Race Weekend Central

SRX Review: Rowdy Goes Back-to-Back in Crash-Free Berlin Race

Kyle Busch is currently batting 1000 in his Camping World SRX Series career.

After winning in his debut race last week at Pulaski County Motorsports Park, Busch is now two-for-two in SRX after winning at Berlin Raceway.

See also
Kyle Busch Kicks the Dust Up in Berlin

He becomes the just the second driver to win back-to-back SRX races, and the first since Tony Stewart did it in the series’ inaugural season at 2021; Stewart’s wins both came on dirt at Knoxville Raceway and Eldora Speedway.

One could argue that driver analyst Joey Logano motivated Busch to win the race. Reminiscent of Conor Daly spotting/talking to Clint Bowyer during a green flag run at Pulaski County, Logano dialed up Busch under green to talk to him and spot him as well, to which Busch quoted Bowyer in saying, “I’m kind of busy.”

As Busch was doing his best to answer one of Logano’s questions while driving, he made it a point to tell Logano, “Hearing you over my radio is lighting a f*cking fire under my ass.”

The two are noted longtime rivals, and the quote was met with an outburst of laughter from Logano and Allen Bestwick. Logano then spotted for Busch a little longer before letting him go and telling Bestwick how glad he was that “I can still fire up Kyle Busch.”

Tire management was the theme of the night and its role in deciding the outcome of the race cannot be overstated. While Busch came out on top, he was certainly not the dominant driver of the night. Brad Keselowski was out front for a good portion of the race, and while he was unable to save enough tire to win at his home track, he still finished second, his first podium in the series.

The same cannot be said for Helio Castroneves. Castroneves came rifling through the field and took the lead from Keselowski just after the halfway point of the 100-lap feature. It looked as if Castroneves would become the first driver with no NASCAR experience to win since he himself won at Five Flags Speedway in 2022.

However, it was clear that his NTT IndyCar Series experience did not prepare him for saving tire, and with just a handful of laps to go after some late cautions, Castroneves plummeted through the field with his worn tires and ended up a disappointing eighth in the 12-car field.

Meanwhile, Ryan Newman and Marco Andretti had turned some heads for having disappointing nights running near the back – or in the case of Andretti, dead last – for most of the main event. However, after the halfway point, both Newman and Andretti kicked it into overdrive, and everyone discovered that they were just saving their tires. The gamble worked out for both of them, as Newman finished third and Andretti came in right behind him in fourth.

Both Kasey Kahne and Johnny Benson Jr. made their series debuts, but ended up rounding out the field in 11th and 12th, respectively. Despite this, both drivers told Frontstretch that the racing was fun and that they were open to doing more in the future.

See also
Kasey Kahne & Johnny Benson Enjoyed Berlin SRX Debut, Potentially Open to More

Despite the last-place finish, Benson did his best with what was thrown at him as he wasn’t even supposed to be in the car. SRX announced Friday July 28, one day after the race at Pulaski County that Paul Tracy was indefinitely suspended from SRX competition – it was later revealed that the suspension would run through at least the end of this season, as Tracy will not make another start in 2023. One day later, on July 29, it was announced that Benson would step in the ride at Berlin.

The suspension stemmed from an accident at Pulaski County caused by Tracy when he cleared himself in front of Josef Newgarden and hooked himself into the wall, igniting a major accident that collected Andretti, Hailie Deegan and Ken Schrader, with Schrader declaring that he would not race another race with Tracy.

While the suspension was for the incident at Pulaski County, it was clear that SRX, its drivers, and its fans, have long been out of patience for Tracy, who seemingly couldn’t go a week without running into somebody ever since the series’ very first race in 2021. The suspension to many seems long overdue and, many felt that Tracy shouldn’t have even been invited back to compete this season.

While the on-track entertainment provided by Tracy’s antics likely helped ratings, it didn’t help the mechanics of the series, who spent countless hours repairing wrecked racecars on the road thanks to Tracy’s carelessness on track. As a reminder, SRX doesn’t return to the shop in between races. When it leaves the shop to begin the season, mechanics have to work with the equipment and cars the series brings with it for six weeks.

When more and more racecars become damaged, it puts more work on the mechanics, and if it got really bad, it could’ve left a driver without a ride for a race because there aren’t enough cars available to run a full 12-car field. It was clear action needed to be taken or else the series may not have made it to the final race at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri.

In Berlin, the first SRX race ever without Tracy, the entire night was 100% incident-free. Any caution that flew in the heats or the feature was an SRX Fun Flag to bunch the field back up. There was certainly a lot of contact, a lot of dirt driving (every driver clipped the turn 2 infield grass at one point or another), and even a weather delay for rain, but at no point was a car backwards to the field or in the wall.

It’s easy to say that Tracy’s absence was a breath of fresh air and was the main reason no cars were torn up, and anyone who says that has a valid point. It can’t be a coincidence that in the first race that a driver who is most likely to be caught up in an incident isn’t racing, and the race suddenly runs clean.

Stewart would like to believe otherwise, but the fact remains that the series got a breath of fresh air without Tracy. Cars were being torn up left and right and more and more fans were upset with how Tracy was racing. It was a necessary move and fans got to see a local hero in Benson take it to the other stars as a result.

With just two races left (already?), it’s looking more and more like Newman’s championship to lose. After last year’s bitter championship loss in the season finale at Sharon Speedway, Newman currently holds a 33-point lead over Keselowski, and a 34-point lead over defending champion Andretti.

The series returns to a familiar track in Eldora Speedway, the half-mile dirt oval in Rossburg, Ohio next week. This is the first time since 2021 the series will race there, where Stewart won the inaugural event (which is only fitting as he owns Eldora). Of the current drivers in the field, only Andretti, Stewart and Bobby Labonte have competed in an SRX car there.

Castroneves also competed there in 2021 but will not compete this year. Tony Kanaan will return and compete in his final race of the season, as he and Castroneves split the No. 06/66 self-proclaimed “Team Brazil” ride sponsored by Purdue University. Kanaan also competed at Eldora in 2021, so that marks just four drivers with SRX experience there competing in next week’s race.

Matt Kenseth returns to the series to make his lone start of the season. He ran the second half of the season last year, finishing third twice. Also taking part are Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe, both of whom have won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race that used to run at Eldora; Dillon won the inaugural race in 2013, and Briscoe (a late addition to the SRX field) won the 2018 edition of the race.

The driver with inarguably the biggest learning curve will be NHRA champion Ron Capps, who makes his SRX debut at Eldora as well. The three-time Funny Car champion is making his SRX debut, stock car debut, oval debut, dirt track debut and turning debut all in one race. Capps will be an exciting driver to watch as he gets a handle on a car that doesn’t go more than 120 miles per hour (compared to 330+) and also doesn’t go in just a straight line.

The Camping World SRX Series race at Eldora takes place on Thursday, Aug. 10 at 9 p.m. ET. ESPN will have the coverage as Logano makes his final booth appearance of the season.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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