Race Weekend Central

SRX Preview: I-55 Raceway

I’ll be honest, I couldn’t find a lot of history online on I-55 Raceway.

But like a lot of dirt racing, I-55 (sometimes known as Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55) doesn’t really need a history lesson in order to fully appreciate it. The track itself is one of the most popular stops on the World of Outlaws tour, and its popularity was cemented earlier this year when it was added to the popular iRacing service. Very few short tracks get the honor of going up on iRacing, let alone the still-somewhat-new-to-the-service dirt racing venues. So it’s definitely a badge of honor for the track to be represented on there.

The pride of Pevely, Missouri, I-55 is a 1/3-mile clay oval with 19 degrees of banking in the turns and 10 degrees on the straights. It’s a far cry from Knoxville Raceway’s seven degrees, and the shorter distance should make the track much faster than Eldora Speedway last year, in spite of Eldora having 24 degrees of banking. The track’s nickname, the “Ironman track”, is due in part to hosting the Ironman 55, the last big World of Outlaws event prior to the Knoxville Nationals next month in August.

Here is the entry list for Saturday night, with the guest drivers in bold:

Number Name Sponsor Background
1 Ryan Hunter-Reay Camping World IndyCar
3 Paul Tracy Bonanza Cabernet Sauvigon IndyCar
5 Matt Kenseth Camping World NASCAR
6 Tony Kanaan Spiked Coolers IndyCar/Stock Car Pro Series (Brazil)
14 Tony Stewart Good Sam NASCAR/IndyCar/USAC
15 Michael Waltrip Progressive NASCAR
18 Bobby Labonte Sport Clips NASCAR
25 Ken Schrader Federated Auto Parts NASCAR/USAC
38 Hailie Deegan ? NASCAR
39 Ryan Newman Sun Outdoors NASCAR/USAC
69 Greg Biffle SRX NASCAR
98 Marco Andretti FRAM IndyCar
99 Ernie Francis Jr. ? Trans Am/Indy Lights

The Camping World SRX Series revealed the starting lineup earlier today on Friday, July 15. Andretti will start on pole for the first heat, with Schrader starting beside him in second.

Here’s a look at three notable superstars competing this upcoming Saturday night:

Time is starting to run out on Tony Stewart’s bid for second straight championship in his own series. It’s not impossible to make up 31 points on the leader in two races in SRX, but he’s essentially left himself with little room for error.

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Thankfully for Stewart, he’s heading into the two tracks where he is an overwhelming favorite. Last year, Stewart was effectively untouchable at dirt tracks, and almost embarrassingly immortal at Eldora in particular. It was bad enough to where a take I had prior to the second season announcement was that either SRX should stick only to pavement racing or get Kyle Larson in to give Stewart a fight. Nonetheless, there is dirt and no Larson this season, so it is what it is.

Still, however, Stewart should be threatened a little bit in the race. Hailie Deegan has had some of her best results over the years in stock cars on dirt tracks, and she should be competing for at least a podium on Saturday night.

This is an important race for Deegan. Her truck season can really only be classed as a disappointment, and she could really use a great run in the spotlight SRX provides. As a prospect, it’s a huge blow to regress from the season before, as she is on pace to do. It’s also not a great sign that arguably both of the Gray brothers have begun to routinely outrun her. She still has the potential to turn it around, as evidenced by her top-10 finish last weekend at Mid-Ohio. But having only three top-15 finishes and being 40 points below Timmy Hill and his significantly less funded team is hard to spin, especially if she’s forgettable in SRX.

This week’s local ringer is none other than Kenny Schrader. True to his declaration of never fully retiring from racing, Schrader has moved on from moonlighting as a dirt track driver back in his Cup days to being the main point man when it comes to SRX race cars. Schrader was tasked with extensively testing out the cars during their development phase last year under Ray Evernham, and still gets behind the wheel most SRX practice sessions in order to either shake down the cars or diagnose potential problems.

Nobody knows more about these SRX machines than Schrader, and considering he has served as co-owner of I-55 since 2003, nobody knows this track like Schrader either. Of all of the local ringers SRX has featured so far, nobody just straight up knows more than Schrader about all aspects of this series. The clock never lies; I’ve seen some of his times when he’s jumped into SRX cars in practice, and the 67-year-old is right up there with drivers almost half his age. He’s not Larson, but it would be incredibly unwise to doubt Schrader just because he literally replaced Tim Richmond (dead since 1989) in the No. 25 car.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).

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Larry D

Oh, Tony will “manage” to win his championship in his series.

I hope Ernie Francis brings some brass knuckles with him tonight so he can take care of the loose cannon who jumped on him after the last race he competed in.

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