Views & Notes: April 2016 Edition | Performance Racing Industry
Views & Notes: April 2016 Edition
By Dan Schechner on April 11, 2016

* Membership Has Its Privileges: You’d be hard pressed to top the Specialty Equipment Market Association when it comes to the quantity and/or quality of its member benefits. (Disclosure: SEMA owns this company, this magazine, and the equipment this column was produced on.)

Nonetheless, the plethora of year-round services, events and opportunities afforded by the venerable aftermarket industry association would be impressive by anyone’s measure. For my money, a clear frontrunner is the annual Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC) Media Trade Conference. The three-day gathering held each winter offers journalists like yours truly unparalleled access to dozens of leading performance parts suppliers—and their latest wares—in an up-close setting under one accessible roof, in this case the Embassy Suites in Santa Ana, California.

In fact, PRI Managing Editor Meredith Kaplan Burns and I discovered several interesting product developments and informational tidbits with wide-ranging implications for the 2016 racing season. For example, we discussed changes in fuel pump technology and the emerging off-road market, in addition to challenges posed by the importation of counterfeit goods, with Vic Wood, Kyle Fickler and Jackson Lueg from Aeromotive Inc. We learned about PRW Industries’ new series of flexplates for Dodge Cummins diesel engines, as well as the company’s aggressive private label program and uncompromising MAP policies.

Elsewhere, Ryan Hunter told us the most frequently asked question for SCE Gaskets’ tech support is easily, “Why is my head gasket leaking?” (The answer, according to Hunter: It’s almost always insufficient clamp load.)

Another eye-opening conversation came by way of JE Pistons’ Sean Crawford and Nickolaus DiBlasi, who explained that because the market for their core product is fairly mature, new developments tend to be incremental. Enter the industry’s first off-the-shelf asymmetrical forged pistons. Utilizing two different sized piston skirts, the parts represent a migration of higher-end technology from custom to stock product. At the same time, Crawford and DiBlasi pointed to JE’s $2.5 million investment in machining equipment over the last year and change, resulting in greater one-off design flexibility and reduced turnaround time.

Meantime, Ed Law could hardly wait to show us Total Seal’s latest innovation in piston ring design—the Radial Notch Technology of its Total Conform rings. In order to ensure the ring face stays in constant contact with the cylinder bore—even when fuel, air and ignition create heat and pressure that changes the geometry of the cylinder—Total Seal developed a ring with a series of radial notches around the inner diameter, so the ring behaves like it’s a very shallow radial wall ring. This way, Law explained, it conforms to the bore distortions while maintaining a wide radial wall that allows it to remain firmly sealed to the piston in the ring lands. Law said the new rings are ideal for Pro Stock applications, among others.

A few minutes later, Mike Downs of Trick Flow Specialties noted that while the bulk of his business is LS-centric, he’s observed significant pent-up demand for Mopar (especially Big Block) products. Ten-second bracket racers and those in search of added street performance take note: Trick Flow’s recently introduced PowerPort 240 aluminum cylinder heads helped a 10.4:1 compression, 446 cubic inch Mopar BB spit out 620 horsepower at 6200 rpm’s on a Superflow dyno. Also new to Trick Flow’s line card for Big Block Mopar are Cast Aluminum Valve Covers made from durable A319 aluminum; Track Heat Intake Manifolds; Track Max Hydraulic Roller Camshafts; and complete Top-End Engine Kits, not to mention newly available SKUs for GM and Ford engines.

It was a whirlwind event, to be sure, and one we’ll most certainly have circled on our calendars for 2017 and beyond.   

* Liftoff At NASA: A long-awaited road racing class was officially christened last month when competitors in the National Auto Sport Association’s NASA Prototype (NP) Series took to Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California, for a non-points spin around the 2.5-mile course.

Introduced at the 2014 PRI Trade Show, the NP Series features a purpose-built, closed-cockpit, prototype-style race car—the NP01—developed by Georgia-based Élan Motorsports and priced at just $72,500. Pretty impressive, when you consider on-track testing has placed the NP01’s performance alongside that of top-level Super Touring race cars.

The series itself consists of two individual championships—an 11-race Pacific program and a nine-race Atlantic version. Points-earning events actually begin this month, when West Coast drivers visit Southern California’s Buttonwillow Raceway Park on April 16–17; Atlantic racers kick off their season June 10–11 at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Jennings, Oklahoma.

According to NASA Business Development Director Jeremy Croiset, sponsor interest has spiked as well. “We’ve got a great contingency package set up this year for the competitors,” he told us. “Toyo Tires, Hawk Performance and Mazda have all stepped up to offer competitors a great prize package worth well over $100,000. Anyone that does well in the series and collects on contingency will seriously decrease their yearly operational costs.”

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Dan Schechner is the Editor of Performance Racing Industry Magazine.
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