What I learned at the PRI Show: It’s Not What You Think

I had the opportunity to attend the PRI show in Indianapolis this past week. I had just returned from nine days in Pensacola, FL for the Snowball Derby a couple days before, but couldn’t see any good reason to change my plans. I had been there once before, about 10 or so years ago, but I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much about it other than meeting my mom for lunch and watching TV in the hotel room. But what I can tell you is that this year was different, not because of anything with the show itself, but because of how my life has changed since the last time I was there.

As a representative for the ARCA Midwest Tour, all of my arrangements had been made through ARCA, which was a good thing because I wasn’t able to get there until very late Thursday night. When I arrived, I stepped into the lobby of the beautiful Westin hotel and honestly couldn’t believe it was where I would be staying…wait for it. As I stepped up to the counter, the guy asked my name and affiliation, etc. So of course I gave him that information. He pulled it all up on his computer and said, “okay, we are full.” I just sort of looked at him for a moment before I said, “but I’m in your system with a reserved room.” He responded with a professional, “yes.” If you’re a Seinfeld fan, it was a parallel to the car reservation episode. Haha. However, he proceeded to say that he would have to call a few hotels in the area to see if they could do a ‘walk-over.’

I was perfectly pleasant during this process and the arrangements were made very quickly. He gave me the ‘walk-over’ paperwork and directions and I headed to the JW Marriott hotel. When I walked into this one I felt just as out of place. Absolutely beautiful with the service to boot. Let’s face it, I’m just a racer at heart, anything with a bed and a shower and maybe a continental breakfast would suffice. But I was not complaining and could definitely get used to more of that. The gentleman got everything settled and they informed me that the first night of the hotel was actually taken care of by the Westin because of the inconvenience. Now that’s what I call customer service!

Here’s the kicker, because when I take a trip, there’s always a kicker…or two. When I got to my room, which is a whole ‘nother story, I pulled open the glass wall of curtains to a beautiful view of downtown Indianapolis. However upon further surveying, I noticed that there was another Marriott, which appeared to be your standard Marriott, between where I was standing and the Westin. I started to get a little nervous thinking I came to the wrong hotel and had this amazing room and the Westin was going to get the bill and be like, “she was at the wrong Marriott!” I would’ve been totally fine either way.

It bothered me so much that I called down to the front desk. The conversation went something like this:

“Is it possible that I am at the wrong Marriott? I was a walk-over from the Westin but when I opened my curtains I saw there was another Marriott right down the street and I would feel absolutely terrible if I was in this beautiful hotel and really not supposed to be.” (and yes, I really did blend all my words together with no room for commas)

“No, you are at the right hotel, Ms. Shear-Carlson. They called before they sent you over and we already had you in our system. That is the only way you could’ve gotten a room with us.”

“Okay, because I really would feel so bad if I was at the wrong hotel.”

At this point her professionalism cracked a bit as she said with a little bit of laughter, “it is all fine Ms. Shear-Carlson. You are at the right hotel. Is there anything I can do for you at this time?”

“No, just letting me know that I’m in the right hotel is plenty for tonight. Thanks.”

After a great night’s sleep in the fabulous hotel, and waking up to a beautiful view of downtown Indianapolis (keep in mind, I’ve still got plenty of city girl left in me), I was ready to hit the ground running. I was lucky enough to be able to meet a good friend for lunch before heading over to the convention center, and enjoyed catching up over what was supposed to be my cheese-less, extra sauce pizza, but turned out to be crust with some vegetables on top. But hey, you can’t have it all. 🙂

As we walked into the show, I was quickly reminded about all that goes into events such as these. The people and processes it takes to make these things happen is absolutely dumbfounding. Not only was there an overwhelming amount of booths filled with products from every aspect of the racing industry, but the amount of people taking part was just as amazing. But the one thing that I saw as the most profound, was the professionalism that came with each and every display. When you are at the track, you get to see all of the people and products in their respective elements. People working hard, getting dirty and the products that are so shiny and new at the show are covered with dirt and grease and hopefully living up to their expectations.

Walking through the PRI show opened up my eyes to the real business that takes place each and every day to bring racing to the level that it has and beyond. I saw many of my friends in a light I had not seen them in, and it actually gave me an even deeper respect for what they all do. The work they put in is often times unrecognized. PRI is when all of the work that goes unnoticed behind the scenes can shine. And speaking of shine, I’m not going to lie, I have no personal need for anything, but as pretty as some of that stuff looked, I was almost tempted to make a deal.

As I made my way to the ARCA booth, I started to get a little anxious, not out of nervousness, but that excitement that comes with knowing you are going to be in your element again after having a few months off. I spent time in the booth talking with familiar faces and some not so familiar faces. I discussed the details of my current project and briefly discussed some opportunities for 2015. It’s amazing how quickly I can feel at home in a place where there are so many unknowns.

