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SRX Series Kicks Off This Weekend

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 12 2021

Helio Castroneves is on of the drivers who will compete in the new SRX Series. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

Since last November, Helio Castroneves has earned an IMSA SportsCar championship, won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and claimed his record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 victory. However, the popular Brazilian believes the Camping World SRX Series can provide him with more racing lessons.

“When I drive something else it’s always going to help me, even if it’s not asphalt,” Castroneves said. “There is time to learn and that is what I am going to do. I need to stay active. This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”    

 The six-race, short-track SRX Series makes its debut June 12 at the paved Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. It then moves to two consecutive weeks of dirt-track racing at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway on June 19 and Eldora (Ohio) Speedway on June 26. It returns to paved tracks on July 3 at Lucas Oil (Ind.) Raceway, moves to Slinger (Wis.) Speedway July 10 and concludes July 17 at the Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds Speedway. All of the races will be televised live on CBS at 8 p.m. on their respective days. The starting lineup for each 100-lap race will be determined by two 15-minute heat races.

“We wanted to find the historic tracks that have a difficulty factor, but a great following, a great DNA in motorsports,” NASCAR Hall of Fame member and one of the series’ founders Ray Evernham said in explaining the track selection.   

In addition to Castroneves, the series other regular drivers are Marco Andretti, Bill Elliott, Ernie Francis Jr., Tony Kanaan, Bobby Labonte, Willy T. Ribbs, Tony Stewart, Paul Tracy and Michael Waltrip. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan will substitute for Kanaan in the June 19 and July 10 events due to scheduling conflicts for Kanaan. 

Besides the SRX regulars, each race will have a local all-star driver and a ringer. For Stafford, the local driver is Modified Tour champion Doug Coby, a 29-feature race winner at Stafford. The “ringer” is NASCAR Truck and Xfinity series champion Greg Biffle.

“This showcases the drivers’ skills, and, of course, champion drivers with incredible life stories,” Bruin Sports Capital founder and CEO George Pyne said about the SRX Series, which he co-founded.  

It’s those driver personalities that series co-founder Stewart believes is lacking in today’s auto racing, thus making it a sterile sport.

“It has gotten so put under the thumb of corporate America – do the right thing, say the right thing,” Stewart said. “That’s what’s great about SRX is you have personalities.”      

     Reminiscent of the International Race of Champions, the SRX cars are supplied by Evernham and Stewart, also a NASCAR Hall of Fame member. Evernham once worked with Jay and Barbara Signore who oversaw the IROC Series that placed champions from all forms of motorsports in identically-prepared cars. That series made its debut in 1974 and ran through 2006. 

Even though the SRX Series is based on IROC it is unlike its predecessor in that the cars can be adjusted to suit a competitor’s driving style. Handling those adjustments are NASCAR winning crew chiefs Jeff Hammond, Todd Parrott and Mike Beam. 

A successful crew chief from the local track also will be involved. The crew chief for the Stafford race is Mike Christopher, twin brother of driver Ted Christopher, who died in a 2017 plane crash. Mike owns 28 victories at Stafford in the SK Modified division and is a three-time track champion. Other all-star local crew chiefs are: Guy Forbrook at Knoxville Raceway; Keith Kunz at Eldora; Tim Clauson at Lucas Oil Raceway; and Scott Hansen at Slinger Speedway. The local crew chief for the series finale at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway has yet to be determined. Just as each driver receives his car through a blind draw, such will be the case for each crew chief, as to which three cars he will be assigned.

“We designed this car not to give an advantage to anybody,” said Evernham, who noted “we almost had to reverse engineer the car.”

“We didn’t want to build a car that would be perfectly fast around an oval,” Evernham continued. “It’s going to be good on a road course, if we transition to road courses, and then it’s going to be a good dirt car and an OK oval car. We really wanted to equalize the car.

“Tony (Stewart) and I discussed a lot of things as to what we could do to keep the cars so it wasn’t about aerodynamics. We wanted to build a car that was controlled by the driver and not easy to drive. These cars are very sensitive to driver input.”   

  In addition to Evernham, Stewart and Pyne, Sandy Montag and The Montag Group was involved in creating the series.

Familiar faces to motorsports fans on the telecast will be Allen Bestwick, who will handle play-by-pay in the booth, and driver analyst Danica Patrick. Driver analysts in the future are James Hinchcliffe and Dario Franchitti. Matt Yocum is the pit reporter and Brad Daugherty is the roaming analyst. Lindsay Czarniak is the show’s host. 

Directing the telecast is veteran producer Pam Miller. She is currently the pit producer for Fox Sports’ NASCAR Cup telecasts and producer of NASCAR’s Xfinity Series coverage. She created Fox Sports’ all-driver Xfinity telecast and Benny Parsons’ “Buffet Benny” when she worked at ESPN.  

SRX: The Game is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on Steam.  


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 12 2021
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