The SRX: A Brand New Horizon for Stock Car Racing
Founded by two NASCAR legends, this brand new series seeks to return national stock car racing to its former glory.
Since the late 2000s, America's most well-known racing series, NASCAR, has been struggling. Whether it be due to some of the lackluster decisions made by Brian France, the introduction of the "Chase" and "Playoff" points system, the unimpressive racing provided by the Car of Tomorrow, or a combination of all of these, fans have been tuning out in droves. Lapsed fans have been pining for an alternative for years, as they have watched their once cherished sport circle the proverbial drain. When the SRX was announced in mid-2020 however, it seemed like their pleas might have finally been heard. In July, it was broadcast to the world that an all-new racing series would be coming to America, under the watchful eyes of two stock car racing legends. Former crew chief and team owner Ray Evernham, who won three championships with Jeff Gordon, along with three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart were the primary founders behind the new league, which immediately caused headlines to break out across the racing landscape. Of course, a major series cannot survive in the modern climate of racing without a proper television product on a notable network, and the SRX achieved this immediately. CBS, the original television home of NASCAR for over two decades, was announced as the exclusive television home for the SRX. Not only this, every race on the SRX's inaugural calendar is scheduled to air in primetime slots on CBS. The broadcast team is no B-team either, with the booth being headlined by some of the best commentators in the world today. The SRX confirmed their broadcast crew in mid-April of 2021, with the play-by-play being handled by veteran broadcaster Allen Bestwick. Alongside Bestwick, other noticeable names include Matt Yocum as the pitlane reporter, and an all-star lineup of driver analysts featuring Danica Patrick, James Hinchcliffe, and Dario Franchitti. However, no other factor surrounding the SRX brought more attention than its ever-expanding driver lineup. Over the last year, drivers from multiple sectors of the motorsports world have been signed for the 2021 season. From Indycar legends like Helio Castroneves, Paul Tracy, and Tony Kanaan, to NASCAR icons like Bill Elliot, Bobby Labonte, and Tony Stewart, the league has its fair share of big-name talent. Even former Red Bull Racing Formula One driver Mark Webber was originally announced as joining for the inaugural season, but due to COVID-19 travel issues, was forced to cancel his plans. Everything seems in place for the SRX to succeed, but a racing series is nothing without a perfect mixture of an exciting racing machine and a selection of optimal circuits. The SRX has certainly ticked those two boxes.
The Car and Schedule
The SRX car is show off for the first time prior to testing. Photo courtesy of the SRX.
The SRX is designed to be a spec series, meaning that every car is as identical as possible to one another in terms of design, setup, etc. This has lead to many coining the SRX as "IROC 2.0", which is not a bad thing to be compared with before you even hold your first event. IROC, or the International Race of Champions, ran from 1974 to its closure in 2006. Like the SRX, IROC was a spec series that pitted icons versus icons. Champions of the series came from all over the motorsport world, with the large cash prize of $225,000 awaiting the winner. The league's list of champions included Indycar legends like A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Mario Andretti, as well as those from the oval racing scene, such as Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, and the Allisons. The cars of both the SRX and IROC are similar, and yet vastly different from one another. Unlike IROC, the car, which was designed and built by Ray Evernham, was custom-made with no target manufacturer or vehicle affiliation. In IROC, all drivers raced the same type of car, which was usually a vastly tuned and modified production car. These ranged from Porsche Carreras that raced during their inaugural season, to the all-American Chevrolet Camaros and Pontiac Trans-Ams that the series became known for. Back to the SRX, not much is known about the car itself, as no specs have been released publicly. One thing we do know is that it has a massive American V8 under the hood, and also looks like a bootleg F40, but I digress. When it comes to the schedule for the SRX, it is unlike anything else that is provided on a national level. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, NASCAR left many historic and fan-favorite short tracks in the dust. NASCAR then built massive facilities to house some of the largest racing crowds in American sports history, as their popularity was skyrocketing, at the time. Places like Texas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Kentucky, and a few more, all popped up to take their place. This worked for quite a few years. However, in today's world, these venues rarely hit half capacity during a good year. The SRX recognized this, with their entire two-month schedule, along with their specialized racing machine, all centered around iconic short tracks. Five of these are asphalt ovals, with the 3rd race being held on the dirt banks of Eldora Speedway, which is owned by Tony Stewart himself. As mentioned before, the entire season will take place in the span of just over two months, with six races being a part of the calendar. The series will debut on June 12th at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, then head to Knoxville Speedway in Iowa, followed by Eldora, Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park), Slinger Speedway, and finally the iconic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on July 17. With all of the scheduled races being aired on primetime CBS, and the attention on the series growing stronger as their debut nears, what will become of this new league? Moreover, can it compete with NASCAR?
A Look Ahead
A shot of the SRX car about to hit the track during testing. Photo courtesy of the SRX.
So, what does the future hold for this new IROC? Well, that is all up to personal interpretation. However, looking at how they are starting out, I would say their prospects are looking up. Landing CBS as their TV partner, along with being gifted a primetime slot on the network, in the modern era, is a feat in and of itself. Along with this, the product will be something that has not been seen in almost 15 years. Whilst it might be scaled down, in comparison to its spiritual predecessor, the SRX has the potential to be a nice alternative for lapsed NASCAR fans to return to stock car racing on a national level. Now, can the series rival the stubborn king of American racing that is NASCAR? I doubt it. As I said, I believe this series will be more like an alternative to NASCAR, for people who do not like the current product. I am sure that series will find success right out of the gate, but do I think it will go head-to-head, ratings-wise with an organization that has been around for over seven decades? No. What the SRX has to offer, in contrast to what NASCAR is offering in 2021, is overwhelming star power, consistent and extremely close racing throughout, and a clearcut season with underdog circuits as the headliners. I am not saying that NASCAR does not have a surplus of excellent drivers, far from it. However, in this "new-generation" era which NASCAR finds itself in, almost all of its nationally/globally known icons have retired or moved on. Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and many more have retired over the last half-decade or so, and all of them were major draws for both in-house crowds and television ratings. Sure, guys like Chase Elliot, Alex Bowman, or William Byron can one day be the face of NASCAR, and legends within their own right, however, that time is still far from coming. The question is: will the SRX's star power and on-track product be enough to compete against that of NASCAR's on a weekly basis? Or will it become just another tried and failed attempt at harnessing the good ol' days? Time will tell.
Will you be watching the SRX this Summer? Do you think this new series will find success? Let me know down in the comments! Thank you all for reading, bumping, and following, and I will see you down the road!