Tony Stewart Is Pumped to Bring Circle Track Racing Back to ESPN on Thursday Nights
Thursday Night Thunder is returning thanks to Stewart’s SRX racing series, which is like a modern-day IROC.
A major challenge of forming a racing series from the ground up is getting people to watch, attend, and follow it throughout the season. No matter how good the on-track package is, it can't grow if it's not visible. It’s a hurdle that NASCAR legend Tony Stewart faces with his own Superstar Racing Experience series, colloquially known as SRX. It's grown immensely since he and co-founder Ray Evernham launched it in 2020, though now, it's set up for another swing in popularity by moving to ESPN on Thursday nights.
Stewart explained how stoked he is about that in an interview with The Drive. “I’m excited this year going to Thursdays. That’s going to be a huge deal for us,” Stewart said. “We have twice as many drivers that want to compete as we have cars. That’s a good problem to have.”
The premise of SRX is to make racing more watchable, fun, and interesting with an all-star cast of drivers. The kicker is that the cars are designed by Evernham, a longtime NASCAR crew chief and team owner, before they're assigned randomly ahead of each race, thus removing equipment from the list of possible excuses. Crew chiefs are also randomized with the car.
The vibe is fitting for a revival of Thursday Night Thunder, a throwback program that aired on ESPN in the '80s and '90s. It was focused entirely on circle track racing, both on dirt and asphalt, and it served as a sort of precursor to whatever racing would follow that weekend. That's what SRX is doing with NASCAR in a way, and its new time slot allows Cup Series drivers and more to compete without constant scheduling snafus.
"Moving to Thursday Nights, I personally like it because it goes back to the history of Thursday Night Thunder," Stewart said. "That's where I got my opportunity to showcase what I was doing as a driver—getting in front of people that, on the weekends, they were racing. It really opened up a lot of doors for drivers who had scheduling conflicts with Saturday nights, and now, on Thursday it’s really opened up the floodgates.”
Stewart himself drives in the series when he can, though he's typically slammed with his NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing, or owning Eldora Speedway, or trying out NHRA alongside his wife Leah Pruett. When asked if he had any desire or ability to drive in NASCAR or IndyCar again, he told me, "No. Trust me, if you saw my schedule you’d see I’m way too busy to do that. I mean, I like racing sprint cars and I didn’t even have time last year [to do that], and I don’t have time this year."
"It breaks my heart in that aspect of it but I’m excited about the things we are doing," Stewart continued. "It’s a scenario where you need 30-hour days and 400-day years to do it all. There’s just not enough time to do everything I want to do.”
SRX is looking exciting and interesting in its third season and looks set for even more growth this year. The six-race season begins on July 13 at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut.
Got a tip? Email firstname.lastname@example.org