Shop Talk: PRI 2023 It Did Not Disappoint
Story & Photos by: JT
I pray this finds all of my fellow gearheads happy, healthy, and enjoying the holiday season with family and friends. As promised, we attended the PRI Show once again this year and it did not disappoint! My business partner and dear friend Shawn met me in Indianapolis so we could complete all of our goals for the 2023 show.
As I’ve mentioned in previous PRI reviews, we like to stay at the JW Marriot which is connected to the convention center in the heart of the excitement. I arrived early afternoon on a Wednesday and after checking in to our room, went to the restaurant in the hotel to grab a much needed lunch. If you are into racing, fabrication, and builder based TV shows, then you will completely understand what I am about to explain. As I walk into the restaurant, I recognize a half dozen NHRA crew chiefs and a few funny car drivers sitting at the bar. The hostess sat me next to the racers from the TV show “The fastest cars in the dirty south.” Minutes after I ordered, Murder Nova “Shawn Ellington” from Street Outlaws and his crew got seated at the other table next to me. This was just my first hour at PRI and I haven’t even entered the actual convention yet.
After lunch, I walked around the hotel a bit waiting for Shawn to arrive and everywhere I looked, I recognized someone from a TV show, racing, or an old friend. It is kind of spiritual being in a place with so many like-minded people. Shawn had some travel delays and arrived later that evening which prevented us from doing our “pre show” walk of the convention center. We like to walk around and see the vendors assemble their booths before the surge of the masses enter on Thursday morning. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a terrific dinner later that night and spent some quality time visiting with each other as well as seeing some of our sponsors.
Our first mission for day 1 was to thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly, walk through what PRI calls “machinery row.” Machinery Row is an enormous section of the convention center that is solely dedicated to our fellow tool junkies. We saw all of the latest CNC machines, every shop machine you could imagine, fabrication tools, drill bits, cutting blades, welding equipment, and so much more all in one area. There is no doubt that this was one of our favorite areas of the show.
I had a list of new car builds that I needed to see in person and made sure to accomplish that task in between meeting with sponsors and taking care of a few meetings we had scheduled for that day. Lunch was another episode of every car related TV reality show, and we were a part of it. We finished off day 1 conducting some interviews with both racers and companies that had new and exciting news to share. Worn out and in need of food, we made the trek back to our hotel room to change for dinner. There are a lot of great restaurants in the Indy area but I can assure you that you never have to leave the comforts of the convention center and connecting hotels. Over the years, we have visited every restaurant it offers and have never been disappointed. Besides the good food, the ambiance of being in a restaurant filled with fellow gearheads is something you have to experience. We like to end every night at the main bar at our hotel. We were blessed to have Jade as our bartender / entertainment director that night hosting the party as we sat with old friends and the who’s who of the racing industry.
Day 2 was a rinse and repeat kind of day for us but in another section of the PRI Show. At some point it actually becomes overwhelming due to the enormous size of the venue and the fact that our old bodies are not what they used to be. The PRI Show gives the gearhead a sensory overload experience that is so strong, it actually takes you away from reality. For true gearheads and tool junkies, it is like living a dream for as long as your feet could handle getting you around. Now when I say true gearheads I mean those like us who can’t get cars, racing, and whatever it is we are building out of our heads. We go to sleep with it on our brains, we even wake up in the middle of the night with a solution for a fix or an idea for more speed. For those of you who have admitted you share this problem, PRI is the place where you can go for three days and overindulge every possible gearhead addiction you may have. Not only is it legal to do this, but you will be surrounded with thousands of fellow addicts who will welcome you with open arms.
The PRI Show is held in the famous race-city of Indianapolis. While Indy may be a small city, the PRI show is by no means small. In addition to packed halls and aisles bursting with the latest products, the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis host educational seminars, open and private meetings, networking events, advocacy activities, VIP appearances, and autograph signings throughout all three days. There were more than 1,000 companies looking to connect with the tens of thousands of dedicated professionals in attendance.
Some of our favorite vendors and experiences that emerged from walking the halls of PRI were visiting the Power Tube TV booth. They had the legend Dennis Anderson on hand meeting with fans. It was such an honor to meet Dennis and talk about the Mega Mud Truck I am in the process of building. He was so gracious looking at pictures of the build and complementing me on every detail. He even offered his sage advice on how I should set up the steering system and even went on to explain which products I should use. I can’t thank him enough for taking so much time from his day to spend with us talking trucks.
