The wait is almost over.
Just under a year since NASCAR Hall of Famers Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham announced their brainchild, SRX will finally debut this Saturday (June 12) at Stafford Motor Speedway.
It’s been said numerous times the six-race series featuring drivers from multiple disciplines is not competition to NASCAR. If anything, it is probably more comparable to the old IROC series, in which Evernham got his start within motorsports.
But still, when people watch these races, they will compare the series to NASCAR. They’re stock cars on an oval with multiple former and current NASCAR drivers. How can you not make the comparison?
So here are my predictions for the pros and cons on how this infant series will look next to its 73-year-old big brother.
If you’ve followed Fire on Fridays at all this year, then you knew I was going to start with this one. NASCAR hasn’t added a short track to its schedule since 1971. With one of the Bristol Motor Speedway races becoming a dirt race, only five of the 36 NASCAR Cup Series races are on short tracks — 13.8% of the schedule.
In its inaugural season, SRX is blowing those numbers out the water. Four of its six races will be on short tracks. And we’re not talking any 7/8-mile ovals like Iowa Speedway. No, all four are under 3/4 of a mile, with the smallest being a quarter mile.
And the two races that aren’t on short tracks? Those will be on dirt tracks that are also well under a mile.
There’s not a single cookie-cutter intermediate track on the SRX schedule. We don’t have to talk about aero push as all six tracks are well connected to grassroots racing.
With the exception of maybe Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (who knows if that will happen?), NASCAR won’t bring Cup to any of the tracks SRX is going to. These places apparently don’t have the infrastructure to support Cup, aka NASCAR got too big for its britches.
Well, SRX is about to go to these tracks, host fans and sponsors and broadcast the whole thing on network TV. Hopefully that will cause NASCAR to rethink its approach to short tracks.
Plus, SRX keeps saying on social media that it wants to go to North Wilkesboro Speedway. Does that make anyone else drool, or just me?
A Simple, Season-Long Points Battle
In SRX, there won’t be a playoff or any convoluted points system that includes playoff points. A driver gets points for where they finish in the heats, then the main event, and that’s added to their season total. At the end of the six races, whoever has the most points is the champion, just like it used to be in NASCAR. It’s as simple as that.
And with only six races, there likely won’t be a situation where a driver has the championship clinched with one or two races to go, as was common in NASCAR’s old season-long format.
I understand NASCAR’s current system perfectly and actually like it to an extent, but it is nearly impossible to explain to a new fan. SRX’s points system will be easy for people to understand.
Unfortunately, SRX still has stage racing. It’s just calling them heats instead of stages.
Laidback Rule Book
What are the actual rules for SRX? Who knows? Seems like Evernham will just come up with them on the fly.
And that’s part of what I love about this series. It’s not like NASCAR where you’ll have a rulebook thicker than some encyclopedias. It’s more so going to be like a bunch of good old boys just having a good time on a summer Saturday night. We’ll figure out rules when we need rules.
Former NASCAR NBC, TNT and ESPN lap-by-lap commentator Allen Bestwick will be on the call for CBS’ SRX coverage. Need I say more?
In NASCAR, the teams build the cars. All of the teams are building to a template and the inspection process is thorough. But still, different teams manage to find more speed than others.
For example, at this moment in NASCAR, if you aren’t driving a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, there’s only one spot in the top five available for you. The HMS cars have been dominant this season, and Bubba Wallace‘s spotter Freddie Craft pointed out on Door, Bumper, Clear that the Chevys have as much as 16 more horsepower than the rest of the field.
That advantage isn’t built through cheating but by finding speed through innovation and bending the rules.
In SRX, Evernham and his crew build all the cars and supply them to the drivers. Each driver is then randomly assigned a crew chief. So in theory, every driver should be on equal footing. These guardrails should provide tighter racing and showcase driver ability more.
Of course, anyone who has been to a local go-kart track has been witness to this: Even if they’re all the same car, there’s always going to be one that for whatever reason is faster than the rest. We’ll see how Evernham and company handle those situations when they arise.
No Innovation or Teamwork
The last pro leads into the first con. Since it’s just Evernham’s team building the cars, you don’t get crew chiefs and top-notch engineers flashing their creativity just to find another ounce of speed like you do in NASCAR. Instead, the mechanics are just working to make all of the cars the same. There’s no pushing the boundaries.
The innovation and teamwork aspects don’t necessarily translate to the entertainment portion of racing. So maybe SRX will be more entertaining to watch without that. But I find the work that goes on in race shops to be fascinating, and I’m sure many fans do as well. That part of it makes the competition feel more wholesome. Granted, NASCAR will be losing a great deal of that next year when everything goes to spec parts for the Next Gen car.
Despite those changes, in NASCAR you still won’t win as an individual, you’ll win as a team. In SRX, it sounds like drivers will win as individuals. However will we make it through post-race interviews where the winner doesn’t thank the guys back at the shop?
Not Enough Cars
Having the right field size is key for great short track racing. I’ve seen short track races with tiny fields, and the result is a spread-out cruise that is very boring to watch. I’ve seen short track races with fields too large, and the result is a wreckfest.
Twelve cars is an OK field size, but it still runs the risk of not being enough cars to have a great race. I’d feel much more comfortable about the quality of these races if there were even just three more cars in the field. Hopefully, SRX expands the grid some in a potential season two.
