The Race & Performance Expo, celebrating its sixth year in 2013, returned over the weekend to the sprawling Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois. Just a short drive from downtown Chicago, this year offered two popular new additions to the mix for show attendees, along with a new three-day schedule that provided snow-logged midwest gearheads with even more opportunity to learn about hot new products, sit in on seminars, talk with the experts, and mingle with their racing family.

As Expo organizer Jim Bingham explains, the Race & Performance Expo is as much about growing the industry as it is giving the consumer and the manufacturer the opportunity to meet in one place.

“We’re trying to influence the entire aftermarket and bring in new customers, whether they buy from me or from someone else,” said Bingham. “We want to grow the market. I’ve been in this industry for 44 years, and I’m concerned about it, so I’m trying to make a difference. If we can get someone in here that’s maybe never built a car, we can gain a new customer for this industry.”

We want to grow the market. I’ve been in this industry for 44 years, and I’m concerned about it, so I’m trying to make a difference. -Jim Bingham

The sixth annual Race & Performance Expo saw the addition of both the Offroad & Performance Truck Expo and the Car Builder’s Showcase, adding even more flavor to this show that targets the drag racing, circle track racing, high performance street enthusiast, and engine builders with trucks and some of the baddest hot rods from some of the top custom car builders in the nation. As well, due to overwhelming interest in the Race & Performance Expo in prior years that has filled the walkways of the show to virtual capacity, the traditional two-day schedule was expanded to three, as exhibitors opened the doors to the crowd on Friday evening.

As always, the Race & Performance Expo featured some of the top manufacturers in the industry showing off their products, along with the popular Circle Track Expo and the entertaining Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge. Join us as we take you for a tour of the 2013 Race & Performance Expo!

The Race & Performance Expo

The Mega Center at the Pheasant Run Resort, home to the Race & Performance Expo.

The heart and soul of the Race & Performance Expo is the Expo itself, held in the Pheasant Run Resort’s 38,000 square foot Mega Center, where more than 130 exhibitors set up their booths. Among the exhibitors were some of the top high performance names in the business, including Comp Cams, Edlebrock, Aeromotive, Holley, Weld Racing, and many more, who were on hand to show off their products and speak face-to-face with their customers at a show that, unlike the larger industry trade shows, allows and promotes access to the end user of the products.

Like the Circle Track Expo, the Race & Performance Expo exhibitor list also features a number of race tracks and racing organizations in the midwest, from the NHRA’s North Central division to the Midwest Super Comp Series, Route 66 Raceway, the Cordova Dragway Park, Great Lakes Dragaway, and others.

From aftermarket manufacturers to race tracks, the Expo is a great way for people in the industry to meet their customers and speak face-to-face.

There were plenty of great new products being displayed, including these new KERA (Kleban Equal Response Axles) for dirt cars from Strange Engineering (left), Dart's soon-to-be-released LS engine block (center), and these dual-fan radiators for Tri-5 Chevy's from Be Cool Radiators.

“This is a great regional show for the end user to attend, where you get to see all of the big manufacturers right here in St. Charles, Ill.,” said QA1’s Dave Goldie. “This is where the customer wants to come to talk to the manufacturer. This is one place where you can have a face-to-face conversation with the manufacturer, because typically it’s through a distributor or a dealer, but people really want to talk to the individuals that make the products.

Left: Dave Hughes of Hughes Engines discusses cylinder head and intake porting techniques with a room full of attendees. Right: Holley's Rick Anderson speaks to the crowd on Holley's new EFI systems.

Another popular part of the Race & Performance Expo each year are the seminars hosted by many of the most knowledgeable names in the high performance industry. The seminars, covering a wide range of topics, are held in conference rooms above the Mega Center show floor and are open to all paid attendees of the Expo throughout the weekend. The 40 minutes seminars allow companies to introduce new products, answer questions, and teach attendees about engine building and other racing technologies in a classroom environment. This year, the seminars included “Q&A on Holley’s EFI Systems” with Rick Anderson, “Shock and Suspension Tuning For Your Race Or Street Car” with QA1’s Dave Goldie, “Advanced Fuel System Dynamics” with Aeromotive’s Jared Cox, “Progression of Piston Technology” with Mahle’s John Goodwin, and “Secrets of a Clutch” with Will Baty of Centerforce.

“These seminars are great for informing people of new products they may have not heard about and be able to show them and walk them through the new feature sets,” said Auto Meter’s Justin Devlin. “By doing this, it brings a lot of attention to new products.”

