SRX Puts Expansion on the Table for Future Seasons

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SRX Puts Expansion on the Table for Future SeasonsSRX/Wayne Riegle
  • In an exclusive interview with Autoweek, Superstars Racing Experience CEO Don Hawk said next season’s six race dates—July 11, 18 and 25, and August 1, 8 and 15—are already set.

  • Unfortunately for racing fans in distant outposts across the West Coast, it’s looking like SRX won’t be coming to your hometown any time soon.

  • Hawk has had nearly 40 short tracks—both paved and dirt—around the country express interest to host SRX events.

The Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) recently completed its third—and by most accounts—its most successful season to date.

SRX had a record 26 all-star drivers that appeared in at least one and as many as all six races of the full six-week season, including NASCAR Hall of Famers Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, current Cup stars Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch (who became only the second driver in SRX history to win both races he entered), 4-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, former IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan, NHRA driver Ron Capps and many more.


For TV, ESPN took over from CBS, which had televised the first two seasons on Saturday nights in primetime. But ESPN changed things up, televising races on Thursday nights, bringing back its old “Thursday Night Thunder” axiom.

“So many people tell me they love the (TV broadcast) window of two hours,” SRX CEO Don Hawk said. “They know it's going to start on time and it's going to end on time. And they also like the season being compacted.”

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SRX recently concludes his third six-race season. SRX/Wayne Riegle

SRX hosted its six races in 2023 on five tracks. A sixth track, Thunder Road in Vermont, was forced to cancel its SRX race (the second event of the season) due to flooding that inundated the Barre, Vt. area. But SRX pulled off a seamless substitution switch to Stafford (Conn.) Speedway, which hosted both the first and second races of the season.

With two races at Stafford and single events at Motor Mile Speedway (Virginia), Berlin Raceway (Michigan), the Stewart-owned Eldora Speedway (Ohio) and the finale at Lucas Oil Speedway (Missouri), SRX enjoyed sellouts at each venue.

So what does SRX do for an encore in 2024? In an exclusive interview with Autoweek, Hawk said next season’s six race dates—July 11, 18 and 25, and August 1, 8 and 15—are already set, although venues and drivers are still to be determined.

But expansion is definitely on everyone’s minds, particularly Hawk, a former executive at Speedway Motorsports Inc., who took over as CEO from another NASCAR Hall of Famer and SRX co-founder, Ray Evernham, after the inaugural 2021 season.

“What I've asked the owners to do is help me help you, in the words of Jerry Maguire,” Hawk said. “I want to get it down so that we're a really sleek, smooth operating machine at six, then maybe you get sleek at eight (races), then you go to 10.

“I already have in the budget for 2024 to build more race cars. Now whether or not we field more, that's a product of finances. It’s like I have to be a salesman, I have to sell 12 cars. That's equivalent to SHR (Stewart Haas Racing), JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Hendrick Motorsports in Cup.

“SRX has owners that I can tell them, ‘Guys, I can run 10 more cars.’ But we’ve got to raise money then for 22 cars total, like having 22 major sponsors. And that's when everybody was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a lot.’ I want to grow it, but I'd rather grow it like we are now and it gets better and better.”

But there remains one downside somewhat.

“It's a tough grind (for traveling SRX team members such as mechanics, etc.), to go that hard for six straight weeks,” Hawk said.

If multiple cars are destroyed or severely damaged in wrecks, that further compounds the labor and time the SRX mechanics must put in.

“Take, for example, one race where we had an engine blow,” Hawk said. “When an engine blows on a racetrack, it’s normally not a problem. Okay, we blow an engine. But every single fluid in the car came out on the racetrack and we lost five cars with it (in a multi-car wreck).”

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Ryan Newman won the SRX championship in 2023.SRX/Wayne Riegle

Still, the recently completed season saw significant growth.

“Year 3, we knocked it out of the park when you look at the talented 26 different race car drivers in our automobiles, big sellout crowds, escalating TV ratings, which is good when you switch from primetime to cable,” Hawk said.

In a sense, SRX is a product of its own success. Hawk has had nearly 40 short tracks—both paved and dirt—around the country express interest to host SRX events. And Hawk already has nearly 40 drivers wanting to be part of the game in 2024.

