Just outside Chicago, in St. Charles, Illinois, you’ll find the Pheasant Run Resort. This getaway destination is typically host to golfers, wedding parties, and couples looking to escape for the weekend. Each February however, it plays host for one weekend to the Race and Performance Expo (RP Expo).
Catering to grass-roots racers, enthusiasts, and even the more casual fans, the RP Expo is open to the general public, and a modest admission price gets show-goers access to some of the latest racing and performance hardware on the market. The show has grown steadily over the years in both the number of companies displaying their parts, and in attendance. This year was no exception with huge crowds on both Saturday and Sunday.
One On One With The Industry’s Best
Taking place in the 60,000 square foot Pheasant Run Mega Center, and across the street at the 23,000 square foot DuPage Expo Xenter, the show features over 150 exhibitors. The list of exhibitors includes nearly every major name in the performance industry. Some of the biggest names included Edelbrock, Holley, Comp Cams, Aeromotive, MSD, Strange Engineering, QA1, Weld Racing, Billet Specialties, Driven Racing Oil, and too many others to list. New this year was also a swap meet, where showgoers could find everything from nostalgia and modern performance parts and memorabilia to complete turn key race cars.
The show is put on and promoted by Winner’s Circle Performance and its founder Jim Bingham. Bingham understands the importance of getting racers and enthusiasts together with manufacturers. This show presents a rare opportunity to speak with some of the performance industry’s best and brightest representatives and learn about their products.
Perhaps one of the coolest and possibly least appreciated aspects of the show are the 11 seminars. Industry professionals put on free seminars throughout the show, open to anyone in attendance. This is a chance to get high-level information on everything from the latest in lubricants or bearings, to a better understanding of modern advancements in electronic fuel injection and engine building. The seminars are included with the price of show admission.
We sat in with Ed Preston from Driven Racing Oil during his seminar on lubricants and the dangers of ethanol to carburetors. While we’ve spent a considerable amount of time discussing driven products with Lake Speed Jr., Preston’s seminar was full of information we had yet to digest. This included the differences in oil formulations over the years and Driven’s mission to offer application specific oils rather than one size fits all products. “I’m from south Georgia, and I try to put this information into a perspective the average hot rod, muscle car, or enthusiast will understand and relate to,” said Preston.
We spoke with several vendors at the show who we deal with on a regular basis. Bub Miller from Aeromotive spent his entire weekend answering fuel system questions from show goers. “We get a lot of interest in our parts, and a lot of guys wanting to know everything from what they need for a complete fuel system, to guys with a question about one specific part or a solution that they need for their fuel system.”
At the Winner’s Circle Booth, showgoers were lined up all weekend long. We never saw a line of less than 10 people standing to get their hands on some of the latest parts they’d been checking out at the show.
While we saw our share of drag racers making their way through the MegaCenter, there were plenty of corner-carving fans over at the DuPage Expo Center. Shuttle busses were provided every five minutes to transport showgoers between the two venues. Inside there were several tracks, SCCA clubs, and plenty of cars on display that did more than travel in a straight line.
In the St. Charles ballroom adjacent to the MegaCenter entrance was the Car Builders showcase. Everything from old school dragsters to modern restomods filled this ballroom. There was something for almost everyone here, including some vintage iron sporting what appeared to be vintage injection and Arias Hemi-style heads. We were especially drawn to the Chicago Brushmasters, who were busy applying the old school art of striping with a brush to a nostalgia Funny Car. These masters of brush manipulation were applying their touch to everything from sponsor logos to painting on the tail lights and the larger graphics on the car. All of the work was done by hand, and we could have spent all day watching these gentlemen work.
Building On The Future
While all of the parts and industry resources available here are incredible and the displays and seminars are highly informative, perhaps the most exciting component of the Race and Performance Expo is the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow engine challenge. This is one of those programs that we can only wish they had when we were high school age. This engine teardown and rebuild competition is a race against the clock, with teams competing for a chance to head to the national finals in Las Vegas at the SEMA Show, and Indianapolis, Indiana, at the PRI Show.
Each team is comprised of high school students who are coached by an adult. Coaches can’t help by touching the engine during the competition but can offer guidance as the team progresses. Each team must disassemble a small block Chevy engine down to the crankshaft and camshaft, which are left in place. This includes removal of the top end and the pistons and rods. Judges stand by and watch as the entire process takes place.
Once teardown is over, the teams then must reassemble their engine. It’s more than just throwing things back together. They must properly torque fasteners and demonstrate that to the judges. Judges must inspect the torque wrench on each type of fastener to ensure it’s set properly, and only one torque wrench can be used at a time. Engines are inspected and judged for proper assembly at the end of the rebuild.
The Hot Rodders competition is one of the most popular events at the PRI Show, and it was drawing a huge crowd at the Expo. Dozens of parents, fellow students, and showgoers gathered at the competition area to watch, cheer, and encourage each team. “We started this competition with five teams in 2008, and today it’s over 110 programs and over 770 kids. It’s inspiring to see the next generation of enthusiasts participate in this competition,” says Rodney Bingham.
At the RP Expo, the team from Belvedere North High School came out as number one. Sponsored by Taylor, this team finished in just under 26 minutes with a time of 25:57. There were over 30 teams in attendance at this year’s show.
This year’s Race and Performance Expo was bigger and better than ever, and if you couldn’t make the trip, it’s worth planning to attend next year. We look forward to seeing what Jim Bingham and the Winner’s Circle team have planned going into next year’s show.