I met a lot of amazing new people during the short two days that I was there. If you’ve known me most of my life, you’d know how truly uncharacteristic this usually is for me. Kinda crazy to say the least. In most circumstances when I am introduced, after my name is given, it is followed by either, “Do you know who this is?” Or just the flat out, “This is Joe Shear’s daughter.” It used to bother me a little bit, but I have actually come to embrace it. In fact, I’ve learned the importance of the connection, not necessarily for me, but for those who knew and respected my dad so much. It’s kind of funny because more than not, people will put their hand out with the intent of the usual shake but once the introduction is complete they end up all out hugging me. Again, I’ve come to embrace those moments and feel honored that I can be a connection to my dad.

I appreciate and respect people for their accomplishments more than anyone, yet I’ve never been a starstruck kind of girl. The irony is how much I appreciate those who admired my dad so much…and thus begins the core of this blog…

I often get tired of hearing myself repeat the same things all the time, specifically why I love the sport so much. Don’t get me wrong, every word I say is true and I mean everything I say. But after this past weekend, a whole new revelation was born. When I decided to start blogging, with the strong encouragement of a good friend, I thought, ‘this will be good. I like to write, but I just want to be able to write without all of the parameters and requirements. It will be nice to write with freedom.’ I never expected what I would begin to see and experience once the parameters and requirements were lifted. My eyes have been opened up so far beyond what I ever could’ve imagined both inside and outside of the sport and honestly, myself. It’s kind of like taking off the restrictor plate and being able to go all out. You never knew how much more you really had.

There was one particular story and group of people that created an entirely new feeling. I’ve known many of the guys at Five Star Bodies for several years. Some have even become pretty good friends of mine, so it was a no-brainer to stop by and say hey and chit-chat. But it was when I met Carl Schultz for the first time that a brand new perspective hit me. Of course, I’ve always known who Carl was, but never had the privilege of actually talking with him. It really meant a lot to me.

While I had heard this story in heresy in the past, hearing it directly from Carl himself stirred my heart in a way I never expected. My dad was instrumental in the history of Five Star. That’s really hard for me to say because I cringe at the thought of sounding like I am bragging. But it is what it is. In fact, we lived in Twin Lakes until I was 7 or 8 years old (I still can’t believe the Straw Hat is still there..haha), and I know he spent a lot of time working with them. But what I didn’t know until this past weekend was just how instrumental he actually was.

Carl shared how they used to take pieces to my dad’s shop while he was working on the car and ask for his input. He would give his thoughts and opinions and either tell them they were on the right track or the wrong track. They would take it back to the drawing board and keep bringing it back to him until it received his approval. To know this and see where Five Star is today absolutely floors me. There are two drivers that Carl credits to helping Five Star get off their feet…”It was our hope back then, that when other racers saw Joe Shear and Dick Trickle using our bodies, it was enough of a reason for them to use them too. And it worked!!” As I sat there listening to Carl tell this about my dad, all I could think was, ‘this right here is what it’s all about.’

There was never a day in my life I wasn’t proud of my dad in every way a daughter could be, but hearing stuff like this makes me the proudest daughter on the face of the earth. My dad truly was amazing and his impact on this sport goes far beyond what I’ve ever known. As usual, I’m getting choked up as I type this. Okay, okay, the tears are actually rolling down my cheeks. My dad wasn’t just a race car driver, he was an innovator. When people say that racing wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for him, I just sit there and try to comprehend what that even means.

The story from Carl Schultz created an even deeper appreciation of my still being involved in the sport. When I made the plans to go to the PRI show, my hope was to represent the ARCA Midwest Tour, discuss things for 2015, and catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a while. But it turned into an amazing weekend fulfilling yet another piece to what I’ve determined is a puzzle I didn’t realize I was putting together. I feel like I’m not just involved because I love the sport, but here because of what my dad did for it. I can’t put my finger on exactly what I’m feeling. I just feel like my dad laid this foundation and it has been built up over time and that I’m kind of stuck to that foundation. Each and every story I hear is supposed to fit together somehow. Like I’m here to gather all of this information and put all these puzzle pieces together, for what, I don’t know, but I’m definitely going to continue to enjoy it.

Sometimes I question why I am at this event or that event, but I can tell you that I always feel welcome regardless, and you know what, that question gets answered every time I leave wherever I have been. I have never left a place without something impacting me from the sport, but it is not just about the sport. There is so much more behind racing, yet it can sometimes only be found through racing. Wow, I’m totally going philosophical here.

Each and every person I meet and and interact with in this industry, every story, every moment of laughter, every tear, every conversation small or large, and every old and new relationship I develop and redevelop isn’t just an interaction, they are all a part of me, helping create who I am in relation to this sport.

As I was sharing the experience this past weekend with my mom, she made a statement that really stuck with me. “I am so happy that you are able to experience all these things.” She was so right. The experiences I have had over the past year and more recently the past few months or so have been beyond anything I ever expected and ever dreamed possible. I know there are so many more pieces to the puzzle out there and I can’t wait to uncover the next one.

I’m not sure if I’ll be writing anything more beforehand, so Merry Christmas to each and every one of you. Thank you for taking the time to join me on this blogging journey thus far. I am truly blessed and thank God for all that I have and all that I will continue to experience. I look forward to continue sharing it with y’all as long as I can.