The Circle Track Expo Show...
The Circle Track Expo Show has been growing for all its 11 years. It literally packs a large facility on the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Photo by David Gansert
Along about late October in the Midwest, racing comes to an abrupt halt, much to the sadness of thousands of fans. Halloween quickly becomes a distant memory as temperatures dip below the freezing mark and thoughts of turkey and all the trimmings become reality as families gather for the holiday. But in at least one state racing doesn't take a vacation just because snow blankets the tracks. In Indiana, in the "off-season," racing is alive and well thanks to what could be the country's best selection of trade shows and indoor racing activities.
The Hoosier State has a pair of huge auction/trade show events, a large racing swap meet/trade show, Dirt Late Model symposiums, a large Open Wheel indoor racing show, and a brand-new international show. Add in the many events evolving around the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a bunch of indoor RC racing events, and you have to agree that the Hoosier State is really the winter king of racing.
The International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS)
In only its second year of existence IMIS has quickly grown to be a noteworthy show. Promoting itself as a true "hard-core" racer's trade show, IMIS is the brainchild of C&R Racing owner, Chris Paulsen; Indiana Motorsports Association Executive Director, Tom Weisenbach; President of Stoops Freightliner, Jeff Stoops; and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Tony Stewart. All four are residents of Indiana.
A raised "bonnet" exposes...
A raised "bonnet" exposes the 8BA Flathead motor of Noyses' coupe. Photo by Todd Ridgeway
The show was designed to take the place of the Performance Racing Industry show which moved to Orlando, Florida, several years ago when the Indiana Convention Center was being refurbished. When PRI elected to remain in Orlando, Paulsen and company set out to start their own show in Indy.
In its first year (2009), IMIS had 345 companies exhibit, while the 2010 version of the show saw 570 companies purchase booth space for the three-day trade show, which effectively doubles the floor space size in just one year.
One of the arguments against moving PRI to Orlando was that it alienated "hard-core" racers who couldn't afford to fly to Florida for a trade show but would have gladly driven four hours to Indianapolis. I (Editor Rob) attended IMIS and noted that the aisles were full and, in fact, I got stopped numerous times by Circle Track subscribers. It was pretty clear that many of the attendees of this show were local racers who were glad to have a large scale racing show back in Indianapolis.
Next year's show dates have been announced and two of the days overlap PRI's Orlando show. That will force some of the small exhibiting companies to make a choice between which show they will attend. In our estimation, the Indy show was well attended and had a good foundation of exhibitors. There was a tremendously positive air about the show and the racers who we talked to. I'd term it as cautious optimism, which is a dramatic upturn from the gloom and doom fears of the recession that plagued the last two years. How next year shakes out will be interesting to say the least.
Dave Dayton's Racer's Auction and Trade Show
Two local racers who drove...
Two local racers who drove to the Indy show check out the latest chassis from Port City Racecars. Photo by Todd Ridgeway
One of the longest-running motorsports auction and trade shows in the nation is Dave Dayton's Racer's Auction and Trade Show. And 2010 marked the 35th year for this annual event which is held at the Indianapolis Convention Center (the same location as IMIS). It has attracted national and international bidders through its many years.
Held on Thanksgiving weekend, the show featured some 40 companies including a number of engine and race car builders, such as Killer Chassis, Bob Pierce Racecars, and CJ Rayburn Racecars.
The centerpiece of the show has got to be the auction. Event Director Donna Tyler (daughter of Dave Dayton) explained that there were 2,300 lots of just about everything imaginable motorsports-wise available for bidding during the auction. Most of the merchandise was stock car-oriented but there was also a sizable amount of Open Wheel equipment. In addition to the parts and pieces, there were also 15 race trailers and 40 race cars that rolled in front of the bidders.
At Dave Dayton's Racer's Auction...
At Dave Dayton's Racer's Auction and Trade Show, Donna Tyler continues to oversee the show that her father, Dave, started so many years ago. Photo by Eric Thompson
Reports from the show were very encouraging. Considering the current economic situation, promoter Doug Stringer was elated with the quality of the equipment and the prices it brought.
Thanksgiving Racer's Auction & Trade Show
Run at the same time as the Dayton show, but 70 miles to the south in Scottsburg, Indiana, is the Thanksgiving Racer's Auction and Trade Show promoted by veteran race auctioneer Tom Wieck and his Big Dawg Promotions.
Like the Dayton show, the hallmark of the Scottsburg show is the auction and also like the Dayton show there were plenty of items available to keep racers busy in the bidding. Unlike the Dayton show, this was the first time for this show in Hoosierland, having been held in Louisville, Kentucky, for many years.
Wieck explained that there were two Late Model team liquidations at his event along with parts available from WoO Dirt Late Model star Dan Schlieper and engine parts from Cornett Racing.
Buyers at the Dayton show...
Buyers at the Dayton show make decisions on whether or not they will bid on a particular item. Photo by Eric Thompson
A number of race engines went on the block, and the potential buyers all had a chance to hear them run. Also, 27 race cars, two trailers, and one transporter were sold.
