NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


Things we learned at the PRI Show

For three days each December, the annual Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show in downtown Indianapolis becomes the hub of the auto racing world. Here’s a recap of some of the week’s biggest NHRA news.
12 Dec 2023
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor

For three days each December, the annual Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show in downtown Indianapolis becomes the hub of the auto racing world. This year, the NHRA display in the main hall was ground zero for drag racing news, hosting a large number of racers and industry figures on the FOX/NHRA stage. Here’s a recap of some of the week’s biggest news.


The PRI Show began with a sonic boom on Thursday when three-time NASCAR Cup champion, former IndyCar star, and current NHRA nitro team owner Tony Stewart announced that he’d be driving in the Top Fuel class in 2024, replacing his wife, Leah Pruett, as the couple looks to start a family. The announcement was easily the biggest news of the weekend, and it was covered extensively by worldwide news outlets, and not just those that favor motorsports.

Stewart is a generational talent who has been a consistent winner in every form of motorsports from NASCAR to IndyCar to midget and sprint cars. Last season, he competed in the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster class and nearly won the championship. It’s almost impossible to imagine that his presence in NHRA’s premiere nitro division won’t move the needle when it comes to ticket sales, television ratings, and NHRA’s footprint in the national sports media.

Ironically, there were some naysayers who somehow believed the announcement was over-hyped. Those folks would be mistaken.

Evidence of “The Stewart Effect”  is already mounting. Barely 48 hours after his announcement, an NHRA track operator tracked down Stewart to thank him because he’d already sold numerous tickets and motorhome camping spots for an NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series event that won’t take place for another 10 months.

Stewart’s presence might also be felt well beyond ticket sales and television ratings. It doesn’t take much imagination to think that drivers, team owners, and sponsors with a presence in other forms of motorsports might ultimately ask themselves the question: “What does Tony see in NHRA racing that we’re missing?” Again, that’s already happened as Stewart’s team has introduced several new sponsors to the sport and multi-sport team owners like Rick Ware are already here.  


Let’s face it, the last few years have been challenging when it comes to drag racing facilities as we’ve been forced to say goodbye to some of our favorite events and most historic racetracks, but at this year’s PRI Show, the news on that front was overwhelmingly positive.

The return of Virginia Motorsports Park and the addition of the new Flying H Dragstrip near Kansas City, Mo., have already been announced, and now, we can add the return of Firebird Motorsports Park and the NHRA Cajun SPORTSNationals to the mix.

West Coast racers and fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief on Friday when it was officially announced that the track previously known as Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park had been rebranded as Firebird Motorsports Park and would continue to host an NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series event in 2024.

The return to Phoenix was made possible by an outpouring of support from the racing community in the Phoenix area with a message of wanting to see NHRA Championship Drag Racing remain at the longtime facility. The Gila River Indian Community was proactive in its efforts to make it happen, reimagining racing at Firebird Motorsports Park. Last season’s event hosted sellout crowds on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, there was more positive news with the return of the NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals to No Problem Raceway Park in Belle Rose, La. Held annually from 2004 to 2015, the Cajun SPORTSNationals was a must-attend event for NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Sportsman drivers with a racer-friendly format, record-setting conditions, and a welcoming environment. Those things all figure to return when the event rejoins the NHRA calendar on March 14-17, 2024, one week after the season-opening NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville.


As if Tony Stewart’s arrival wasn’t enough to stir additional interest in NHRA Top Fuel racing in 2024, it turns out that “Smoke” will have lots of company this season as the PRI Show featured a number of positive announcements for nitro racers, including a full-season tour for new team owner Shawn Reed, team ownership for Jacob McNeal, and the arrival of several fresh faces, including European Top Fuel champion Ida Zetterström.

Reed is downright serious about his return to Top Fuel as he’s purchased all the necessary equipment for a full 21-race schedule, hired veteran Rob Wendland as his crew chief, and formed what’s being called a technical and advancement alliance with Antron Brown's AB Motorsports team. Reed, who last raced at the start of the 2020 season, has taken delivery of a new chassis from Morgan Lucas Racing’s Brownsburg, Ind., fabrication shop and a trailer from Pegasus Trailers in Ohio. SRR will run many of the same race-car components as the Matco team and share developmental data.

McNeal has purchased the assets of Buddy Hull, who is headed to the Funny Car class this season.  With veteran crew chief Mike Guger as his tuner, McNeal plans to begin his NHRA Rookie of the Year campaign with his Poseidon Oilfield Services dragster in Gainesville. He plans to run in eight events, including both four-wide events, as well as Chicago, Richmond, Indianapolis, Dallas, Las Vegas, and the yet-to-be-announced NHRA national event in July.

Zetterström, who handily won the 2023 European FIA Top Fuel title while driving for Rune Fjeld’s RF Motorsports team, will be making the move to the United States as the Maynard Family team adds a second Top Fuel dragster to its stable.  Zetterström, who is also the current European record holder at 3.77 seconds, tentatively plans to run five events this season with a goal of a full season in 2025. She also plans to text extensively this year.

Stewart, Reed, McNeal, and Zetterström join a crowded Top Fuel field that also figures to include second-generation newcomers Jasmine Salinas and Travis Shumake.


Following a three-year courtship, the 2024 season will mark the official arrival of the Holley EFI Factory X class, and based on early returns, the class will be a blockbuster. Last season, Greg Stanfield, Jim Cowan, Chris Holbrook, Stephen Bell, and Allen Johnson each made their debuts in Factory X, which featured four exhibition races in Indy, Charlotte, St. Louis, and Las Vegas.

At the PRI Show, Holley EFI was named the title sponsor of the Factory X category, which features 2019 and newer factory muscle cars, including the Chevrolet COPO Camaro, Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, and Ford Mustang Cobra Jet. The series will also double to eight events and includes a season championship. Beginning with the four-wide events in Las Vegas and Charlotte, the Holley EFI Factory X class will appear in Chicago, Norwalk, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Dallas before returning to Las Vegas to crown a champion.

NHRA Holley EFI Factory X made its official debut during the 2023 season and is slated to compete at eight events during the 2024 campaign, starting at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals on April 12-14 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After appearing four times in 2023, NHRA Holley EFI Factory X, which combines supercharged Hemi, LS, or Coyote engines, with manual transmissions and lightweight, late-model, factory-appearing bodies – each powered by Holley EFI – will have its first full season in 2024 as the class continues to draw impressive interest from both drivers and race fans.

There are more FX entries along the way as fields figured to fill up in 2024. Three-time Factory Stock Showdown champ and Pro Stock driver Aaron Stanfield is about to begin testing his new COPO Camaro while fans at the PRI Show got an up close look at the COPO Camaro of Leonard Lottig, which features a “Grumpy’s Toy” paint scheme as a tribute to Pro Stock pioneer Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins.