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

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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, Stwart 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.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.