Following two seasons on summer Saturday nights on CBS, the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) will head to ESPN on six Thursday nights in the summer of 2023. It will run Thursdays from July 13 to August 17, starting at 9 p.m. ET each night, and that will see the network bring back the Thursday Night Thunder branding they used for grassroots motorsports programming in the 1980s. SRX co-founder, co-owner and 2021 champion Tony Stewart said in a release he’s thrilled to see this move, considering that some of his first high-profile races came on the old Thursday Night Thunder:
“Thursday Night Thunder is where guys like me, who were just starting our careers in USAC, got the chance to make a name for ourselves because of its presence on ESPN,” said Stewart, SRX Co-Founder and 2021 SRX Champion. “It’s great to see Thursday Night Thunder return, but to also be a part of it all over again with SRX.”
That release also has some notable quotes from other ESPN and SRX figures.
Don Hawk, series Chief Executive Officer, said: “When we had the opportunity to pitch the concept of Thursday Night Thunder on ESPN, it was my firm belief this would be another disruptive and monumental moment in SRX and racing history – reuniting race fans with ESPN on short tracks with Superstar drivers all across the U.S. for years to come.”
“Thursday Night Thunder is where I met Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. A relationship between SRX and ESPN seemed like the right fit at the perfect time, and I couldn’t be more excited for this summer.”
“SRX has been an impressive property in its first two seasons and has produced competitive and exciting action,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN President, Programming and Original Content. “We look forward to bringing live racing back to summertime Thursday nights on ESPN with SRX.”
Sandy Montag, SRX Co-Founder, said: “Seeing the overwhelmingly positive fan reception to the launch and growth of SRX has been especially rewarding. I have worked with Jimmy [Pitaro] and Burke [Magnus] for years, and we are incredibly excited to be in business with ESPN, and can’t wait to see SRX on the Worldwide Leader.”
The SRX series sees stars from various racing series, including NASCAR, IndyCar, and more race against each other in identically-prepared cars on different short tracks across the country (a July 10 race at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is seen at top). As Lindsay Czarniak, who hosted the series while it was on CBS, told AA in 2021, part of the appeal here is seeing these different motorsports legends going head to head:
“I think that this series has the right recipe of the people, the locations that we’re going, and the format that they’ve come up with. It’s really cool that we can explain to people and let them see for themselves why we love it so much.”
“When you’re talking about the men and women that are racing, they are legends in different aspects of racing. So the fact that we have the guy that just won his fourth Indy 500, that’s just off-the-charts awesome that Hélio Castroneves is even a part of this. It’s the people that make it up and the fact that they’re all going to be driving the same race car, there is nothing different. It’s a level playing field. And they’re from not only IndyCar, but NASCAR and different parts of racing.”
“So to me, there are levels in it; it’s who can adjust on the fly. The competition is really cool out of the gate because of the people in it, the multi-time champions. Also, they know what it takes to be the best. So that element plus the element of rivalry that we know exists between certain competitors that are going to be in our series makes it really exciting, intriguing. And there is no limit on the trash talk ability, we know that. We know these guys are doing this in prime time and they want to win. There are bragging rights, and there are high stakes.”
Stewart won the inaugural SRX championship in 2021, and Marco Andretti won it last year. We’ll see how the series’ move to Thursdays and to cable works out for it.
[ESPN; photo from Alan Poizner/The Tennessean, via USA Today Sports]