When Tony Stewart announced he was co-founding a short-track stock car series called the Superstar Racing Experience, most race fans were confident that he’d probably perform pretty well in the series. But while it was no shock that Stewart was crowned the first-ever SRX champion last night, there was so much more about the series that served as a pleasant surprise.
At the top of the list here is fan feedback. After its first race, series officials heard what fans had to say about the paint schemes of the cars (it was hard to read driver names) and feature length — and SRX actually addressed those specific problems. It didn’t dick around and slap a band-aid on it by introducing some completely new rule that never actually solved the concerns. It listened and fixed the exact issues in question, which was pretty damn refreshing to see.
It also showed what would happen if motorsport were to take itself a little less seriously. I get it; there’s a lot of pressure when you’re, say, a NASCAR driver or an IndyCar driver. Your championship has decades of history, your cars are worth a lot of money, and your spot in the series is never guaranteed. With SRX, you’re there because you’ve already established yourself, and with a new format and a set of series-owned stock cars, your fuck-up won’t resonate throughout your entire career. It gave drivers a chance to get a little racier than usual, to bump against a competitor and then exit the car with a smile afterward.
But the IndyCar fan in me really wants to touch on Marco Andretti. The third-generation racer never really seemed to find his stride in open-wheel racing; he put on some good performances, but he was never the knockout people expected from his surname. But in SRX, with the pressure off, he really showed his skill. Andretti wasn’t afraid to bump and bang his way to a better position, and he was awarded with a feature win for his efforts. It was great to see.
Overall, I’d consider the SRX experiment a success. It was by no means the perfect series, but it showed what motorsport can be capable of if we take ourselves a little less seriously, listen to the fans, and focus on a damn good feature.