America’s thriving racing industry


Four years ago the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show departed Indianapolis after many years for the warmer climes of Orlando, Florida.

PRI’s move left a void which has been filled by a new show – now three years old – called the International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS). The IMIS is organised by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, C&R Racing owner Chris Paulsen, trucking magnate and USAC team owner Jeff Stoops and his partner Tom Weisenbach.

Stewart is a proud Indiana native, a true Hoosier from Columbus, about an hour south of Indianapolis. As well as owning his own championship-winning NASCAR Sprint Cup team Stewart runs a midget and a sprint car team and owns three dirt ovals, including the legendary high-banked Eldora track in Ohio, just over the Stateline. Stewart has also become an event promoter and he was there in Indianapolis last week to help kick-off the third annual IMIS.

Chris Paulsen is the dynamo that makes the thing happen. Paulsen was an Indycar mechanic back in the ‘80s and is a legendary master craftsman and fabricator who has built his company C&R Racing into a major supplier of transmissions and radiators to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.

More than 600 businesses were represented at this year’s IMIS, most of them devoted to the thriving world of American short track racing – engine and chassis builders, suppliers of every conceivable component, safety equipment suppliers, etc.

Paulsen invited former CART technical director (from 1979-2001) Kirk Russell (below) and retired Chrysler engineer Michael Royce to organise a safety and technical conference in conjunction with the IMIS. Russell and Royce have quickly built the two-day conference into a thorough review of the latest technical and safety developments in all areas of the sport from F1 to short track racing.

“The first year was strictly safety,” Russell said. “I was able to lean on some of the people who have helped me out over the years like Dr John Melvin and some people from Chevrolet engineering and many others. We had a full day the first year. We went from early in the morning until well past where we were supposed to be. People liked what was going on and Chris said let’s make it a two-day event next year.”

This year Russell and Royce invited me to moderate a panel discussion at the end of the two days about the future of motor racing. We enjoyed a lively debate and it was a great pleasure to witness the tremendous diversity and vitality of American motor sport.

NASCAR, IndyCar and the ALMS have their various problems these days and America’s economy is no better than Europe’s, but last weekend’s IMIS emphasized that the wide reach of American motor sport and its grassroots remain in rude health. Kudos to Tony Stewart, Chris Paulsen, Jeff Stoops and Tom Weisenbach as well as Kirk Russell and Michael Royce for their successful efforts in launching a very useful show for the American motorsports industry.

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