SRX Returns as Thursday Night Thunder this Week

SRX action with Tony Stewart leading Ernie Francis Jr.
SRX action with Tony Stewart leading Ernie Francis Jr.

Camping World SRX Series (Superstar Racing Experience) on ESPN begins its third season of competition this Thursday night and will appear on the cable network for six consecutive Thursday nights in prime time. In launching on ESPN, SRX brings back “Thursday Night Thunder” which was a regular stop for fans of the sport for many years. Each race will take place at 9PM ET, pitting championship-level competitors from a variety of racing series against one another in identically prepared race cars on some of the United States’ most iconic short tracks.

The season starts July 13th at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, continues a week later in Vermont on Thunder Road Speedbowl, then goes to Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway, to Michigan’s Berlin Raceway, stops at Eldora Speedway in Ohio and finishes at Lucas Oil Speedway in Missouri.

The number and proficiency of well-regarded racers who clamored to join the series this year is without compare in this day and age. While not all of them are joining the series full-time, the guest appearances will bring fans to each track to see who’s got the goods.

Among those participating, on either a full-time or part-time basis are, in alphabetical order: 2022 SRX champion Marco Andretti, NASCAR stars Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, INDYCAR’s Helio Castroneves, NHRA’s Ron Capps, Xfinity Series’ Hailie Deegan, NASCAR Cup Series star Austin Dillon Bill Elliott, INDY NXT racer and seven-time Trans-Am champ Ernie Francis Jr., Cup Series stars Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, semi-retired Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Bobby Labonte, Josef Newgarden (who won the 107th Indianapolis 500), Ryan Newman, Ken Schrader, SRX-co-founder and 2021 champ Tony Stewart, Daniel Suarez, Paul Tracy and Kenny Wallace.

The cast is set and the crew putting on this six-contest engagement is excited by the prospects, particularly since the races are being held on Thursday nights, allowing many of the above-named drivers to have fun before they work most weekends. The three co-founders of SRX, Tony Stewart, George Pyne and Sandy Montag, all agree that moving the series from Saturday to Thursday Night Thunder is the right move, enabling more outstanding racers to join in the fun and fans to have a good reason to watch or show up. “I think with Wimbledon on now on both ABC and ESPN, and the ESPYs coming up and baseball, it made sense for us shifting away from Saturday night to Thursday night,” Montag emphasized.

“Thursday Night Thunder may have been 30 years ago when it started, but I think that brand kind of resonated with Tony [Stewart], and as we talked about the possibilities on what we would do for season 3 and ESPN’s interest in bringing this back for a multi-year deal, we just thought it made a lot of sense,” Montag continued. “We’re just excited to get going at a sold-out track on Thursday night.”

Yes, the first race of the six is sold out and many sponsors have re-upped for the third season of SRX racing. “We had 43 tracks asked to hold a venue, hold a race with SRX,” said Don Hawk, SRX chief executive officer. “While we were on the phone narrowing it down to six, a 44th call came in on my phone during that call. We have some of the greatest racetracks in the country!

“One of the biggest things to emphasize about this move to Thursday Night Thunder is this: Thursday Night Thunder is where I met Jeff Gordon and I met Tony Stewart,” Hawk mused, “and I met them through a TV screen,” as he watched the regular Thursday Night Thunder races with Dale Earnhardt. “We feel like we’re more than adequately prepared for this year and we think we have the right tracks with the right combination of drivers, 21 different superstars under contract to fight it out at six racetracks and, at the end, one champion.”

While the list of drivers recruited for the 2023 edition of SRX is a well-rounded group with superstar additions at each of the six venues, Tony Stewart still has a few he’d like to corral for the series. “I still want to get Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Jeff Gordon in cars. That’s two guys that are superstars and that’s what this series is about – it’s about superstar drivers,” racing in same-spec race cars on different types of short tracks. While Stewart realizes his two superstar hold-outs are exceptionally busy, Gordon with his duties at Hendrick Motorsports and Earnhardt Jr with a pile of different projects, “That’s why this Thursday thing was so important, because of schedules and how busy everyone’s time is.”

By keeping their production team as they move from broadcast to cable, the SRX staff has continuity, and can build on the two years’ experience they’ve accrued. “I think the way we produce these races is really unique and I think we’ve improved on that over the first couple of years,” Montag emphasized. “I think Hawk has done an amazing job with Tony on the driver lineup. I think the number of drivers snd the interest from the drivers in all the different disciplines has been pretty special.”

SRX took over a role long neglected in motorsports when IROC disbanded, with Tony Stewart as its final champion. That the USAC, NASCAR, SRX champion and current NHRA racer has helped put this group together and move it forward speaks volumes. “I think what we’re doing has merit, shows how much fun these drivers have going to these races, and to see that many guys raise their hand puts a smile on your face, knowing that what you’re doing must be right,” Stewart concluded.

By Anne Proffit

he 2023 SRX Schedule (all times Eastern)

Date

Track

Time

Network

Thursday, July 13

Stafford Motor Speedway (Stafford Springs, CT)

9 p.m.

ESPN

Thursday, July 20

Thunder Road Speedbowl (Barre, VT)

9 p.m.

ESPN

Thursday, July 27

Motor Mile Speedway (Radford, VA)

9 p.m.

ESPN

Thursday, Aug. 3

Berlin Raceway (Grand Rapids, MI)

9 p.m.

ESPN

Thursday, Aug. 10

Eldora Speedway (New Weston, OH)

9 p.m.

ESPN

Thursday, Aug. 17

Lucas Oil Speedway (Wheatland, MO)

9 p.m.

ESPN

 

 

 

About Anne Proffit 1264 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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