GRASSROOTS RACING TAKES HOLD
Men's Journal|November - December 2021
After a victorious first season,Superstar Racing Experience refuels for another lap.
NICHOLAS MCCLELLAND

When Doug Coby won the first SRX race at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, one of the more intriguing concepts sown into the series came to fruition. The local all-star had triumphed over a field full of motorsport legends—and a David vs. Goliath story line was realized.

“It was actually Ray’s idea,” says racing icon Tony Stewart, co-creator of the series [with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham], about the decision to add up-and-coming short-track drivers to the roster. “We didn’t know exactly how it was going to shake out, but after we ran the season I was extremely pleased with it. I thought it brought an element to SRX that made it real to local short-track fans.”

Short track is the grass roots of stock car racing, and its dedicated fans come out on a regular basis. Those are the racing consumers that Stewart, Evernham, Sandy Montag and George Pyne had in mind when they created the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), betting in part that these devotees would germinate and grow the series into one that elevates motorsport in general.

Based in part on the old IROC championship, which ran from 1974 to 2006, the six-event series played out on both dirt and pavement tracks. SRX is stock car racing whittled away to only the bare essentials: A mere dozen racers in nearly identical 700-horsepower cars built to trade paint challenge each other, flying faster and faster laps. The diminutive length of the circuits yielded races that were tight and competitive in wheel-towheel proximity. Plus, there was some pretty solid contact—often involving Paul Tracy—putting in more than his share of laps as the series’ villain designate.

Stewart, who won the season championship and two of the six events, raced alongside other big names for race fans to embrace, including Tracy, Bobby Labonte, Willy T. Ribbs, Bill Elliott, Tony Kanaan, Ernie Francis Jr., Marco Andretti, Hélio Castroneves and Michael Waltrip. Equally large were all of those local heroes whose less-celebrated journeys through racing received some deserving time in the national spotlight.

All in all, the six-race series was an exciting adventure for fans. Telecasts were easy to follow and beefed up with high-tech drone coverage, cameras on board in every car. Drivers even wore heart rate monitors—giving viewers an organic handle on the level of stress and intensity faced behind the wheel.

Half of the events completely sold out their venues—others came close—and each race was viewed by a television audience of 1.25 million or more, making it the second-ranked motorsport in America. It was enough to get the CBS nod for another season next summer.

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