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.
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.
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:
|Marco Andretti||1||Camping World|
|Johnny Benson Jr.||10||Berger|
|Kyle Busch||51||Florida Panthers|
|Helio Castroneves||06||Purdue University|
|Hailie Deegan||5||Good Sam|
|Kevin Harvick||4||South Point|
|Brad Keselowski||6||Camping World|
|Bobby Labonte||18||Sport Clips|
|Ryan Newman||39||South Point|
|Ken Schrader||52||Federated Auto Parts|
|Tony Stewart||14||Bass 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.
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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