Unfortunately, he’s going to have to tell several drivers—including some big names—that there’s no room at the inn for them.

“It's a tough balance,” Hawk said.

Still, there are several drivers who are on Hawk’s wish list, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Larson.

“As for Dale Jr., he’s not a flat-out ‘no’ yet,” Hawk said. “He’s ‘no’ for right now, but not forever. He told us, ‘Let's talk about that next year.’

“As for Kyle Larson, he’s just hard to get. I talked to him 10 times this year. But he's got so much on his plate, including (sprint car racing), and IndyCar next year (doing ‘The Double’ of racing the same day in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600).”

Stewart, who won the first SRX championship in 2021, would like to see fields grow to 20 to 24 cars and perhaps 10 races per season. But that’s going to take a lot of money—essentially doubling SRX’s current budget, including building twice as many cars and needing sponsors for most of those new rides.

“I know Tony wants to see more cars and tracks, but I want to make sure that we really get down the art of racing in six short tracks in America, better than we did the last two years,” Hawk said. “We want to put on more exciting races and give the fans their money's worth.

“We’re going to continue to seek out venues that we can sell out and that have passionate fans, and they all think SRX is a really exciting product and they want to be there.”

Just Wait Until 2025

While 2024 will look much like 2023 in terms of races and personalities, 2025 could be a whole different picture. ESPN will likely invoke its single option year that season—or negotiate a new, and potentially larger, deal with SRX going forward through 2027 or 2028.

“I think that's all part of the new TV package,” Hawk said about potential expansion of the schedule.

SRX was formed during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 by NASCAR Hall of Famers Stewart and Ray Evernham, former NASCAR executive George Pyne and broadcasting executive Sandy Montag. It made its debut in 2021 and in each season has seen increased fan, driver and track interest, greater revenue and higher ratings in switching from CBS in 2021 and 2022 to ESPN in 2023 (as well as 2024 and the option year for 2025).

Many longtime racing fans have compared SRX to the old IROC series, but those comparisons are somewhat flawed. IROC’s “season” only had four races scattered across several months, while SRX holds six races in as many weeks. With the luxury of having so much time off between races, IROC was able to travel across the country.

Because of its small administrative and mechanical/technical staff and difficulty having to travel from its base in Charlotte to distant venues say in Texas, California, the Pacific Northwest and other locales, SRX has held just two races west of the Mississippi River in the first 18 events over its three-year existence.

Westward No for SRX

Unfortunately for racing fans in distant outposts across the West Coast, it’s looking like SRX won’t be coming to your hometown any time soon. It’s not that the series is ignoring towns out west, it’s more simple logistics of traveling sometimes as much as 30 hours to get from Charlotte to a venue on the West Coast—essentially two days of driving before even beginning to set up.

“I can tell you three really great racetracks I'd love to race on, all in the West,” Hawk said. “One is an 18-hour drive from Texas. To get to Texas, you’ve still got a 14- or 15-hour drive from (Charlotte). Our agreement with ESPN is six weeks in a row.

“So at the end of the day, it's going to be a lot of geographics, like how do we do this and go in a circle that doesn't just wipe the (support) team out? And if it's also feasible for an IndyCar guy, a Cup guy, an NHRA guy or (others) to get there from wherever they're at the rest of the weekend.”

But future TV deals could not only allow for expansion of the schedule, it also might allow for a week off in the middle of the SRX slate, thus ultimately resulting in the opportunity to go west, young men, so to speak.

Hawk was tight-lipped about which tracks will be on next season’s schedule, but loves the fact so many tracks want SRX events.

“All of them would like us back,” Hawk said. “There's really no place we’ve already went to that we can’t go back to.”

When asked to summarize where SRX is headed to, Hawk was quite effusive.

“We just want to continue to grow it,” he said. “We want to make sure that what we do is really, really good. Tony isn't wrong. Yes, we want to grow it. But also, just remember, we're only three years into a startup league.

“Think about if you went to 20 cars, like Tony said. That's adding eight new franchises. The NBA doesn't add ‘em that fast. So we have to realize who we are and we have to walk. We have to crawl, then walk, then jog, then run and then we sprint.”

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on X (formerly Twitter) at @JerryBonkowski