There were some great display cars on hand for the drag racing crowd, including this 1998 Pontiac Formula WS6 1LE (just 1 of 14 built) of Illinois native Brian Black. Black competes in the MDRA, LS, and other events with this beautiful and trick ride that features power from a 431-inch LSX with Mozez canted valve heads on nitrous, all transferring to a set of 275 drag radial tires. The Midwest Chassis & Performance-built ride, which is fully X275 legal, has been as quick as 4.91 to the 1/8 mile and 7.85 out the back prior to some off season changes that should step up the performance.

The 1978 Plymouth Arrow you see here is a real, honest to goodness Pro Stock car with origins believed to date back to that very year, and owner George Kubis has set out to prepare the car just as it would've been in 1979 for competition in the Nostalgia Pro Stock series. Kubis purchased the car in Tennessee, although he's unsure of who owned or drove it when new. The car features a 498 cubic inch Keith Black powerplant, and of course has the handful of gears from a Lenco transmission sprouting from the tunnel inside the cockpit. Kubis has installed a 7.50 legal cage in the car, and with a fiberglass nose and acid dipped body panels bringing the weight in at just 2,000 lbs, this is one quick ride.

The guys at Borowski Engines, who we chatted with here at last year's Expo, brought out a couple of awesome powerplants, including the 383-inch, 517 horsepower Ls1 on the left and the 1,500 horsepower, 540-inch bullet packing an F2 ProCharger on the right.

The Circle Track Expo

Located across the street at the DuPage Expo Center, the Circle Track Expo features all things circle track, from pavement stock cars to dirt sprint cars, late models, modifieds, karting, and everything in between that turns left.

After a short ride across the street on the free shuttle bus, we arrive at the DuPage Expo Center, home to the Circle Track Expo and the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge.

Whether you're a racer looking for new safety gear or a young fan wanting to take a virtual ride in a late model, the Circle Track Expo has a little bit of everything for the left turn crowd.

The Circle Track Expo featured 54 different exhibitors, including manufacturers and racing series and tracks. The list of exhibitors included Allstar Performance, QuarterMaster, Hinchman Racewear, the ARCA Midwest Tour, the Badger Midget Series, Illiana Motor Speedway, and LaSalle Speedway.

Whether you were looking for a place to race, an organization to get your child involved in the sport, purchase new safety gear, or look at some new components for your circle track car, the Circle Track Expo had a little bit of it all.

This 1/2-scale Super Mini Cup car, powered by a Honda Generator motor and capable of speeds over 100 mph that's driven by youngster Noah Eisenhower, was just one of many dirt and circle track cars on display at the Expo.

If racing on a budget is your game, there were a couple of exhibitors on hand with just that in mind. At left, the Illini Racing Series for Midgets was actually showing attendees how an OEM motor pulled from a junkyard is modified to fit their very budget-minded rules where only minor intake, exhaust, oil pan, fuel delivery, and ignition modification are allowed. At right, the team at SET Racing Engines were showing off their affordable Midget powerplants that come in at a price point far cheaper than the leading engine builders while remaining competitive on smaller tracks.

The Offroad & Performance Truck Expo

This year, the organizers of the Race & Performance Expo extended an invite to manufacturers in the truck and offroad industry, and several new exhibitors came to be a part of the show at the Mega Center as they enthusiastically showed would-be customers, many of whom own at least one truck for pulling their race cars, their products. Some of the hot items included some very unique bed covers and form-fit floor mats, and there were even a couple of tricked-out trucks on hand.

The Offroad and Performance Truck Expo was a new addition to this year's Expo, showcasing some great products and a couple of cool trucks.

Left: these very sharp floor mats from Weather Tech are formed to the vehicle with a laser for a perfect fit in more than 200 different OEM vehicles and are made from a smell-less virgin material. At right: the folks at Truxedo developed these very simple and inexpensive LED truck bed lights that you can place virtually anywhere in the bed (or even in other applications besides trucks) to light things up at night when you're loading or unloading your pickup.

From trucks designed to haul with authority to those for playing in the mud, the truck market is a fast-growing segment of the industry, and one that’s no doubt a great addition to this likewise fast-growing performance trade show.

Car Builder’s Showcase

One of the hot new attractions of this year's Expo was the Car Builder's Showcase, which brought together some of the top custom car builders and manufacturers in the industry to show of their works of art.

This gorgeous 1967 Chevy II is the personal vehicle of Route 66 Motorsports owner Bill Jelinek, and features an LS3 powerplant backed with a 4L70 transmission that puts down about 540 horsepower. The car, just one of the many stunning creations out of the Route 66 shop, features a complete Heidts chassis package underneath, including the very first Pro-G suspension kit, with a four-link rear, a 9-inch housing, and the works.

