Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: Don’t Stop at Just 1 Father-Son Faceoff a Year, SRX

One of, if not the most discussed storyline from the inaugural season of the Superstar Racing Experience was courtesy in part of a driver who didn’t even run the full season.

The 2021 finale saw full-timer Bill Elliott square off against not only his regular SRX competitors but also son Chase Elliott, who accepted an invite to compete in a one-off start at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in a highly touted father-son battle.

The result? The younger Elliott prevailed against his father — and the rest of the field — by winning the event, while his elder finished third.

SRX is hoping lightning will strike twice in 2022. Earlier this week, it announced that Ryan Blaney will compete in the sophomore season’s event at Sharon Speedway against dad Dave Blaney, this time taking the battle to dirt rather than asphalt.

In terms of the decisions SRX has made in its still-brief existence to get eyes on the fledgling series, the Blaney and Elliott battles have been among the best. They attract NASCAR fans not only by bringing in current drivers for one-off appearances, but they also snag past NASCAR competitors some of the more longtime followers of American stock-car racing will recognize.

And they don’t need to stop there.

There’s a limit to the amount of times this promotional decision can be used, sure. If all six SRX events had a different matchup similar to that of the Blaneys and the Elliotts, it may cheapen the intrigue, as well as dull the hype for the races without a father-son bout.

See also
SRX Sets Up Dave Vs. Ryan Blaney Finale at Sharon

But a once-a-season affair doesn’t have to be the way, either. Especially when there are other options out there.

Consider, for example, a father-son battle outside of NASCAR. Marco Andretti ran the full SRX schedule in 2021 and will return to do so in 2022. And he’s of course got a famous former-driver dad in Michael Andretti, a multi-time open-wheel victor and current owner of Andretti Autosport in the NTT IndyCar Series.

The elder Andretti hasn’t competed since 2007, but he’s 59 years old — the same age or even younger than some of SRX’s 2021 competitors — and chances are reacclimating himself to racing via an SRX car wouldn’t be insurmountable.

Speaking of some of SRX’s inaugural season drivers and those who are set to return in 2022, albeit on a part-time basis in her case, there’s Hailie Deegan, who drove three races in 2021 and is set for at least two starts this summer.

Deegan’s father, Brian Deegan, is an accomplished driver in his own right, even if he hasn’t competed in the series in which most of SRX’s competitors thus far have cut their teeth. Mostly known for his prowess in motocross racing, he’s driven racecars as well via the Global Rallycross Championship.

Father-daughter matchup instead of father-son? Yeah, why not?

Both the Deegans and the Andrettis have current connections to the series, though. How about those without them — much like, before this week, the Blaneys?

Consider the LaJoies; former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy could race against current NASCAR Cup Series driver Corey. Or there’s the potential for a trio via the Dillons, with brothers Austin and Ty going up against dad and former Xfinity regular Mike. Same with the Truex clan, with Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex available to compete against Martin Sr.

The Gillilands would be easy, too. While Todd runs full time in Cup, father David continues to have a presence in NASCAR’s national series as owner of his own Camping World Truck Series team and often makes limited starts in the series, as recently as last year.

Fellow Cup full-timer Cody Ware has a racer dad, too, in Rick Ware, owner of Rick Ware Racing and 19-time NASCAR national series competitor, mostly in Truck competition.

My favorite is the idea of not one, but two father-son combos in the same race — and all from the same family.

See also
Hailie Deegan, Matt Kenseth Running in SRX

That scenario brings Cup rookie Harrison Burton into the fold with dad Jeff, as well as Xfinity regular Jeb Burton and his dad (and Jeff’s brother), Ward.

Best part? Check it out, South Boston Speedway is on the 2022 SRX schedule. Race two. The story — as well as the promotional copy — writes itself.

Hell, it doesn’t have to be parent vs. offspring, either. We’ve already made mention here of the Dillon and Truex brothers, plus the Burton cousins. Outside of an obvious addition like Kyle and Kurt Busch, one could also go the classic route with guys like Terry and Bobby Labonte, Darrell and Michael Waltrip or the trio of Bodines (Todd, Geoff and Brett).

Point is, there are plenty of permutations and opportunities for SRX to expand this into something more than a one-off situation each season. And while it shouldn’t be overdone, more than once is absolutely tangible — and welcome.

Food for thought, though: there is one option that puts a familial battle in the series all six races without total overkill, and that’s getting one of these pairings in SRX full time. That makes the battle less of an A-level storyline and instead more an undercurrent throughout the season.

And who knows — maybe an announcement like that is still to come. So far, eight full-time SRX drivers have been confirmed for 2022. In 2021, there were nine. Stay tuned.

About the author

Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.

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