Race Weekend Central

SRX Preview: No, It’s Not IRP

Lucas Oil Speedway may seem like a very similar name to Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, but rest assured that it’s quite a different beast from IRP.

The former, located in Wheatland, Missouri, is where the Camping World SRX Series finale takes place Thursday, Aug. 17. A champion will be crowned, as 2021 SRX champion Tony Stewart will try to overcome 2008 Daytona 500 champion Ryan Newman‘s 39-point advantage.

One of the newest tracks SRX has run on, Lucas Oil Speedway was originally built as Wheatland Raceway in 2001. It was born 50 years too late; its status as a 0.375-mile dirt track built in the middle of farmland was something more befitting of the 1950s than the speed-happy ’00s.

Lucas Oil eventually bought the track and rebranded it in 2006, as the Lucas family wanted a racetrack near their Missouri ranch.

See also
Hailie Deegan Nabs 2nd in Backup SRX Car After Huge Crash at Eldora

The compound includes an off-road course built for the old Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series prior to its discontinuation following 2020. Hailie Deegan competed in a pair of Pro Lite races there in 2017, scoring a best finish of second. Meanwhile, her father Brian Deegan had success there with a win that weekend in Pro 4.

In what has to be a first for me, this track has a drag-racing … lake. On-site is a manmade lake that is shaped and designed for drag boat racing. Hopefully there won’t be anybody taking a dip on Thursday, but with Kenny Wallace on property, all bets are off. Definitely not a day to keep the cell phone in the pocket.

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

Marco Andretti1Camping World
Clint Bowyer07Bass Pro Shops
Helio Castroneves06Purdue University
Jonathan Davenport49Nutrien
Hailie Deegan5Good Sam
Ernie Francis Jr.99Skip Barber
Brad Keselowski6Camping World
Bobby Labonte18Sport Clips
Ryan Newman39South Point
Ken Schrader52Federated Auto Parts
Tony Stewart14Bass Pro Shops
Kenny Wallace36JEGS

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

Paul Tracy’s suspension has led to none other than the Superman of dirt track racing, Jonathan Davenport, being given a shot to run in SRX.

Davenport has a truly incredible list of accomplishments on his resume. He’s easily one of the best dirt late model drivers in the country, having won the World 100 five of the last eight times the race has been ran. He’s also won six overall touring series championships since 2010, including three Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series titles.

Nearing his 40s, Superman has shown no signs of slowing down. In 2022, he won 24 races in just 66 starts, winning over $2 million in the process. He’ll be a threat for the win on Thursday night.

See also
SRX Review: Is the Tony Stewart Invitational at Eldora Good for the Series?

Returning to SRX this week is none other than Ernie Francis Jr. Francis is a highly accomplished seven-time Trans Am Series champion, but to me, he’ll always be a homegrown SRX talent.

Francis’ win in the first season at IRP helped the youngster finish second in points. He also showed a lot of versatility, finishing third at the feature on the dirt at Knoxville Raceway.

Although he has struggled in his transition to IndyNXT, the final stop before the NTT IndyCar Series, he has started to find his footing a little this summer, finishing third in the first race at Detroit in June.

Honestly, if Francis is up for doing SRX next year on a full-time basis, he really should be given a full-time seat. This has been an OK season of SRX, but in some ways, the invasion of mostly NASCAR stars has made it feel a bit less unique.

Francis is a sight for sore eyes, bringing a completely different and younger vibe to the series with a unique background too. To me, he’s the backbone of SRX in a lot of ways, and it was a big mistake for him to be relegated to just a single race this year.

In the off-season, I argued that there should be a woman in every SRX race, as that could help to inspire a future generation of women stars. At the same point, I think it can also be said that if SRX returns next year, having a Black driver can do the exact same thing while also driving new audiences.

Now don’t tell me, “uh people should have to earn their rides”; both Deegan and Francis have proven more than capable as full-time SRX drivers. And SRX’s status as much more of a less serious exhibition series is a great avenue for both to continue showcasing their talents in the future.

All the SRX action at Lucas Oil Speedway begins at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, Aug. 17, 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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Bailey Dog

Guess you weren’t watching first two years when Willy T Ribbs was driving in the series…

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