The centerpiece of the Car Builder's Showcase was this incredible 1969 Ford Torino Talladega, dubbed the 'GPT Special', that was commissioned to the team at Rad Rides by Troy by esteemed car guy George Poteet. This killer ride has a 740 horse, 529 Boss FX engine under the hood with a Big Stuff 3 ECU and Rad Rides digital injection, with a Bowler 5-speed transmission transferring the power to a Mark Williams modular rear end. Underneath this fully customized and finessed Talladega body, you'll find an Art Morrison chassis with a C6 front suspension and four-link rear, riding on Billet Specialties wheels with Wilwood brakes. This car is a combined effort of Poteet and Rad Rides to interpret the early NASCAR Daytona Holman & Moody design.

For the first time, the Race & Performance Expo spilled out of the halls of the Mega Center and DuPage Expo Center to the Pheasant Run Resort’s beautifully-decored St. Charles Ballroom, where the Car Builder’s Showcase was put on display. From pure show cars to those featured by some of the most well known custom car builders in the industry, the Car Builder’s Showcase offered up more than 20 gorgeous cars, from street rods to custom muscle cars, Pro Touring ringers, sports cars, and even some rolling chassis that gave customers a glimpse of the undercarriage of these works of art.

Hot Rodders Of Tomorrow

The Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge has become a popular program within the high performance automative industry that brings together car-loving high school students from schools across the nation to compete for college scholarships, and it’s a program that was born out of the Race & Performance Expo as an idea hatched between Bingham and his good friend and industry legend Vic Edelbrock to get today’s youth involved in the automotive hobby and to make a career of their passion.

Each round of the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge always brings out a strong crowd of family, friends, and fellow classmates to cheer on and support their teams.

 Parts Pro, a subsidiary of the AAM Group, has been involved as a team sponsor and supporter of the Hot Rodders since the very beginning, and company President Tim Odom shared with us his enthusiasm for being involved in the development of youth and the future of this industry.

“We like to get involved in anything that helps to bring young people into our sport, and it’s really exciting to see that Jim has developed this program that has grown to be national in scope and really represents the hopes and the dreams of the high performance market to get youth involved in motorsports and to encourage schools to keep programs like this. That’s the idea behind this program – to give kids a reason to want to stay in automotive programs in their schools, and the end result is that they can earn scholarships that takes them on to college. A lot of these kids have made a career out of motorsports. It’s just a great program.”

The Race & Performance Expo is the first of seven qualifying events in 2013 for teams to earn their way into the National Championship to be held at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis in December, and this year’s Expo featured 24 teams in all, with 12 different teams each getting two shots at producing the quickest time to advance on to Indianapolis. The goal of competing in the Engine Challenge is to disassemble and reassemble identically prepared small block Chevy engines in the shortest amount of time possible, with four team members working around the engine and one behind the parts table manning the components and providing the necessary tools.

Each team gets two attempts at tearing down and reassembling these identically prepared small block Chevrolet engines in the least amount of time possible. Penalties are assessed for improper torquing, dropping of parts, and other violations, so this is no doubt a very coordinated team effort.

“This program is just so contagious. Everywhere we take it, it’s contagious,” said Bingham. “The first year we had the event, there were five high school teams. The next there were 32. Last year we had something like 112 teams, and we expect to have over 150 across the country this year. Kids sign up for their school’s automotive programs just to get into the Hot Rodders.”

Continued Bingham: “when these kids build an engine, they find out its a “we” world and not an “I” world. We compare it to basketball, where one player cannot carry the team, but one player could destroy the team. These five players, they’ve got to love each other and back each other up. It’s great camaraderie.”

Hot Rodders Of Tomorrow Results

Team Parts Pro from the Thomas County Central High School in Georgia, captured the first round of the Hot Rodders Engine Challenge with a time of 23 minutes, 28 seconds, which was a little over three minutes quicker than runner-up Team Motive Gear Joliet Central High School’s team No. 1 at 26 minutes, 42 seconds. Thomas County’s second squad, Team Flowmaster, finished third with a time of 26 minutes, 46 seconds. The complete results are shown in the image at right.

Organizers Bingham and Tom Stockenburg, who along with more than 65 employees and volunteers work to make the Race & Performance Expo a reality each year, have already promised an even bigger and better show for next year, but rest assured that the big industry players, the informative seminars, the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow, and all of the other great elements of the Expo will be back next February.

“It takes a year of preparation to put this show together, and we’ve already started on our plans for 2014. We’ve got some great changes in store for next year.”

As soon as you get your 2014 calendars, be sure to mark this one down.

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