In all, there were 3,892 lots of used racing parts sold along with 76 consigners. There were 496 registered buyers with 389 actually buying something. Buyers came from 17 states and two foreign countries (Canada and Sweden).
Again, given the current economic climate, the healthy activity at this auction could be indicative of a good coming year.
Indy Circle Track Expo Swap Meet/Trade Show
The Indy Circle Track Expo Swap Meet/Trade Show is another solid Indiana racing tradition, this being its 11th year. Promoter Craig Dori explained that the event had been in a number of area locations, but as the event grew every year he outgrew each facility. In its first year, there were only 27 vendors. Since then, the numbers have steadily climbed upward, reaching about 200 vendors for this year's event. The late-January Expo has been held for the past four years in the Champion's Pavilion, which provides some 67,000 square feet of floor space.
IMIS is held annually at the...
IMIS is held annually at the Indianapolis Convention Center attracting major racing companies from around the country, as well as those just down the street. Photo by Todd Ridgeway
Craig explained that the show started out basically with teams selling their used parts and pieces. "But now, we are seeing more companies displaying their wares giving the event more of a trade show aura."
Over its years, the show has provided access to a number of racing dignitaries including the likes of Indy 500 expert Donald Davidson and Open Wheel legends Tom Bigelow, Johnny Parsons, Pancho Carter, Mel Kenyon, and Gary Bettenhausen.
A popular activity at the show is 'The Circle Track Feud' which pits Davidson and Open Wheel expert Kevin Eckert asking questions of teams.
CJ Rayburn Symposiums
If you're a dirt racer who is journeying to Indianapolis for any of these shows, you owe it to yourself to swing by CJ Rayburn's place. Located just south of Indy is the Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer's shop and production facility. Rayburn, one of the pioneers of the DLM, holds winter symposiums annually at his facility. The program is open to all racers regardless of what you drive as well as fans and includes a tour of the plant and the chance to talk with CJ one on one.
Rumble in Fort Wayne Indoor Midget Races
One of the cool things about...
One of the cool things about IMIS is the vintage car display in the halls leading up to the exhibit floor. Here is the 1932 Ford Highboy Coupe of driver Les Noyse. Photo by Todd Ridgeway
Of course all of this talk about racing and race car parts will leave anybody anxious to jump into a car when spring thaws the tracks. However, you don't have to wait that long. For more than a decade the Rumble Series has brought indoor Open Wheel racing to venues around Indiana. However for the past several years, the Fort Wayne Expo Center has been home to one of the most entertaining racing events in the Midwest.
During the years, there have been many types of race cars including full Midgets, TQ Midgets, Outlaw Winged Midgets, Karts, Quarter Midgets and others. For the past 13 years, the event has been promoted by Tony Barhorst who explained that the number of cars has averaged about 200. The track at Ft. Wayne is big enough to provide real racing action, which brings the fans and drivers out in droves.
Barhorst is always trying to improve the level of competition. "One thing we recently did was to change the left-side weight rule. Some cars were being specifically built to run indoors and we wanted to keep like outdoor cars. That way, the field is better leveled."
So there you have it. Indiana is a hot bed of racing activity, which most of us all knew anyway. However, there's something for everyone from auctions to big trade shows to indoor Midget racing. Next time you think it's too cold for any racing activity go check out a show or two in the Hoosier state.
At the Thanksgiving auction...
At the Thanksgiving auction at Scottsburg, Indiana, there was an enthusiastic crowd involved in spirited bidding for three days. Photo by Eric Thompson
The skids at the Scottsburg...
The skids at the Scottsburg show held just about everything motorsports-wise that you could possibly want, all available to any racer who wants to jump in on the bidding. Photo by Eric Thompson
Shows and auctions bring out...
Shows and auctions bring out the stars, like these players in the Open Wheel world Bob East (R), head man of Beast Chassis and driver son Bobby (L) attending the Indy Circle Track Expo. Photo by David Gansert
The Indy Circle Track Expo...
The Indy Circle Track Expo wasn't the only place you could find some major stars. To the right of Steve Kinser's WoO sprint car, that's Ray Evernham and his wife, Erin Crocker, at the IMIS Show. Photo by Todd Ridgeway
There's always a good crowd...
There's always a good crowd at C.J. Rayburn's symposiums and open houses are held annually at his Indiana shops. Photo by Eric Thompson
Competition is tight with...
Competition is tight with lots of contact for these karts. The small track is very compatible with the short length of the track making for very good racing. Photo by Larry Kellogg
The full Midgets get grouped...
The full Midgets get grouped up together awaiting the green flag at a Fort Wayne race. Photo by Larry Kellogg
Tony Stewart is one of the...
Tony Stewart is one of the regular runners at Fort Wayne. And it's not surprising to learn that he has won more than his share of races which is demonstrated here! Photo by Larry Kellogg