Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Definitely An Xperience

Where will Kurt Busch end up?

This week, Kurt Busch confirmed to Sirius XM that he has been contact by both 23XI Racing and Trackhouse Racing Team for the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022.

23XI was known about, but Trackhouse being mentioned is very interesting. Team owner Justin Marks said later that day that he was looking to add another car to compliment Daniel Suarez and the No. 99.

Really any team possibly expanding or moving up from NXS, besides JR Motorsports, is going to want Busch. Unless Joe Gibbs Racing offered him the house and keys, it really is crazy to imagine now just what Martin Truex Jr. would have fetched on the open market had he decided not to re-sign with JGR before this season.

See also
Justin Marks: ‘2-Car Team ... in the Picture’ for Trackhouse Racing in 2022

What does SRX’s launch mean in history?

June 12 will go down as a monumental day in the history of stock car racing.

Coming just a week before the 72nd anniversary of the first NASCAR Cup Series race, the day will mark the first time a well funded rival stock car series with a major broadcast partner has ever launched.

That does not mean, however, that NASCAR has never had competition in this genre of motorsports.

The NASCAR-created generalized history is that NASCAR was founded in 1948 by Bill France Sr., who unified stock car racing under one banner. But the reality was more complicated than that. There were numerous sanctioning bodies making up an alphabet soup in the South for the first few years of NASCAR.

The American Automobile Association, after refusing to accept France into its fold as a promoter to start a stock car series, started one eventually with France’s mentor Sam Nunis at the helm. Nunis, who had introduced France to the concept of rewarding points for his races and determining an overall undisputed champion at the end of the season, was a major thorn in France’s side in 1950. Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta was one of the crown jewel tracks of the young racing genre, but after World War II, the track outlawed any driver with a criminal record. Nunis ended up being the primary promoter of the track, as most of NASCAR’s big stars had been convicted moonshiners. Bruton Smith — yes, that Bruton Smith — also promoted races with a separate sanctioning body against France.

There were four key differences between NASCAR and every other one of those organizations. France was the best promoter and had so many relationships with so many tracks up and down the Southeast. NASCAR had the annual two dates at Daytona Beach, which attracted massive crowds. Unlike other promoters, France had an iron fist; France routinely suspended or stripped points away from drivers if they dared to be caught driving for somebody else. This is why Bill Rexford ended up as the fluke 1950 champion and not Lee Petty, as Petty had all of his points taken away at one point in the season.

But the thing that set France apart from everybody was that he had a fixed purse, while every other promoter aligned their purse as a percentage of the overall gate. A non-NASCAR race could end up with a bigger purse than a NASCAR race, especially with the booming postwar economy. But if the race rained out or there weren’t a lot of fans at the gate or if the promoter skipped town with the money, the competitors were screwed, whereas NASCAR payouts were guaranteed.

The thing that put NASCAR as the undisputed number one stock car organization came in late 1950. The Central States Racing Association was promoting the first major paved stock car race at the new Darlington Speedway. Nunis announced that he would be promoting a 500-mile stock car race at Lakewood that day, which had never been done before. The Labor Day race at Lakewood had always been one of the big races on the calendar, but now it was set to be even sweeter.

Than Bill France decided to co-promote the 500-mile Darlington race and made it an insane $25,000 purse, with $10,000 to win. This was an era where Rexford as overall champion received just $6,175 in total winnings that season and less than $5,000 overall without Darlington. The Lakewood race was canceled because all of those drivers chose Darlington over it, and while the AAA and later USAC had a rival stock car series for years afterward, the king had been crowned.

During NASCAR’s boom in the late 1990s, there were rumblings at times of Smith and cantankerous owners/manufacturers splitting away from the Cup Series. Smith held a lot of cards and could well have done a split if he could lure some big name owners like Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Jack Roush away from NASCAR, which would have been completely SOL without Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin. But rumors are rumors, and if they were ever considered, it’s unlikely it got too far.

It has been interesting to see the difference NASCAR’s response has been to SRX compared to the Race Team Alliance being formed. When the RTA was announced back in 2014, NASCAR decided to communicate with them through their lawyers, and did not outwardly seem that open to the idea. Whereas now, where a NASCAR team owner and former team owner (both Hall of Fame members) have started a stock car series with no involvement from NASCAR on CBS and running a field of drivers where a quarter are Hall of Fame members, NASCAR has let it happen. It hasn’t promoted it or anything, but it’s also not black balling everybody involved like it would have not too long ago.

OK, so where’s the SRX preview?

Really, the most interesting driver to me in this series will be Ernie Francis Jr. By far the youngest regular in the field at age 23 (Marco Andretti is 34 and the next youngest competitor is 45-year-old Helio Castroneves), Francis is also the only regular that isn’t a fairly big name.

See also
SRX Saturday: Michael Waltrip on Series Competitors, Cup Career & Superspeedway Racing

An accomplished Trans Am champion and former NASCAR regional series driver, Francis has the stock car chops while still having the reaction time a lot of the older competitors may have lost over the years.

A former horse racing track, Stafford Motor Speedway is a solid half-mile short track that is most known as the home of SK-style modifieds. This is the track that Ryan Preece cut his teeth at, having won the SK modified track championship in 2011.

This week’s local ringer driver is Doug Coby. Coby is the best NASCAR Whelen Modified driver of the past two decades, having won six championships in the last 10 years in that series. The guest driver is Greg Biffle, who is … Greg Biffle.

With how limited track time has been for the regulars in this series, the ringer is going to have a distinct advantage these first two weeks, as they understand the track better than the rest of the field. My pick this week is Coby.

Is the NASCAR All-Star Race a race?

The NASCAR All-Star Race is at Texas Motor Speedway this week, and it sure is going to be a race!

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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