For a series called the Superstar Racing Experience, it doesn’t have that many superstars. IROC really didn’t have that great of racing, but at least it compiled some of the best drivers at that time.
SRX is more of a seniors’ tour, with Marco Andretti and Ernie Francis Jr. the only full-time drivers under the age of 40. But does any casual fan actually know who the heck Francis is?
Stewart is one of the greatest and most well-known drivers of the past 20 years. Helio Castroneves is perhaps the best grab for the series, given he’s now a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. His last win wasn’t 20 years ago… it was just a few weeks ago. Also, Castroneves is a Dancing with the Stars winner, which means he could be a draw for people who don’t follow racing at all.
While Bobby Labonte and Bill Elliott were both super popular drivers and are NASCAR Hall of Famers, both of their last NASCAR Cup Series wins came way back in 2003. Labonte is 57 years old and Elliott is 65. They’ll be a good draw for longtime fans but not for young ones. On the bright side, both have raced fairly recently, so they could probably still get the job done.
Willy T. Ribbs is an awesome personality and pretty popular. But he didn’t do anything special in stock cars when he was young. I don’t expect him to do a whole lot at 66 years old.
Michael Waltrip and Andretti are both famous names in racing circles and entertaining personalities. But neither won enough in their respective fields to where I would label them legends. And Paul Tracy is Paul Tracy.
NASCAR still has the greater star power in Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.
When SRX was announced, I thought it’d get drivers like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards or Matt Kenseth. Even a reunion between Evernham and Jeremy Mayfield would’ve spiced things up.
Danica Patrick will be doing TV work for these races, but she should be in them. The series did at least land Hailie Deegan for two races to add a budding superstar to the mix. Having one car for a local ringer is a fantastic idea as well that should get a lot of buzz.
There’s still some spots available for the season finale at the Fairgrounds, so maybe the series will pull out a surprise superstar for that race — someone like Larson or Busch.
Still, if these SRX drivers go out and put on some of the best racing we’ve ever seen in front of a national audience, they’ll become superstars in their own right. The series had to start somewhere, and as far as competitors to NASCAR go, this one has already gotten off the ground way better than any other attempt.
I’m excited to see what becomes of it.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
I hope the SRX is successful and can develop staying power (the more racing, the better.)
But I can’t help but feel it will go the way of the XFL, AAF and these other “minor league” football leagues that have popped up in recent years.
The business model for this series would be of interest to me. With a couple of exceptions, its a group of has-beens and never-was’ putting on a show for the fans which is a far cry from the origins of IROC. If the TV ratings are bad, this will be a ‘one and done’ because ticket prices do matter to people in smaller markets (which is why Rockingham and North Wilkesboro will not reopen). This was tried before in the days of Thursday Night Thunder. There was a series that ran sports cars of some type and brought the has-beens back. (I vaguely recall Johnny Rutherford driving a Jaguar). It failed. To be honest, I don’t want to see a retiree version of a great driver trying to hang on and make a full of themselves. And when Stewart wins he can only be perceived as stacking the deck to promote his own ego, which could be true, but it will kill the series.
Yes, that was the “Fast Masters” series – I thought of it immediately when SRX was announced. Retired drivers raced Jaguar XJ220s at IRP, and tore up so many of them, they changed the race format.
Matt Kenseth? Seriously? What makes him a “superstar”?
This series is in no way any competition for NASCAR. Does anybody really care who wins these exhibition races or the “championship?”
However, the main turnoff for me is that Tony Stewart is involved.
Have to say Marco in stock car is interesting. Years back in a Q&A interview he was asked what his favorite movie was…his reply Days of Thunder …because they mocked Na$car.
This series is clearly no competition to NASCAR. Does anybody really care who wins these exhibition races or the “championship”? And the presence of Tony Stewart is enough to guarantee I won’t be watching, although I do intend to watch both NASCAR races on Saturday afternoon, the Trucks and NXS.
The TV booth is exactly where Danica belongs. She was always way more about marketing than results on track.
But there was one of the former heroes willing to take the money to put her in one of his cars for as long as he could, until the money ran out.
Really hoping this is a success for a number of reasons. As a CT native, am especially happy to see Stafford opening the show. One thing I do find interesting is with NASCAR barely ever getting a sniff on the broadcast network and instead usually relegated to cable – SRX right out the gate on prime-time broadcast.
I’m looking forward to this new form of racing. But I’ll have to admit I wonder if Stewart can make it thru the series without cussing someone out or throwing his helmet at them. His reputation precedes him. So, we shall see what we shall see. All eyes are on you, Tony.
I hope this is very successful. It would be great.
I wonder if there is a link between Tony Stewart’s co-ownership of the SRX series and the dismal performance of Stewart Haas Racing this year in NASCAR. Could it be that NASCAR is making small but significant tweaks to NASCAR procedures that put SHR at a disadvantage thereby sending Tony a message about initiating another racing series?
In the words of Stewart himself in regards to NASCAR, “It’s like (NASCAR is) playing God. They can almost dictate the race instead of the drivers doing
SRX won’t be direct competition to NASCAR for now but perhaps the NASCAR head honchos recall the highly successful AFL and WHA challenges to the NFL and NHL respectively. What happens if Stewart, buoyed by the SRX series, takes it further and convinces several NASCAR teams to move over to SRX or to new league?
Srx will be bunch of Chevys that sucks