Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham team to use IROC model for SRX All-Stars

AP Photo/Paul Kizzle, File
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Remember the old IROC Series, where the best drivers from various disciplines raced each other in equally prepared cars? It ran for 30 seasons before Tony Stewart won its final championship in 2006, and the series quietly went away. Now Stewart and Evernham (who worked as an IROC mechanic early in his career) want to rechristen an IROC-style series called Superstar Racing Experience.

The pair of NASCAR Hall of Famers have teamed with a group of heavyweights to bring an all-star circuit back in 2021. The Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) plans a six-race, short-track series to air in prime time on CBS in a Saturday night summer spectacular.

SRX envisions fields of 12 drivers competing on famed short tracks across the country in cars prepared by Evernham, the architect of Jeff Gordon’s early career and a noted car designer. Stewart plans to be one of the participants and already has a wish list of drivers he’ll pursue, and he likely will offer up Eldora Speedway, his short track in Ohio, as one of the venues.

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In a news conference Monday, Stewart said the series wasn’t aiming to be a rival to NASCAR or any other series.

“This is another form of motorsports that people are craving,” Stewart said. “This isn’t about competition with anybody. This is about us bringing a platform and form of entertainment to enhance motorsports and draw attention.”

The idea was driven by Evernham, eager to see a series that featured cars that don’t rely on aerodynamics and reward mechanical grip and driver skill. The three-time championship winning crew chief and former team owner was able to talk the vision up to a group of supporters that includes former NASCAR executive George Pyne, who also was President of IMG Sports before founding Bruin Sports Capital, as well as Sandy Montag, chairman of talent representation firm The Montag Group.

Stewart signed on and the vision was sold to CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus.

“With the backing from legends in the racing industry, the quality of the drivers and competition, and the atmosphere that short tracks will help to create, the Superstar Racing Experience is a great addition to our live summer sports programming that racing fans will embrace,” McManus said of the Monday unveil of SRX.

It’s an invigorating venture for both Evernham and Stewart, who have essentially been given a blank sheet of paper to create the type of racing they think will entice fans.

As Evernham told The Associated Press, he’s looking to build a full-body car that relies on existing safety advances, fits within a budget and “is a car that the racing public can relate to, as well.” He’s had talks with at least one tire maker and is seeking manufacturer support.

“We envision a hybrid of all different series – we don’t see it looking like a crazy dunebuggy-ish type car,” Evernham told the AP. “To me, it’s got to be a really cool looking car that also puts it back in the driver’s hands, mechanically-wise and allows it to be more affected by the pedals.”

Evernham doesn’t expect speeds to exceed 150 mph on half-mile tracks, and he listed Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, New Smyrna Speedway in Florida, Eldora, Knoxville Raceway in Iowa and Terre Haute Action Track in Indiana as possible venues. Evernham would also like a road course and a modified oval on the schedule.

Ray Evernham speaks after being inducted Jan. 19, 2018 to the NASCAR Hall of Fame (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images).

“You know, drivers retiring and being out of the sport so young, we think there are guys who still want to race, still can race, but just don’t want to run 200 mph,” Evernham said.

Evernham’s dream list includes Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jimmie Johnson, Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Paul Tracy and short-track racers and up-and-comers who have proven their skills but can’t get a break.

Stewart will be the main recruiter and plans to begin selling the series soon. He wants to lock in drivers before they commit to other things next summer, as well as work through conflicts that would prohibit their participation. Without a manufacturer currently on board, SRX hopes to avoid branding loyalties that would eliminate a driver from racing in the series.

“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.”

SRX is planning for 90-minute races without pit stops – but a “halftime” for adjustments – in a 2-hour television window. Evernham believes drivers will arrive and draw for both their car and crew chief – which Evernham hopes comes from a pool of noted industry veterans. A short practice is planned and Evernham’s team will be responsible for building and maintaining the cars.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.