Conversation Starters | Performance Racing Industry
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Conversation Starters
By Dan Schechner on April 4, 2018

Some topics are just more fun to talk about than others.

For instance, if you’re looking to engage yours truly, I’d suggest a conversation starter along the lines of, “Did you hear NMCA is partnering with Dodge/SRT and Mopar to offer the nameplate’s late model drag racers a free…” or, “Were you aware that three separate race tracks were purchased by new owners in the last…”  

Or even, “My vote for the best cheeseburger in Orange County would have to be…”

Amirite, folks?

For a racing retailer, kicking off his or her sales pitch may be as simple and straightforward as, “Can I help you find something?” From there, most sellers of motorsports parts and accessories have no problem dialoguing with customers on just about any subject or SKU in their inventory. It comes with the territory: “You need a new gasket? Copper or aluminum?” “Looking for coilover springs? We’ve got a number of the top brands in stock, from 8- to 16 inches long.”

However, as noted above, and using the example of our speed shop, we can probably agree that most racers would rather talk about suspension setups, or how to add another 10 horsepower than, say, which brand or style of fire-retardant underwear to buy. Which isn’t at all to say that one is more important than the other. It’s just the established order of racing, and racers, where making power and putting it to the ground are unquestionably the top priorities—the cheeseburgers of goods and services, as it were.

And while driver safety gear may never reach the status of turbochargers or shock absorbers, our report in this issue on the market for fire suits, gloves, shoes, head-and-neck restraints and related products suggests that retailers who do their homework on what’s new and trending in the category can reap lucrative rewards.

Beyond the latest developments in materials, printing processes and more, we explain why some suppliers advise carrying a selection of driving suits at multiple price points, and how others handle custom orders.     

Meantime, we learned how top manufacturers like RaceQuip focus on making their products easily accessible through a global network of distributors and retailers: “We do not compete with our dealers,” Patrick Utt told PRI contributor Jeff Zurschmeide for his feature piece that begins on page 58. “We actually send them customers every day through our website, online store, and our phone sales and tech departments.”

Racers know the safety requirements for the sanctioning bodies and tracks at which they compete. Their local speed shop should, too. And when those same entities propose or debate new rules governing safety gear, it would behoove local merchants to participate in the process—and stay up-to-date on any resulting changes that could impact their business.

We’d also like to highlight the fact that some product makers have taken their mission a step further. To wit: Later this month (on Saturday, April 14), safety equipment supplier Stand21 and its Racing Goes Safer foundation will hold a free driver safety seminar during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to educate and inform racers, their teams and family members on best practices for health and safety at the track. Speakers at this year’s 7th annual seminar will include IndyCar Medical Advisor Dr. Steven Olvey, IndyCar Director of Engineering/Safety Jeff Horton, and IndyCar and Formula E racer Oriol Servia, with additional panelists to be announced after this issue goes to press. And while the session is offered at no charge, reservations are required (just visit www.racinggoessafer.org).   

We’ve attended this seminar—and others like it—in the past and found it incredibly interesting and informative, and well worth the time if you’re in the neighborhood on April 14. Who knows, you may just pick up a good tidbit of information to help start that next conversation on fire-retardant underwear.

About the Author
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Dan Schechner is the Editor of Performance Racing Industry Magazine.
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