ADVERTISEMENT

SRX season kicks off at Five Flags

ADVERTISEMENT




Tony Stewart and Ernie Francis Jr. set the pace for the Camping World SRX race at Knoxville Raceway. (Photo by Ray Haya)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Just over a year ago, the green flag flew at the inaugural season of the Superstar Racing Experience at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.

ADVERTISEMENT

Six straight weeks of Saturday night short track action took place, with five different winners crowned as the series caused a stir at local tracks across the country.

Now the SRX heads into its second season of action, kicking off this Saturday at Five Flags Speedway’s half-mile asphalt oval, which is best known for hosting the annual Snowball Derby late-model race.

Twelve drivers will participate, including several with NASCAR and IndyCar experience.

Co-owner and reigning SRX champion Tony Stewart will be looking to continue his dominance in the series, after scoring two wins in the No. 14 machine. last year.

    Dsc9285
Stewart waves to the crowd after winning at Eldora. (Photo by Mike Campbell)

This year, it will swap its bright orange paint for a new cherry red scheme, as it looks to another championship.

Stewart’s prowess on the gravel was evident last year after sweeping both races at Knoxville, Iowa, and Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.

Although the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion didn’t win on asphalt, his 3.75 average finish in featured events showed consistency.

The talent of the single-seaters will be evident at Saturday’s opening, with six of the 12 competitors with IndyCar experience.

Last year’s surprise winner and points runner-up, Ernie Francis Jr., will return to the wheel in a limited capacity, including at Five Flags. The 24-year-old impressed a host of big names after his success in the series last summer, including Roger Penske, who helped Francis Jr. land a full-time ride in Indy Lights.

“Westhill Exciter” Paul Tracy will return to piloting his No. 13 machine full-time, after tangling with most of the SRX field at least once last year. The former CART champion will be looking for more consistency, as his rambunctious driving style left him with an 8.3 average finish, good enough for seventh in the standings.

Former IndyCar Champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay will be a new face on the SRX circuit as he embarks on a full-time season in the series.

2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan will return to the wheel for five of the six SRX races this season, fresh off his third-place finish in the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Marco Andretti, winner of last year’s Slinger (Wisconsin) Speedway, will compete full-time in the series once again, following an impressive fourth-place finish in points during the inaugural season.

Five Flags will also showcase many former NASCAR winners on Saturday night, including michael Waltrip.

Labonte
Bobby Labonte stands before the race at Stafford. (Photo from Stafford Race Track)

The two-time Daytona 500 winner brought his comedic personality to the series, along with some stellar performances before finishing eighth in the standings.

The gold-colored No. 69 machine will feature Greg Biffle, who showed impressive drives in two races last year. The former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series champion made the most of his two starts last year, including second place in the first race at Stafford.

Ryan Newman, who won the 2008 Daytona 500, will make his SRX debut on Saturday. The “Rocket Man” will compete in all six races on the SRX calendar, driving the No. 39 Sun Outdoors.

Bobby Labonte showed plenty of flashes last year, and he’ll be back for another shot at full-time action. The 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion made leaps and bounds later in the season, finishing fifth or better in the past three races.

The first driver to pilot the local hero car this season will be Bubba Pollard.

The 35-year-old late-model racer has won some of the most prestigious events in late-model competition, including the All-American 400 (2016) and the Oxford 250 (2018).

Pollard earned his spot to compete in the special patriotic car by posting the best average finish at Five Flags in the PepperJack Kennels Twins earlier this year.

In last year’s season opener at Stafford, six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby beat out some of NASCAR’s best at Biffle and Stewart for the unlikely victory.

sniloans