Personality Driven: Camping World SRX Series Ready To Blast Racing To National TV Audience

Despite making his career these days as a broadcast racing analyst, longtime IndyCar veteran Paul Tracy doesn’t see much on network TV these days that really much catches his eye. 

Saturday the debut of the Camping World SRX Series will put racers like Tracy, Helio Castroneves, Tony Stewart, Tony Kanaan, Bobby Labonte and a host of other household names of motorsports on track for the first of six races that will be broadcast live on CBS on six consecutive Saturday nights. 

Through the 1970’s and 80’s “The Superstars” television show was a huge hit. The made for TV competition brought together 10 world-class athletes annually to compete in varied competitions. Tracy sees a lot of similarities in what SRX and CBS are doing. 

“It’s really something that we haven’t had in a long time,” Tracy said. “I remember as a kid watching these formatted shows like the battle of The Superstars and all that kind of sports where they’d bring all these different athletes together and put them through a bunch of different things to do. 

“TV has kind of gone away from that. Now there’s all these dumb reality shows and singing shows and what not. I think this format of racing, of what we’re going to be doing and bringing all these different characters in, I think fans are really going to like it. There’s just something missing on TV for me. A lot of kids, they just don’t watch TV anymore. There’s nothing to like pull them into it. I think we have a good opportunity to do that.” 

The SRX Series, the brainchild of NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham and NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Tony Stewart, brings together a roster of drivers most of which are household names across motorsports. 

As importantly as bringing together a roster of drivers with resumes brimming with accomplishment, the series features numerous competitors long known in motorsports for bringing overflowing personalities on and off the track. 

For drivers like Stewart, Tracy, Castroneves, Kanaan and Willy T. Ribbs, personality off the track was as much a calling card in their careers as their success behind the wheel. 

“Nowadays it has to be interesting,” said Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner. “We talk about racing, it’s racing. But at the end of the day it’s entertainment. … Personality wise we have it all.”

Said Tracy: “One of the things that’s lost in today’s motorsports is the personalities … the guys who knew how to put on a show on and off the race track. Things are pretty sterile now. The group that we have together in this SRX, there’s a lot of personalities. … I think it’s going to create a lot of excitement.” 

SRX Series driver Marco Andretti said drivers not being bound to individual sponsors could help loosen the personalities even more. 

“This series can surprise you,” Andretti said. “When you look at the characters that we have. This could be pretty darn entertaining to watch and I think it’s just because it’s so unique. And you’re going to see guys that they’re at the point in their careers where they’re going to do interviews and maybe say stuff they wouldn’t when you have all this branding and sponsors. And I think people want to see that. They want to see the genuine what we are and who we are. It will be real, it will be raw and it will be fun.” 

Said Stewart: “We want to be able to showcase … what makes these drivers who they are. It’s more to it than just what they do behind a steering wheel. … That is what motorsports is lacking. It has got so put under the thumb of corporate America. Say the right thing, do the right thing.”

And while the banter on camera outside of the cars at SRX events will likely be jovial and friendly, drivers have made it clear they’re taking the competition as seriously as anything they’ve done in their racing careers. 

“It’s going to be fun,” said Castroneves, who won his fourth Indianapolis 500 on May 30. “I tell you what, even though we’re friends and we have relaxed relationships, as soon as you put the helmet on, there is no friendship. We’re just going to go for it. That’s where you’re going to see the real racing. They’re going to have great entertainment for us.” 

Said Kanaan: “One thing that’s going to be good, we’re going to be competitive. I don’t think you’re going to see fist fights, but it’s going to be a competitive series and we all want to win.” 

Despite being some of the biggest names in motorsports, many of the competitors feel lucky to have gotten the invite to be part of the inaugural season for the series. 

“As far as being picked to be in this show?,” Ribbs said. “This is a big gig. CBS live nationally? There’s a lot of drivers that would love to be in this show. They’d pay to be in it. It’s a great honor to be picked, but it’s going to be a great honor to go put on a show. That’s what we are there to do. Race each other, but we’re going to put on a show.” 

Said Tracy: “First and foremost, it’s an honor to be just invited to this. The amount of people – current drivers and guys that have been shortly retired and guys that have been out of the sport for a long time – that have called me and said ‘How do I get in this? I want in this.’ I give them Ray’s number. … Just to be invited to this thing I think is a huge honor.” 

Kanaan looks at the roster and only sees the potential for growth. He said he remembers being in the room for a recent media shoot and looking in awe at the group of competitors put together. 

“We got together and I was looking in that room when we did the shoot, you’re looking around and you’re like ‘Man, I’m around some people that have accomplished a lot in motor racing.’” Kanaan said. “If each one of us will bring our fanbase to it, it will be the biggest series in America, if not the world.” 

Comments

  1. Robby Gordon would have been a good fit for this. Will be interesting tonight!

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