Tony Stewart/Ray Evernham SRX series announces race format for inaugural season

Superstar Racing Experience format
Superstar Racing Experience
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Superstar Racing Experience, the short-track series started by Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart, announced the race format for its inaugural season Thursday.

The six-race short-track series, which will race on six consecutive Saturday nights starting on June 12 at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, will have its races comprised of three parts: Two 15-minute heat races and a 100-lap feature.

The heats will set the starting lineup for the feature, and points earned in both heats and the feature will help determine the 2021 champion.

The starting grid for the first heat will be set by a random draw among drivers. The second heat will be gridded by inverting the finishing order of the first heat. The results of the second race will set the starting lineup for the main event, which will have unlimited attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.

Each heat winner will receive a maximum of 12 points, descending in one-point increments through the order. The feature winner gets 25 points, second place 22 points, third place 20 points, fourth place 18 points, fifth place 16 points, sixth place 14 points, seventh place 12 points, eighth place 10 points, ninth place eight points, 10th place six points, 11th place four points and 12th place two points.

SRX

“It was very important to come up with a format that would provide the best entertainment to our fans while rewarding the drivers for their performance,” Ray Evernham said in a release. “Every driver has the same opportunity. They’re in a car that’s very different because it’s so universal. It’s a road-course car first, a pretty good dirt car, and just an OK paved oval car. That takes the advantage away from the stock-car guys who run ovals all the time.

“We’ve tried to take the car out of the equation and force these guys to use the skills that we pay to see – how to figure out a new surface, how to figure out a new racetrack, how can they make this car go around using the old-school tools of the steering wheel, the gas pedal and the brake pedal. Driver input is what’s really important with this racecar, and this format accentuates that.”

Said Stewart in a release: “With this format, you not only have to be the fastest driver, but you’ve got to be the smartest driver too. This is going to be a challenge. These are new, purpose-built racecars that none of us have driven before. Every track is so different, and we don’t know how abrasive the pavement tracks are going to be and what kind of grip we’re going to have on the dirt tracks. Even for the local all-stars who have turned thousands of laps at their particular track, they’ll be doing it in a totally different environment. It’s all unpredictable, but that’s what’ll make for great racing and a great fan experience, whether they’re in the grandstands or at home watching on CBS.”

The series also will be racing Knoxville Raceway, Slinger Speedway, Lucas Oil Raceway and Eldora Speedway. The season will conclude July 17 at the Nashville Fairgrounds with each race at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

The SRX series, which is expecting to have a dozen drivers in each race, already has confirmed Tony StewartHelio CastronevesBobby LabontePaul TracyTony Kanaan, Willy T. RibbsBill ElliottErnie Francis Jr.Marco Andretti and Michael Waltrip in its lineup (Formula One veteran Mark Webber, previously announced as an entrant, has bowed out of the series). SRX was co-founded by NASCAR Hall of Famers Stewart and Evernham and was unveiled last July.

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images
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THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.