Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart are spearheading a new, made-for-TV short-track racing series that is scheduled to debut in 2021.
The pair has teamed up with agent Sandy Montag and former NASCAR COO George Pyne to create the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX). The project, which was first reported by the Sports Business Journal, already has a multi-year deal in place with CBS that will include prime time TV coverage of Saturday night races under lights on short tracks across America’s heartland.
“I always liked the IROC Series back in the day, and even before I was old enough to be a professional race car driver, I looked at that as the cream of the crop,” Stewart told the AP. “When I got invited to run IROC, it was a huge honor. You were part of an elite group of drivers that got the opportunity to race each other. I always took that really seriously.
“When the series went away, I think it left a big hole. It didn’t needed to be filled then, but we have an opening now that gives an opportunity for guys like myself and a lot of the guys who will be invited who can still drive race cars, still have the ability, still want to race, to come back. Hopefully they will feel the way I did, like it’s a cool opportunity to take seriously and be looked up to as the best out there.”
The race format of two 45-minute heats with no pitstops is designed to fit into a two-hour TV window, while the use of identical Evernham-built cars is aimed at emphasizing driver skill over car performance. Races will feature 12 ‘well-known’ drivers and crew chiefs, both active and retired, which will be randomly assigned to each other ahead of each event.
“We want to make that machine be a big part of it, but it’s got to be the driver, crew chief, the human being controlling the machine, not the machine controlling the outcome of the competition,” Evernham told SBJ.
“That combination of driver, crew chief and machine, no computers telling you what to do, no simulation. It’s really about the competition, how well that driver and crew chief can make that machine go against one another.”
Drivers will compete for individual prize money at each event, as well as points toward the SRX Series Championship.
Specific details about the series, including drivers and venues, will be fleshed out in the coming weeks, but according to SBJ, the emphasis will be on smaller dirt tracks, paved ovals and road courses such as the Nashville Fairgrounds, Knoxville Raceway in Iowa, and Ohio’s Tony Stewart-owned Eldora Speedway.
“It’s appealing to go to short tracks in the heartland of America where there’s hundreds of short tracks,” Pyne told SBJ. “These tracks are 10-20,000-seat facilities that sell out on a regular basis. Now, if you’re able to come with a legendary crew chief like Ray or Tony Stewart with a national TV audience live on CBS, you’re going to have a place that’s supercharged with a lot of excitement.”