We also had the pleasure and honor to get to meet with Mike Meziere from Meziere Enterprises. Mr. Meziere gave us a personal tour of his booth and products. He spent a lot of time with us sharing his wealth of knowledge with Shawn. He gave him the much needed answers he needed to help cool his blown 28 Ford called Poison Ivy.
We had a great time talking with the crew from Scorpion Racing Products. They manufacture top quality valve train components made right here in the USA. We shot a series of videos that are included below on their company and latest products.
As always, it was great to visit the Billet Connection/Clearview Filtration booth. Mike and Jessica make everyone that enters their booth feel like family. Mike is a wealth of information and knowledge who not only educates his guests but does it with enthusiasm, passion, and a kind heart.
Our friends at Aeromotive had a spectacular booth with fully functioning fuel systems. They had Ryan Martin from Street Outlaws 1969 Camaro on display as well as hosted a live interview with him.
We enjoyed our time with Barry from QTP and getting educated on his amazing electronic exhaust cut-outs. I highly recommend checking them out. We always love visiting Rich from ARC and seeing their impressive display of electronic switch panels and controllers. And the JD Squared booth in Machinery Row had some great new products including a small pipe bender that we both drooled over. They also had some innovative and affordable tubing notchers on display that will be a huge asset to the “home fabricator.”
We also took the long indoor walk to see the exhibits in the Lucas Oil Stadium which is the home of the Indianapolis Colts. Being a football fan as well as a fan of arena rock makes this experience extra special for me. I simply enjoyed taking in the sheer size of the arena and imagined what it feels like to both play football in this stadium and stand on a stage blasting power chords to screaming fans.
Anyway, back to reality, the stadium was filled with trailers, haulers, toterhomes, and a plethora of awesome racing exhibits. There were a few mega trucks on display that demanded our complete focus to get ideas for the truck we are currently building. We really enjoyed the IPG Photonics laser welding display. Watching someone lay a flawless bead on Instagram is one thing. Seeing it happen right in front of you is another. I was so impressed with this process that I signed up for a demo and was given the opportunity to use this amazing technology myself. This machine instantly gives you the technique of a 30 year welder on its own. My beads on the stainless steel samples they gave me were effortless and perfect. Another mind blowing feature their machine can perform is metal cleaning. With a quick change of the nozzle and a setting on the machine, I was able to thoroughly clean the stainless in one simple pass.
Visiting the Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaw room was always entertaining. Every time we popped our heads in there were different racers talking to the audience. Seeing their cars up close is a treat to those like me who follow the show. We had a great time talking with Kye Kelly’s Crew Chief “Sunshine” about their new car and engine combo. He was super gracious with his time and answered every question we fired at him.
The NHRA booth conducted live interviews non- stop throughout the PRI Show. It’s always entertaining seeing the personable side of the racers answering questions and educating us on the behind the scenes moments that took place to win a race.
PRI 2023 once again far exceeded all of our expectations. For any of you who are thinking of starting a project, I highly recommend going to PRI with a detailed list of parts and questions that you have. Speaking with a customer service agent over the phone is one thing. Being face to face with a product specialist and in some cases the actual designer is priceless. Not only will you get your questions answered, but each manufacturer personally knows someone from another company that you had another question about. They will work together to solve your problem and get you the parts that you need. Physically seeing and holding the parts in question helps me tremendously. When doing custom work, there are so many variables that come into play. When I hold a part in my hand my brain begins to make sense of how I will make it work for my project. The show is held in early December which is a perfect time to revitalize you from a bad case of the winter blues. Not that it’s at all warm in Indy in December, but it feels like spring because it is filled with everything racing.
My final highlight of PRI 2023 was being able to put a face to an email or phone relationship I have developed with a product specialist. I went out of my way to locate and thank the people who have answered all of my technical questions while working on our projects and writing all of my articles.
We highly recommend that you plan on attending the PRI show in the future. When you do, be sure to bring a good pair of broken in walking shoes along with a list of products and questions that you would like more help with. And for the record, if you’re looking for help with being a Gearhead-a-holic, I think attending the PRI show is just what the doctor ordered.
Until Next Time