If you were like a couple of million other race fans, you were tuned in to CBS last night for the rollout of the Superstar Racing Experience, the new – revived? – concept of taking name drivers and matching them up in cars that are as identical as modern race-shop preparation can possibly make them. A sellout crowd jammed its way into one of New England’s most storied racing venues, Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, to watch a dozen heroes of the past and future face off in very basic, crashworthy, course-adaptable, quickly fixable generic stock cars and grope their way around the historic half-mile. The big takeaway is that like any form of racing, the SRX values experience. The inaugural 100-lap feature in live prime time saw one-race ringer Doug Coby, a six-time NASCAR Modified Tour champion and hometown star who’s logged a million Stafford laps, edge NASCAR Cup veteran Greg Biffle, who’s a graduate of the short-track Late Model wars in Wisconsin, conducted under very similar circumstances.
The Superstar Racing Experience is run by Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham, who both were major figures in the first conceptualization of big name drivers in equal cars, the International Race of Champions, founded in the early 1970s by Roger Penske and NASCAR executive Les Richter. Evernham was the longtime IROC crew chief before moving to Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR and Stewart was its multi-time champion. The SRX is also backed up by sports marketing heavyweights George Pyne, a veteran of NASCAR’s executive suite, and broadcast producer Sandy Montag. So while the opening round was largely a learning experience for everyone, it’s clear that SRX is conceptually solid and has the right people behind it. Complaints? None, other than the need to make the driver’s name more visible on the cars, IROC-style, perhaps by repositioning the logo of newly inked sponsor Camping World. Otherwise, there’s plenty to like here, starting with the decision to include my longtime pal and fellow New Jerseyan Jay Signore, the founding IROC crew chief from when the series shops were located in Tinton Falls, in the opening ceremony. Very classy, fellas, we like it. The series moves next Saturday for its next live event at yet another historic American short track, Knoxville Raceway in Iowa.