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Column: Superstar Racing Experience Debut Successful, Jury Still Out

SRX delivered for the short track community and has room to grow

Tom Morris Racing Photography

After watching the first-ever SRX event Saturday night at Stafford Motor Speedway, I drove straight home to watch the race again.

As great as the atmosphere at Stafford was, what matters far more is what happened on the broadcast. It’s as simple as this: the success or failure of SRX is going to depend on how the product is shown on TV to those at home.

And overall? There’s a lot to like.

The broadcast put together by CBS was well-done. It explained SRX and the format to viewers without sounding condescending. The camerawork with drones added variety. And the broadcast team of Allen Bestwick, Danica Patrick, Brad Daugherty and Lindsey Czarniak meshed well and evoked nostalgic memories of old NASCAR broadcasts.

Saturday night wasn’t perfect. 10-minute heats are probably a better idea than 15 minutes. The racing was good, not great–but that may come in time as drivers get more used to running alongside each other in these cars.

If the ratings are there and the series is able to sustain success, there is a brand-new lane for short tracks to get national exposure.

Every single seat at Stafford was full. People who had never been to the track before left wanting to come back.

Drivers who hadn’t turned a lap at Stafford couldn’t get enough, runner-up and two-time NASCAR champion Greg Biffle being one of them.

“I watched [the SK Modifieds] earlier tonight and it looks like a lot of fun,” Biffle said. “I would definitely be interested in driving a Modified here. It would be be fun.”

“The whole concept of it was to have fun and to celebrate motorsports,” SRX driver and co-founder Tony Stewart said. “I think this was a perfect example of that tonight. Tonight, everybody saw that’s what this was designed for.”

The buy-in was there from Stafford in the lead-up to Saturday night. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont visited the speedway Friday. Former UConn Huskies head coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun rode in the pace car.

And while we don’t have TV ratings from Saturday or a crystal ball to see how the next five races will go, a nightmare scenario–six cars wrecking in turn one of the first heat–didn’t come to fruition.

For Modified fans, the night couldn’t have gone much better. The designated local “ringer,” six-time Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby, dominated the feature, leading 80 of 100 laps en route to the victory. While Coby has been on the Tour for 20 years, he got his start at Stafford, winning titles in the Pro Stock and Late Model divisions.

“It just shows that Modified racers in the northeast, we’re not bullshitting everybody when we say it’s tough to race at Stafford and come from the handicap every week,” Coby said. “It’s tough to run on the Modified Tour and do all the things that we do, because we’re just good racers and smart people. I really feel like we prove it time and time again on the national stage, and I’m happy to log this as one more notch in the belt for the Modified guys.”

Was Coby on the initial roster of household names SRX announced initially? No, but that’s what the “ringer” was intended for, according to Stewart.

“Doug’s reputation speaks for itself,” Stewart said. “That’s why he’s here. That’s why he got invited to this… It’s not hard when you read the racing papers each week and see him. It’s like, you know why now after getting a chance to race with him.”

In terms of production and personality, Saturday night should be considered a success. The real test, however, will be in the ratings that come later.

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Paul Lambert is an aspiring collegiate journalist. A writer and broadcaster, Paul's excited to cover New England short track racing in 2021. Paul has also been published in the Boston Herald, Speedway Illustrated and on Autoweek.com.

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