw. Ida Zetterstrom, who is hoping to bring her talents to the United States, was the winner this award. Read more about 30 Under 30 here:

Drag Illustrated Introduces Seventh 30 Under 30 Class

John Force Racing Renews Deal with Chevrolet

John Force Racing is coming off an exceptional 2022 season, where Brittany Force captured her second Top Fuel NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series championship after earning her first five years ago, with Robert Hight coming oh-so-close to earning his fourth title in Funny Car. Both 16-time Funny Car titleholder  John Force and Top Fuel racer Austin Prock earned victories during the 22-race campaign.

Now this team has confirmed an extension of its relationship with Chevrolet for a multi-year period, allowing the iconic Bowtie to be prominently displayed on both the dragsters and floppers the team campaigns. “We’re excited to be extending our partnership with Chevrolet and General Motors,” said John Force, the eponymous team’s owner and CEO. “We have a long history with Chevy, a long successful history, and we look forward to continuing that tradition into the future.

 

“The support we receive from Chevrolet goes beyond the racetrack,” John Force emphasized. “They are part of the John Force Racing family; they help keep us doing what we love and we want to keep winning for them,” he said.

 

Force has recorded 77 of his 155 NHRA Funny Car wins using a GM product, including 24 in a Chevrolet (14 Camaro, 10 Lumina). Force’s 1977 Pomona NHRA debut, his first final round in 1979, his initial No. 1 qualifier in 1986 all came in a Chevrolet product, and for his first NHRA victory in 1987 at Montreal, Force drove an Oldsmobile. John Force took his first Chevrolet Funny Car victory came in 1994 on his way to a fourth Funny Car title, earning 10 wins in 11 final rounds.

 

JFR took a long hiatus from this relationship but returned to the Chevy fold in 2015. Thus far, that return has produced both Brittany Force’s dual Top Fuel championships and Robert Hight’s Funny Car titles in 2017 and 2019, together with a total of 65 victories.

 

“We are proud to continue with John Force Racing,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president for performance and motorsports. “John, Brittany Force, Robert Hight and Austin Prock, and their teams, are consistently focused on improving performance, delivering wins and vying for championships. We are thrilled to continue to race together in NHRA’s top classes.”

 

In the 2022 campaign, all four John Force Racing drivers went to NHRA’s Winner’s Circle, with Brittany Force earning five races, Austin Prock taking two victories, Robert Hight winning eight times and John Force earning the Four-Wide Wally at Charlotte.

John Force Racing is coming off an exceptional 2022 season, where Brittany Force captured her second Top Fuel NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series championship after earning her first five years ago, with Robert Hight coming oh-so-close to earning his fourth title in Funny Car. Both 16-time Funny Car titleholder  John Force and Top Fuel racer Austin Prock earned victories during the 22-race campaign.

 

Now this team has confirmed an extension of its relationship with Chevrolet for a multi-year period, allowing the iconic Bowtie to be prominently displayed on both the dragsters and floppers the team campaigns. “We’re excited to be extending our partnership with Chevrolet and General Motors,” said John Force, the eponymous team’s owner and CEO. “We have a long history with Chevy, a long successful history, and we look forward to continuing that tradition into the future.

 

“The support we receive from Chevrolet goes beyond the racetrack,” John Force emphasized. “They are part of the John Force Racing family; they help keep us doing what we love and we want to keep winning for them,” he said.

 

Force has recorded 77 of his 155 NHRA Funny Car wins using a GM product, including 24 in a Chevrolet (14 Camaro, 10 Lumina). Force’s 1977 Pomona NHRA debut, his first final round in 1979, his initial No. 1 qualifier in 1986 all came in a Chevrolet product, and for his first NHRA victory in 1987 at Montreal, Force drove an Oldsmobile. John Force took his first Chevrolet Funny Car victory came in 1994 on his way to a fourth Funny Car title, earning 10 wins in 11 final rounds.

 

JFR took a long hiatus from this relationship but returned to the Chevy fold in 2015. Thus far, that return has produced both Brittany Force’s dual Top Fuel championships and Robert Hight’s Funny Car titles in 2017 and 2019, together with a total of 65 victories.

 

“We are proud to continue with John Force Racing,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president for performance and motorsports. “John, Brittany Force, Robert Hight and Austin Prock, and their teams, are consistently focused on improving performance, delivering wins and vying for championships. We are thrilled to continue to race together in NHRA’s top classes.”

 

In the 2022 campaign, all four John Force Racing drivers went to NHRA’s Winner’s Circle, with Brittany Force earning five races, Austin Prock taking two victories, Robert Hight winning eight times and John Force earning the Four-Wide Wally at Charlotte.

 

About Anne Proffit 1245 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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