Superstar Racing Experience: A Beginner’s Guide
By Brennen McCall, Racing Contributor
What if you took some of the world’s greatest racecar drivers, put them in equal equipment, and cut them loose on some of the best short tracks in the nation? You get America’s newest racing series: Superstar Racing Experience (SRX).
SRX was the brain child of former championship crew chief and NASCAR Hall-of-Famer, Ray Evernham. The philosophy behind the idea was simple. Create a field of equal machines and put the race directly in the hands of the drivers to find out who is the best of the best.
Evernham is no stranger to success. Together, with NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, the pairing won 47 Cup races and three Cup Series championships in a dominant 90’s era. Pit stops were revolutionized under Evernham’s thumb, shaving seconds off the time it took to change four tires and a tank of fuel. His “Rainbow Warriors”, named after Gordon’s iconic DuPont paint scheme, were one of the first crews composed of former athletes. Choreography, weight training, and time watching film transformed what a pit crew was in NASCAR, all thanks to the vision of Evernham.
During this time, another series was emerging with a similar concept of SRX, the International Race of Champions (IROC). IROC raced identically-prepared stock cars put together by a single team of mechanics with the goal of creating competition to test the pure skills of the drivers. Due to its fundamental stock car formula, most of the tracks were popular ovals in the U.S. Most of the invites were given to drivers in NASCAR, Indycar, and Sportcar racing. The cars featured different colors with the surname of the driver on the door, giving each driver their own unique identity among the field.
Ray Evernham assisted in IROC’s effort as a mechanic, helping to build each car as equal as possible. That same vision has been brought so SRX with a unique and powerful racecar never seen before.
The car itself was built from the ground up, taking some of the best attributes from other series and applying them to one cassis. The car is not reliant on aerodynamics and rewards mechanical grip and driver skill. The body is beefy, but sleek with a large flat wing that complements the rest of the car’s design. Under the hood feature’s Ilmor’s 396 V8 engine. It was originally built for the ARCA racing series and can generate 700 horsepower for SRX competition. To put that into perspective, that’s almost 200 more horsepower that what NASCAR Cup cars will run this weekend for the All-Star race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Unlike the formerly mentioned IROC series, SRX will run on short tracks and dirt ovals. Venues like Slinger, Stafford, and Nashville Fairgrounds are tracks that are familiar to local racers across the country but don’t get the same exposure and TV revenue as the big ovals on the NASCAR/Indycar schedules.
SRX wouldn’t be complete without a lineup of proper superstars, and its debut season is full of them.
Tony Stewart was sold instantly when approached by Ray Evernham about helping to start SRX. The 3-time Cup Series champion will join an illustrious group of former NASCAR stars.
Bobby Labonte became champion at NASCAR’s highest level in 2000 and beat the best in IROC in 2001.
The humorous Michael Waltrip joins the lineup with 2 Daytona 500 victories to his name.
And then there’s “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville”. 1988 Cup Series Champ Bill Elliott is brought home plenty of hardware in his career. The 1980s saw Elliott amass 44 race wins including 2 Daytona 500s. Elliott also hold the fastest qualifying speed in NASCAR history: Over 212mph at Talladega Superspeedway.
These NASCAR stars are impressive, but will have to go through some of the best talent in Indycar if they want to find victory.
Brazilian driver Helio Castroneves just cemented himself into Indycar legend status by winning his fourth Indianapolis 500 just a few weeks ago.
Fan favorite Tony Kanaan is the 2004 Indycar Series Champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner. Plus, he became the first driver in Indycar history to complete every possible lap in a single season.
Paul Tracy is known for his dominance on the track wherever his career took him. “The Thrill from West Hill” is the 2003 CART Champion with a collective 31 wins and 74 podium finishes in CART and Indycar combined.
And you may want to watch out for third-generation star Marco Andretti. He is currently in his 16th season competing in the Indycar series and is best known for earning Rookie of the Year honors in the 2006 Indy 500 and for the whole season.
As if that lineup wasn’t good enough, the old dogs of racing are going to have to battle some young blood. Ernie Francis Jr. is only 23 years old and has already established some impressive milestones in his short career. He is the all-time winningest driver in the TransAm series. A record that stood for 55 years. His first win came at just 16 years old, another record that still stands today. Francis is also the only TransAM driver to win 7 consecutive championships.
And then there is the charismatic journeyman Willy T. Ribbs. Ribbs is the first African American driver to test a Formula One car and compete in the Indy 500. Ribbs showed an incredible run of success in the TransAM series earning 17 wins in just a few short seasons. While Ribbs’ accolades may not match his competitors, his pure racing talent in undeniable. Ribbs has starts in Indycar, NASCAR, NASCAR Trucks, Champ Car, and Formula Atlantic.
This incredible lineup of superstars will battle it out on short tracks across the U.S. for six straight Saturday nights under the lights on CBS. Who will become the best of the best and become the first SRX Champion? You’ll just have to tune in to find out. Let’s have a race!