The wait is almost over.
It’s been said numerous times the six-race series featuring drivers from multiple disciplines is not competition to NASCAR. If anything, it is probably more comparable to the old IROC series, in which Evernham got his start within motorsports.
But still, when people watch these races, they will compare the series to NASCAR. They’re stock cars on an oval with multiple former and current NASCAR drivers. How can you not make the comparison?
So here are my predictions for the pros and cons on how this infant series will look next to its 73-year-old big brother.
If you’ve followed Fire on Fridays at all this year, then you knew I was going to start with this one. NASCAR hasn’t added a short track to its schedule since 1971. With one of the Bristol Motor Speedway races becoming a dirt race, only five of the 36 NASCAR Cup Series races are on short tracks — 13.8% of the schedule.
In its inaugural season, SRX is blowing those numbers out the water. Four of its six races will be on short tracks. And we’re not talking any 7/8-mile ovals like Iowa Speedway. No, all four are under 3/4 of a mile, with the smallest being a quarter mile.
And the two races that aren’t on short tracks? Those will be on dirt tracks that are also well under a mile.
There’s not a single cookie-cutter intermediate track on the SRX schedule. We don’t have to talk about aero push as all six tracks are well connected to grassroots racing.
With the exception of maybe Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (who knows if that will happen?), NASCAR won’t bring Cup to any of the tracks SRX is going to. These places apparently don’t have the infrastructure to support Cup, aka NASCAR got too big for its britches.
Well, SRX is about to go to these tracks, host fans and sponsors and broadcast the whole thing on network TV. Hopefully that will cause NASCAR to rethink its approach to short tracks.
Plus, SRX keeps saying on social media that it wants to go to North Wilkesboro Speedway. Does that make anyone else drool, or just me?
A Simple, Season-Long Points Battle
In SRX, there won’t be a playoff or any convoluted points system that includes playoff points. A driver gets points for where they finish in the heats, then the main event, and that’s added to their season total. At the end of the six races, whoever has the most points is the champion, just like it used to be in NASCAR. It’s as simple as that.
And with only six races, there likely won’t be a situation where a driver has the championship clinched with one or two races to go, as was common in NASCAR’s old season-long format.
I understand NASCAR’s current system perfectly and actually like it to an extent, but it is nearly impossible to explain to a new fan. SRX’s points system will be easy for people to understand.
Unfortunately, SRX still has stage racing. It’s just calling them heats instead of stages.
Laidback Rule Book
What are the actual rules for SRX? Who knows? Seems like Evernham will just come up with them on the fly.
And that’s part of what I love about this series. It’s not like NASCAR where you’ll have a rulebook thicker than some encyclopedias. It’s more so going to be like a bunch of good old boys just having a good time on a summer Saturday night. We’ll figure out rules when we need rules.
Former NASCAR NBC, TNT and ESPN lap-by-lap commentator Allen Bestwick will be on the call for CBS’ SRX coverage. Need I say more?
In NASCAR, the teams build the cars. All of the teams are building to a template and the inspection process is thorough. But still, different teams manage to find more speed than others.
For example, at this moment in NASCAR, if you aren’t driving a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, there’s only one spot in the top five available for you. The HMS cars have been dominant this season, and Bubba Wallace‘s spotter Freddie Craft pointed out on Door, Bumper, Clear that the Chevys have as much as 16 more horsepower than the rest of the field.
That advantage isn’t built through cheating but by finding speed through innovation and bending the rules.
In SRX, Evernham and his crew build all the cars and supply them to the drivers. Each driver is then randomly assigned a crew chief. So in theory, every driver should be on equal footing. These guardrails should provide tighter racing and showcase driver ability more.
Of course, anyone who has been to a local go-kart track has been witness to this: Even if they’re all the same car, there’s always going to be one that for whatever reason is faster than the rest. We’ll see how Evernham and company handle those situations when they arise.
No Innovation or Teamwork
The last pro leads into the first con. Since it’s just Evernham’s team building the cars, you don’t get crew chiefs and top-notch engineers flashing their creativity just to find another ounce of speed like you do in NASCAR. Instead, the mechanics are just working to make all of the cars the same. There’s no pushing the boundaries.
The innovation and teamwork aspects don’t necessarily translate to the entertainment portion of racing. So maybe SRX will be more entertaining to watch without that. But I find the work that goes on in race shops to be fascinating, and I’m sure many fans do as well. That part of it makes the competition feel more wholesome. Granted, NASCAR will be losing a great deal of that next year when everything goes to spec parts for the Next Gen car.
Despite those changes, in NASCAR you still won’t win as an individual, you’ll win as a team. In SRX, it sounds like drivers will win as individuals. However will we make it through post-race interviews where the winner doesn’t thank the guys back at the shop?
Not Enough Cars
Having the right field size is key for great short track racing. I’ve seen short track races with tiny fields, and the result is a spread-out cruise that is very boring to watch. I’ve seen short track races with fields too large, and the result is a wreckfest.
Twelve cars is an OK field size, but it still runs the risk of not being enough cars to have a great race. I’d feel much more comfortable about the quality of these races if there were even just three more cars in the field. Hopefully, SRX expands the grid some in a potential season two.
For a series called the Superstar Racing Experience, it doesn’t have that many superstars. IROC really didn’t have that great of racing, but at least it compiled some of the best drivers at that time.
Stewart is one of the greatest and most well-known drivers of the past 20 years. Helio Castroneves is perhaps the best grab for the series, given he’s now a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. His last win wasn’t 20 years ago… it was just a few weeks ago. Also, Castroneves is a Dancing with the Stars winner, which means he could be a draw for people who don’t follow racing at all.
While Bobby Labonte and Bill Elliott were both super popular drivers and are NASCAR Hall of Famers, both of their last NASCAR Cup Series wins came way back in 2003. Labonte is 57 years old and Elliott is 65. They’ll be a good draw for longtime fans but not for young ones. On the bright side, both have raced fairly recently, so they could probably still get the job done.
Willy T. Ribbs is an awesome personality and pretty popular. But he didn’t do anything special in stock cars when he was young. I don’t expect him to do a whole lot at 66 years old.
Michael Waltrip and Andretti are both famous names in racing circles and entertaining personalities. But neither won enough in their respective fields to where I would label them legends. And Paul Tracy is Paul Tracy.
When SRX was announced, I thought it’d get drivers like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards or Matt Kenseth. Even a reunion between Evernham and Jeremy Mayfield would’ve spiced things up.
Danica Patrick will be doing TV work for these races, but she should be in them. The series did at least land Hailie Deegan for two races to add a budding superstar to the mix. Having one car for a local ringer is a fantastic idea as well that should get a lot of buzz.
There’s still some spots available for the season finale at the Fairgrounds, so maybe the series will pull out a surprise superstar for that race — someone like Larson or Busch.
Still, if these SRX drivers go out and put on some of the best racing we’ve ever seen in front of a national audience, they’ll become superstars in their own right. The series had to start somewhere, and as far as competitors to NASCAR go, this one has already gotten off the ground way better than any other attempt.
I’m excited to see what becomes of it.