KERCHNER: Much Is Unknown About SRE

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Mike Kerchner
Mike Kerchner

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — The Superstar Racing Experience is going to be interesting in a lot of ways.

The brainchild of NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham, the Superstar Racing Experience plans to launch next year with a schedule of six Saturday night races to be televised live by CBS Sports.

At this point, the people involved are the big news as three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart is one of the four partners in the organization and he has also committed to drive.

Longtime NASCAR executive George Pyne, who has invested in the project, and marketing guru Sandy Montag are also involved in the leadership of the series.

The concept is to provide identical race cars to drivers and crew chiefs to compete on short tracks.

Evernham, who worked for Jay Signore’s International Race of Champions early in his career, plans to oversee construction of the cars.

But those cars are an unknown at this point. Are they stock cars, open-wheel cars or some type of hybrid? What we do know is that according to Stewart and Evernham, they will be designed to race on both dirt and asphalt tracks.

Evernham, who has built various types of race cars during his career, including a brief stint producing dirt-based racers for U.S. Legend Cars Int’l earlier this decade, wouldn’t divulge details about the cars but said they would be driver-oriented.

“Our goal is to put how well the driver performs back in his hands,” Evernham said. “Less about the technology, less about how fast the car is, more about the human factor. As a race fan, I’m very, very excited to see that kind of competition.”

While Evernham and Stewart repeatedly referred to the potential driver pool as “legends and superstars” during their initial announcement, participants are expected to be a mix of semi-retired drivers, current stars of short-track series and up-and-coming drivers.

“We want a mix of drivers from motorsports communities around the world, whether that’s open-wheel, closed sedan-type racing, extreme sports, Formula One, there are names that are out there … a lot of guys like Tony are still very engaged in racing automobiles around the world that don’t really want to run 30 or 40 times a year and don’t want to run 200 mph every weekend,” Evernham said.

The events will be formatted to run within a two-hour television window, and, like IROC, are expected to feature 12-car fields.

Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, says the series is not designed to compete with NASCAR.

“Our series is separate from NASCAR. It’s not meant to compete with NASCAR,” Stewart said. “It’s another form of motorsports that the fans, I think, are craving. We’re not looking to try and partner up as far as race weekends. We want six stand­­alone weekends at six standalone tracks.

“There are so many small tracks in the United States that provide great racing. We really want to go out and do something that’s unique, do something that’s different with a format that’s different, cars that are going to be different,” Stewart noted. “We really don’t want an association directly with NASCAR. They’ve obviously got a great product, and this isn’t in competition with them by any means.”

From where we sit, this proposed series is probably more about entertainment value than it is racing. With six events to fall into a two-hour block, the personalities and fan-following of the drivers and crew chiefs expected to participate will likely be as important to the product as who passes who on what lap.

It will be interesting to see how it all comes together.

n If nothing else, the announcement of the Superstar Racing Experience made us remember the Fast Masters Championship that was run at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis during the summer of 1993.

A six-race series showcasing retired motorsports legends, Fast Masters featured identically prepared Jaguar XJ220s and was televised as part of ESPN’s “Saturday Night Thunder” series. It was a crash fest for the most part and forgettable except maybe to those who participated.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser won the series’ 12-lap finale on the modified road course inside the Lucas Oil Raceway oval. He earned $100,000 for beating NASCAR legend David Pearson to the checkered flag.

“I feel extra good,” Unser said, “and it isn’t just the $100,000. It’s the ego trips and a lot of pride. That’s what everyone was driving for. The $100,000 is just extra nice.”

Other feature winners during the six nights of racing were Ed McCulloch, David Hobbs, Brian Redman, Eddie Hill, Parnelli Jones, Derek Bell, Gene Felton and George Follmer.

It was the only season for the Fast Masters Championship.