Race Weekend Central

SRX Preview: No Wall at This Berlin

For week four of the Camping World SRX Series, the tour heads to Marne, Michigan’s Berlin Raceway on Thursday, Aug. 3.

Founded in 1950, Berlin is one of the toughest tracks in the country. A 0.4375-mile oval, most of that is in the long 13-degree-banked turns.

The track just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is perhaps most infamous for its lack of a backstretch wall. No other modern oval hosts the events that Berlin has held with nothing stopping a driver from leaving the track so easily. Berlin holds weekly racing to this day, and just some of the alumni to come out of there include Jack Sprague and Carson Hocevar.

Obviously, the big story this week is the suspension of Paul Tracy. This is the first time Tracy has missed an SRX event, and in all honesty, he kind of needed this one.

See also
SRX Review: Paul Tracy Has Officially Overstayed His Welcome

Every race for the past two and a half years, it seemed like Tracy had ran into somebody. With a big factor in getting these SRX races online now being about tearing up as little of them as possible, it was really only a matter of time before Tracy went over the line.

And the reality is that there are a lot of drivers who want to do SRX. Matt Kenseth couldn’t even get a full-time ride. Tracy is a big talker, and his aggression leads to plenty of natural arguments.

But there are also plenty of drivers who would mean plenty to attention and ratings who are not given the same opportunities Tracy has been given in SRX. Maybe he’ll come back to SRX a changed and smarter driver, but I honestly doubt it at this point.

Here is the full driver list for this week’s event, ordered by their last name and with guest drivers in italics:

DriverNumberSponsor
Marco Andretti1Camping World
Johnny Benson Jr.10Berger
Kyle Busch51Florida Panthers
Helio Castroneves06Purdue University
Hailie Deegan5Good Sam
Kevin Harvick4South Point
Kasey Kahne9Goodyear?
Brad Keselowski6Camping World
Bobby Labonte18Sport Clips
Ryan Newman39South Point
Ken Schrader52Federated Auto Parts
Tony Stewart14Bass Pro Shops

Now let’s look at two of the superstars starting in Thursday night’s race.

With Tracy’s suspension comes his replacement for this weekend: Johnny Benson Jr.

Benson isn’t a stranger to SRX, as he served as the pace car driver in the first season. Although it has been over a dozen years since Benson’s last start in NASCAR’s national touring series, he hasn’t been inactive as a racecar driver.

The 2008 Craftsman Truck Series champion has stayed full-time for years now in Super Modified competition. Super mods are exceedingly quick cars, combining an engine with more power than a modern NASCAR Cup Series car by a couple hundred horses with a very long, lightweight open-wheel car.

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Clint Bowyer's Unique Line at Pulaski County Nearly Nets 1st Win in 5 Years

The pole speed for the International SuperModified Association‘s race at Berlin last month was over three and a half seconds faster than the ARCA Menards Series pole speed at the track last year. These are not toys.

What’s more is that Benson has probably turned more total laps at Berlin than any driver active today. The Grand Rapids native was already a track champion before becoming active in the old ASA Midwest Tour that produced such NASCAR Hall of Fame talents as Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Alan Kulwicki.

Don’t mark this race as a comeback for Kasey Kahne, as he’s been racing on the World of Outlaws circuit for years. But it is the first nationally televised race for the Washington state native since his final Cup race in the 2019 Southern 500, in which Kahne had to park the car late as he was physically unable to finish the race.

Thankfully, Kahne’s strange ailment seems to have gone away in the years since. The popular Cup driver made a name for himself in the mid-2000s, bursting onto the scene with lightning-quick speed and movie-star good looks.

Alas, the promise of the first few years of his Cup career ultimately went unrealized. Kahne essentially lost years of his career on the sinking ship known as Gillett Evernham Motorsports, then Richard Petty Motorsports. He then had to spend a gap year in 2011 with a doomed Red Bull Racing outfit.

A couple of solid seasons with Hendrick Motorsports seemed to be the start of something new, but it only ended up being the last gasps. In six seasons at Hendrick, Kahne only averaged a top-five finish in a little under one every six races, which is not acceptable for a team like Hendrick for that long of a period.

If the world operates in multiple universe theory, I really think we live in one of Kahne’s most underperforming realities. He seemed like a real mega star in the making those first few years before wasting just so much of his career driving in cars that were going nowhere.

It’s very ironic to see him in SRX. Had series cofounder/car builder Ray Evernham had stayed as involved with his Cup team instead of selling it off, maybe Kahne ends up living up to that potential he had.

All the SRX action at Berlin Speedway begins at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, Aug. 3, 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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Tony

Always liked Kasey Kanye as a driver! Got screwed over by the teams he was put in! Don’t blame him for getting back into sprints!

wildcats2016

Good to hear that Johnny Benson will be racing SRX! Kasey seemed like a decent guy but definitely didn’t live up to the potential whether that is because of the teams/cars whatever no way to know now. Interesting to think because when Evernham went over to Dodge for that venture, he wanted Jeff Gordon to come with him. Wisely it seems to me, Gordon opted to stay with HMS.

No matter how you feel about Hendrick, he has always had a good program.

Of course then there is also the might have been – what if Evernham had stayed? Would the 24 have won more championships rather than Gordon having to have multiple other crew chiefs over the years?

Ah well, purely speculation but sometimes its fun to do.

Bailey Dog

Hopefully there will be another first time winner in SRX this weekend, and at least this week it will be someone cool and classy like JB or KK, those last two weren’t favorites..
Really enjoy the series…

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