Race Weekend Central

Bobby Labonte Wants Bragging Rights in SRX Series

Just over one month ago, Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart announced the formation of a new racing series, that being Superstar Racing Experience.

SRX won’t run a single race until summer 2021, but Evernham wants to focus on reducing aerodynamics, in turn rewarding driver skill and mechanical grip. Over the past month, SRX has shown features of the car sporadically on Twitter, giving fans a glimpse of what’s to come in the near future.

Since then, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Stewart, longtime NTT IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan and Paul Tracy have all been announced as competitors for the 12-driver field. On Wednesday (Aug. 12), 2000 Cup champion Bobby Labonte was added to the list.

It’s safe to say the 21-time Cup winner is excited for the opportunity to compete in SRX.

“After talking to Ray over the past few years and knowing how he operates, it’s going to be nothing but first class,” Labonte told Frontstretch on Friday (Aug. 14). “Knowing that he’s behind it and so involved in it, I think that’s going to be really great.

“I think it’s going to be really exciting. I can’t wait for it to happen. We’ve got a year to get ready for it, they’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ll find out more drivers and tracks, venues and things like that as time goes on. It’s going to be exciting, good, for sure.”

Labonte said he’s known Evernham had a vision to form a series like SRX for a couple of years now, mentioning it off and on when running into the driver at the racetrack. But when it was clear it was going to happen, it was a no-brainer for Labonte to join as a driver, who still runs roughly a dozen races per year.

“We always just talk and he said he was working on it, working on it, hoping to get something done,” Labonte said. “I said, ‘OK, that sounds awesome.’ I had done the IROC series before, he mentioned it would be similar to that. Anyway, he said, ‘I’ll keep you in mind, I’ll let you know what’s going on.’

“I knew they were getting closer and heard through the grapevine they were getting pretty close, so I reached out and said, ‘Did you get your deal done?’ just asking the question, because I knew he was working on something. He said, ‘Yeah, absolutely. Do you want to be in?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ Long story short, it didn’t take long from him to say, ‘Hey, do you want to be in,’ for me to say yes.”

Labonte confirmed the plan is to run all six races, as SRX has reportedly been looking at venues such as Eldora Speedway, Five Flags Speedway, Knoxville Raceway, New Smyrna Raceway, Stafford Motor Speedway and Terre Haute Action Track at which to compete.

Evernham’s creation also allows drivers from all realms of motorsports to come together and compete against each other for possibly the first time. That idea intrigued Labonte, who has never raced against the like of Tracy, though he ran against Kanaan three times on dirt in the Prelude to the Dream race at Eldora.

“For me, it’s about racing cars, driving cars, and hopefully, if next year is like last year, by the time July comes around, I might have raced a dozen times anyway,” Labonte added. “It’s about racing against guys you might have never raced against, some of them maybe you have, and it’s an opportunity for that. I think being on the ground floor of Ray and Tony’s and this series, I think it’s kind of groundbreaking.”

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when NASCAR wasn’t so dependent on aerodynamics, Labonte thrived, winning all of his 21 Cup races in an eight-year span. Between ’97 and ’02, he made 17 IROC starts, winning three times.

He believes a series like SRX – which is envisioned to be similar to IROC – fits his driving style.

“Sometimes it suits your style, sometimes it doesn’t,” Labonte said. “There’s definitely less plug in and play…. You’re going to have to figure it out pretty quickly on your own and maybe not rely so much on your team and engineer to have it figured out for you before you get there and go with it.

“It should be in the driver’s hands more, I hope it’s like that.”

One of SRX’s rules is that drivers will draw for their cars and crew chief, evening out the playing field. Each group will essentially just get a toolbox to work on their respective car throughout the brief practice session ahead of the race. This rewards drivers who can feel out the mechanics of a racecar and relay that to their crew chief.

Labonte said, “I think it’s based for equal cars, and so the drivers and crew chief A, B, C, D, in practice – you can tell them what the car is doing, you’ve got to communicate and I don’t feel like there’s going to be 32 engineers downloading stuff on you. You might have to do it purely off what your butt feels like and you have to tell that to the crew chief and he has to understand it and put something into [the car] or take something out of it.”

The goals for SRX, Labonte believes, should be to put on a good show for the fans, allowing drivers from different series of all ages to compete against one another.

But in the end, it’s still a race.

“You want to win it all so you have bragging rights,” Labonte said. “At the end of the day it’s about winning.”

About the author

Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.

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