PRI Returns to Indianapolis in Style

Dr Jamie Meyer, Helio Castroneves, Maedy Walsh (_), J. Douglas Boles

News from Chevrolet Performance, bio-renewable fuel for VP Racing, a racepark rebranding (sort of), and some racing royalty sightings highlighted the first day of the PRI Show in Indy.

The 2021 Performance Racing Industry Show (PRI) kicked off with a major address by Dr. Jamie Meyer, a discussion between Roger Penske and J. Douglas Boles of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a flurry of early-day press conferences.

Included among them was the early announcement by VP Racing Fuels that it would be marketing advanced bio-renewable fuels, looking towards advanced renewable components to meet requirements from multiple racing sanctioning bodies. These sanctions include Formula 1 and IMSA. There are more than 70 proprietary fuel blends in VP’s portfolio, of which 23 are using renewable components, and VP is expanding that line.

Another company moving into a more diverse portfolio is Brembo, the Italian purveyor of brakes who service just about every major motorsports sanction. On Thursday Brembo announced its production of a new brake package for Late Model racers, including calipers, discs, brackets and all hardware. The big deal here is pricing, which Brembo says will be competitive with other manufacturers, even as quality meets Brembo standards. The forged aluminum asymmetrical designed calipers are radial mounted, offering stiff design that should improve driver feel. Rotors will be produced at Brembo’s foundry, while pads are designed to work in concert with the low drag caliper. Different compounds are available to suit driver and track preferences, the company said.

Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. vice president for performance and motorsports, announced that the bow-tie brand is beginning a multi-year engineering and marketing partnership with Rev Racing, which is the competition arm of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, giving opportunities to women and ethnically diverse drivers, pit crew members and other ancillary members of the NASCAR community. “We are proud to partner with Rev Racing to support the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program in the development of diverse drivers and team members,” Campbell said.

Rev Racing has partnered with NASCAR since 2009, operating the Drive for Diversity program. Owners Max Siegel and Jennifer Satterfield-Siegel are promoting the careers of Rajah Caruth and Nick Sanchez this year. This is Caruth’s fourth season in the program, in which Sanchez scored his first ARCA Menards Series victory during the 2021 season, finishing third in points. Both drivers intend to conduct a full season of ARCA Menards and a few NASCAR Xfinity races in 2022. At the close of the 2021 season, there were more than 50 alums from NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity pit crew development program working in NASCAR, while driver alums include 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, along with Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez.

Optima Batteries confirmed its partnership with the SpeedTour family, making it the official battery of Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA), as well as the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli. Optima’s search for the Ultimate Street Car national points championship series in select SpeedTour events in 2022 are also planned. “We are thrilled to become a part of the Trans Am and SVRA families,” said Cam Douglass, director of marketing at Optima Batteries.

In the midst of all the on-floor action – and there are far fewer exhibitors than in years past – there were announcements made about the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season. Takuma Sato, the two-time Indianapolis 500-winning driver has found a new home with Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing (RWR) for the 2022 season, after spending the past few years at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. And Dreyer & Reinbold has secured the services of regular Sage Karam along with Santino Ferrucci as a two-car assault on the Indy 500 in 2022. To date DRR has entered and qualified 43 cars for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, dating back to 1999; the team has a best finish of fourth in 2012.

To date Texas Motorplex has lined up 25 premier events for its 2022 schedule, starting with the T&E Showdown and ending with Radiance at the Races!, in a schedule stretching from mid-January of 2022 through the January 7th of 2023. Included among those premier events is the Stampede of Speed Texas NHRA Fall Nationals that encompasses concerts, rodeo, a lantern festival, beer expo and, of course, straight-line racing for NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship. Both the Camping World Drag Racing Series as well as Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown’s series finale and Pro Mods are on the docket at North Texas’ sole quarter-mile, multi-use racing facility.

Lucas Oil Products made two separate announcements, one of which will thrill those of us who never got used to calling Indianapolis Raceway Park anything but IRP. The multi-purpose track will now be known as Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, which means purists will continue to call it IRP. Lucas Oil is also returning to the NHRA nitro class with Antron Brown’s new AB Motorsports team. They’ll be the official lubricant partner for the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Newlyweds Leah and Tony Stewart are back from Cabo San Lucas, after getting married shortly after the end of the NHRA season. As Stewart becomes a straight-line racing team owner, he’s learning daily just how much he needs to learn. He’s been around the sport for a little over two seasons and still knows he’s got a ton to learn. While the TSR Funny Car operation led by Dickie Venables is pretty much up and running, his Top Fuel enterprise, led by Neal Strausbaugh is starting from scratch, a difficult situation when there’s less than three months from the end of the 2021 campaign to the start of 2022 action.

Tony Schumacher, too, is learning more about the sport he’s dominated in the past. Being away from drag racing, with just a few events on his docket in 2020 (at least he got one win out of that short stay), is coming back full-time in 2022, headlining Don Schumacher Racing next year. There is talk about a second car for DSR, possibly in Funny Car, but until the deals are complete, the team wishes to be silent about that endeavor. Still, Tony Schumacher’s quest for a ninth title is shaping up to be a good one, with long-standing DSR crew chief Todd Okuhara turning the knobs.

On the NHRA stage, which garnered lots of attention, John Force Racing had its three drivers on-hand, with John Force, Brittany Force and Robert Hight discussing the previous year and their hopes for 2022, along with Austin Prock, for whom the team’s marketing staff is attempting to find sufficient funding to put the 2019 Rookie of the Year back in the Top Fuel water box.

The day closed with the fourth four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Helio Castroneves, showing off the ticket for next year’s race which, per tradition, has his image boldly placed. Castroneves, who drove for Team Penske from 2000 until 2020, has kissed the bricks after competing with Oldsmobile power in 2001, Chevrolet in 2002, and Honda for his 2009 and 2021 victories.

About Anne Proffit 1174 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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