Tony Stewart takes the SRX racing series to ESPN’s Thursday Night Thunder

Facebook | SRX Racing

It just made too much sense not to do it: Three-time NASCAR Cup series champion Tony Stewart is bringing his Superstar Racing Experience series to ESPN for the summer, leaving CBS for a more secure, multi-year home on the cable network that gave racing fans the legendary Thursday Night Thunder in the 1980s and 1990s.

It’ll run for the next six Thursdays straight, airing at 9 p.m. ET.

The SRX series, now in its third year, takes a dozen major motorsports competitors from different segments of the sport and places them in identically-prepared, 650-horsepower late model race cars that were created for the series by Ray Evernham, NASCAR champion crew chief. The drivers compete at short tracks across the country, sometimes for the first time on a track less than a mile in length. Some of the tracks are paved, some are dirt. At least one drag racer will compete this season.

Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) cars and crowd at golden hour
Facebook | SRX Racing

IndyCar racer and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is a perfect example of an SRX driver—he actually beat some veteran short-track racers last year, showing that talent, not past experience, can rise to the challenge.

Tomorrow night, the first event will be at the half-mile paved Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut and will include 12 drivers from NASCAR and IndyCar racing in competition. Previous NASCAR Cup Series champions Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, and Brad Keselowski will be in the field racing against IndyCar’s Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Paul Tracy. NASCAR’s Hailie Deegan also will be in competition as will Daytona 500 winners Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman and former NASCAR stars Clint Bowyer and Ken Schrader.

The return of Thursday Night Thunder is a big deal to Stewart, who participated in a Zoom interview previewing the show. Stars like Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Newman owe their NASCAR career in large part to the exposure they received racing on short tracks in the Midwest, where the balance of Thunder originated.

The series was “how I got recognized by car owners back in the day, and got my opportunity to join with Harry Rainier in NASCAR and John Menard on the IndyCar side — all because of what they saw on Thursday Night Thunder,” Stewart said.

“Having this opportunity to bring SRX back and doing it on Thursday nights will multiply the amount of drivers that had interest in running, but had schedule conflicts. Being on Thursday has really opened that up. The amount of interest from drivers wanting to join the series was astronomical this year.” Forty-four tracks asked to be considered for a show, which was pared down to six.

Superstar Racing Experience cars on track
Superstar Racing Experience (SRX)

It’s a grueling schedule. One of the tough parts, Stewart said, is “trying to figure out how we get through six straight Thursday nights with a crew that not only runs the cars on Thursday, but then packs up Thursday night, leaves on Friday, travels to the next racetrack, gets set up, get cars maintained and fixed, and have us ready to go again the next Thursday.”

Here’s the lineup for the two-hour shows:

July 13: Stafford Motor Speedway (Stafford Springs, Connecticut)
July 20: Thunder Road Speedbowl (Barre, Vermont)
July 27: Motor Mile Speedway (Radford, Virginia)
August 3: Berlin Raceway (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
August 10: Eldora Speedway (New Weston, Ohio)
August 17: Lucas Oil Speedway (Wheatland, Missouri)



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