The site of this week’s SRX race should be of a familiar style to many in the field.
Pulaski County Motorsports Park, formerly known as Motor Mile Speedway, opened in 1952. The land around the racetrack, once farmland, is a natural bowl shape, allowing for the easy construction of what was then a half-mile dirt oval.
Today, the track and surrounding area is still very much a big bowl shape. A paved 0.416-mile oval with 15 degrees of banking in the corners, the track reminds me a lot of the old asphalt Bristol Motor Speedway prior to it being completely reconfigured and fully encased with grandstands. The facility itself also has a drag strip and a small go-kart track on site.
A track just a little north of multiple NASCAR stalwarts such as Bristol and Martinsville Speedway. Phillip Morris, the legendary Virginia short track driver known as “The King”, marks this track as his kingdom, with six late model championships in the last two decades. Current NASCAR Xfinity star Josh Berry is also a former track champion.
Here is the full driver list for this week’s event, ordered by their last name and with guest drivers in bold:
|Marco Andretti||1||Camping World|
|Helio Castroneves||06||Purdue University|
|Hailie Deegan||5||Good Sam|
|Brad Keselowski||6||Camping World|
|Bobby Labonte||18||Sport Clips|
|Josef Newgarden||2||South Point|
|Ryan Newman||39||South Point|
|Ken Schrader||52||Federated Auto Parts|
|Tony Stewart||14||Bass Pro Shops|
|Paul Tracy||3||Caymus Vineyards|
Now, let’s look at three of the superstars starting in Thursday night’s race.
Needless to say, the driver with the most momentum entering this week’s SRX race is Newgarden.
Newgarden’s clean sweep of the NTT IndyCar Series doubleheader at Iowa Speedway marked his fifth straight oval win in the series, tying the all-time record. Already coming in as the 2023 Indianapolis 500 champion, the two Iowa wins add an exclamation point to Newgarden’s strong resume.
Newgarden, who hails from Tennessee, has finished in the top two in IndyCar standings in five of the last six years, only finishing fifth in 2018. A returning driver after making his SRX debut last year at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, expect Newgarden to pick the pace up a bit his second go-round in these cars.
After years of anticipation, Busch is finally competing in SRX. After being turned down for a race in season one due to his NASCAR commitments, Busch has finally been given the clear to race in this series.
One thing that’s always been impressive about Busch is just how much racing he does. The stamina and adaptability he brings to the table give him such a big leg up over many of his competitors when he does a non-Cup race.
More than anything, Busch has a lot of drive and ambition. When NASCAR first went to iRacing in 2020, I remember Busch having a horrible first race. He was lapped by names such as Garrett Smithley and Ty Majeski, he wrecked a bunch and finished six laps down.
About a year later, Busch had applied himself to iRacing so much that he was actually winning Monday Night Racing series races. Yes, those fields are generally not iRacing pro-level.
But those are made up of a lot of people who have been sim racing for years prior to Busch logging into iRacing for the first time. It speaks to his drive and determination to always be one of the best drivers in whatever he races.
Speaking of impressive improvements, Tracy should probably get the gold star as well. In his first year in SRX in 2021, Tracy was slow and generally played the bully-type role. He made contact with just about everybody that season, perhaps most notably young guns Ernie Francis Jr. and Deegan.
Last year, Tracy started to show signs of improvement. He was close to winning at Five Flags Speedway and South Boston Speedway before getting caught up in late-race accidents. He still ruffled some feathers, but was much more restrained in general and even scored a podium at Stafford Motor Speedway.
This year, Tracy lost over 70 pounds in the offseason. The leaner and meaner Thrill from West Hill finished fourth in the first feature at Stafford and took second in the second heat race the next week before falling victim to brake failure.
One of only a handful of open wheel drivers in SRX this season, Tracy has an uphill battle in many aspects. But as the only driver who does very little racing outside of SRX every year, that gives him a little bit of an advantage as he’s able to put all of his focus and training into SRX. It could still very well pay off for him with his first feature win this year.
All the SRX action at Pulaski County begins at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 27 with TV coverage provided by ESPN.
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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