Take a dozen of the finest race car drivers in motorsports, put them behind the wheel of identical stock cars, then let them tear up a short track as fast as they can. That’s the basic premise of The Camping World SRX race series, which kicked off Saturday night at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway.
After finishing third in the season’s inaugural event, the NASCAR Hall of Famer told Men’s Journal the concept of the series is, “To pick the best drivers in the world to run six straight weekends, and go to some of the best and coolest short tracks most people haven’t heard of.”
Motorsports fans in the know appreciate a short track for rapidly vacillating action. “The shorter track makes for more excitement. Quick, fast laps with everybody fighting for position—it’s definitely fun to watch,” says Eric Marquis, who came to watch the race in Stafford from Portland, CT.
Stewart believes many race fans have a thirst for new, more unique experiences, and SRX is an attempt to quench that. “I just feel like the future of motorsports, the best part of it is going to be done on short tracks,” he says. “The fan base that goes to short track races on a weekly basis speaks for itself.”
Those fans came out in droves. Over 10,000 spectators sold out the event at Stafford. One such aficionado, Joe Carofano, of East Haven, CT, says he frequents many of New England’s short tracks. “It’s an unbelievable time,” he says. “I’m a big Tony Stewart fan!” But he did have a complaint: “The one thing I’m disappointed about with this new series is they ran out of SRX shirts. That’s the only thing. How do you run out of merch when it’s a new series?”
This is about good drivers coming together in cars we’ve never driven to slug it out.
While running out of merchandise is a bummer for fans keen on grabbing some in-person, it’s certainly a good sign for both the potential popularity of the series for a larger TV audience and the fan excitement for events to come. Plus, spectators who missed out, or were watching on the CBS Saturday Night broadcast, can always order memorabilia online.
If you missed the race in Stafford, here are six things to know about the new series.
1. The Drivers
The series will feature 10 of the biggest names in racing as full-time drivers. Tony Stewart, of course, joins Tony Kanaan, Paul Tracy, Bobby Labonte, Willy T. Ribbs, Bill Elliott, Ernie Francis Jr., Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, and Michael Waltrip. The field at each race will be bolstered to 12 with at least one local hero racer invited to suit up alongside the regulars. “Make 12 even cars and let the drivers’ personalities and driving styles shine,” Stewart says. “That’s what it’s all about.”
2. The Tracks
After SRX’s debut at Stafford, the series heads to a duo of dirt tracks at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa on June 19, then Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. On June 26, the drivers will find themselves racing on pavement ovals again on July 3, at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis. Racers will hit the track at Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin on July 10 before its season finale July 17 at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for the culmination of the championship.
3. The Cars
During the series, racers are driving stock machines designed by NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief and team owner Ray Evernham. They have a 700 horsepower Ilmor 396 motor fitted with Edelbrock Group components. They’re also built to trade a rather good bit of paint, so race fans can expect to see some contact and cars come back to the field in short order after repairs. Given that cars are drawn at random before each event, drivers will likely be sitting behind a different wheel each race. Racers will also swap out pit crews every time.
4. The Format
The SRX folks have made the events easy to follow—even for motorsport novices: There are two 15-minute heats followed by a 100-lap main event (150 at Slinger Speedway.) A random draw sets up the starting order in the first heat, while the lineup in the second heat is determined by the first session’s finishing position, which is flipped, so last is first. For the main event, position is set by the finishing order of heat two. Points are awarded in all three race stages and at the end of the season, the driver with the most triumphs is champion.
5. The Wild Card Locals
In the season opener at Stafford, the local driver and not-a-big-name legend emerged victorious. Connecticut native Doug Coby, who’s found his success on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, notched the win after leading 80 of 100 laps in the main event.
“Home track knowledge definitely helped,” says Coby, who’s won at Stafford 30 times in various formats. So the season regulars and viewers should keep an eye on the local talent. “It’s fun to be acknowledged, to have a seat at the table,” he adds, still beaming on the track after his win. “More discussion and more inclusion of short tracks, modified, that’s just good for racing.”
Local racers for the upcoming events include four-time Knoxville track champion Brian Brown, five-time USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson at Eldora, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winner Bobby Santos III at Lucas Oil Raceway, and the winner of the July 6 Slinger Nationals will fire up a motor at the Slinger event.
“This is about lots of good drivers coming together in cars we’ve never driven to slug it out,” Coby said.
6. The Broadcast
Even for fans who can’t make it to the races, the TV experience should be fantastic to watch on TV or streaming.
Along with a typical broadcast battery of cameras, each car is outfitted with two cameras on board, while numerous drones will add dynamic views of the action. The races will be broadcast on CBS as well as Paramount +.
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