Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Why Did The SRX Cancel Their Season?

Let us know what you think

Join the conversation on socials

What’s Happening?

The Superstar Racing Experience shocked everyone by announcing on Thursday that they would be canceling their 2024 season. They cited “Market factors” as the reason for the cancellation, but let’s dive deeper into what went wrong. Why did the SRX cancel their season?

  • This announcement was a surprise to many. The SRX had become a popular series amongst motorsports fans, and they had been announcing dates and tracks for the 2024 season. The timing of the announcement is interesting, as Ray Evernham is looking at reintroducing IROC in the 2024 season.
  • The SRX was formed by Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham in 2021, and it was heavily influenced by IROC. Since then, Evernham has left the series and Don Hawk joined as the series CEO. The series featured current and former racing stars on short tracks across the country.
  • Fans were shocked to hear the announcement. Many tried to come up with their own theories and reasons for why the SRX shut down after only three years.

Costs

When the SRX says “Market factors”, that usually means money, and Adam Stern reports that cost issues compared to revenue were exactly the reason behind the closing. However, that only leads to more questions. What actually caused the costs to rise?

Well, racing is not cheap. The costs of constantly fixing the same cars to go to the track every week certainly added up. It’s possible that constantly fixing or refurbishing race cars just became too much for the series to bear. However, that could be offset by bringing in more revenue.

What caused the costs to revenue ratio to move to such an unsustainable level? There are a few reasons for that.

The TV Partner

The SRX switched TV partners for the 2024 season. They went from CBS on Saturday nights to ESPN on Thursday nights in a revival of the “Thursday Night Thunder” series. This meant that the SRX went from a weekend primetime slot on network TV to a weeknight slot on cable. The result was TV viewership down from around 1 million per race to 436,000 per race, around a 56% drop from one year ago.

SRX apologists will chalk that up to the races moving from network TV to cable, which certainly is part of it. In 2023, NASCAR Cup Series races had about 40% less viewership on cable compared to network TV.

Still, 56% is a bigger drop than the Cup Series had over a full season. No matter how you slice it, going from 1 million viewers per race to just over 400,000 per race is not a good look.

Is it possible that ESPN pulled out? That’s unlikely since the two had a multiyear agreement. ESPN did put out a statement about the SRX shutting down saying, “We enjoyed our relationship with the SRX and wish them all the best”.

A better place to look is advertisers. How does the SRX convince advertisers to come back if both products are being seen by less than half of the people it used to? Advertisers likely did not want to stay with a series that was pulling in 436,000 per race when they were used to getting 1 million. If advertisers leave, that means less income for the series.

This leads to another question. why did viewership go down? Well, there are a couple of reasons for it.

The Driver Lineup

Compare the 2021, inaugural, SRX driver lineup to the 2023, season 3, SRX driver lineup. As time went on, the series became more NASCAR-centric and less diverse.

In 2021, the full-time lineup featured 4 NASCAR drivers, 2 IndyCar drivers, and 2 Trans-Am drivers. The part-time lineup had 2 NASCAR drivers (40%), only one of which had any Cup Series experience, 1 IndyCar driver, 1 Rallycross driver, 1 Late Model Dirt Series driver, and a “Local legend” from the track hosting the race every week.

Of the 19 drivers who competed in the SRX in 2021, only seven (37%) were NASCAR drivers. Only one was competing full-time in NASCAR, Chase Elliott, who was the “Local legend” at the Nashville Fairgrounds.

In 2023, 7 of the 8 full-time drivers were NASCAR drivers. Of the 20 part-time drivers, 13 of them were NASCAR drivers. The local legend was gone as well.

Of the 28 drivers who competed in the SRX in 2023, 20 of them (71%) were NASCAR drivers. Nearly half (9/20) of those drivers were full-time NASCAR drivers during that season. The field became far less diverse, which made it less appealing to race fans of other series.

Now, NASCAR is clearly the most popular motorsport in the United States, so, in theory, more NASCAR drivers means more fans interested. However, the SRX got away from its roots by focusing so heavily on NASCAR. Many of the drivers competing were drivers that fans could tune in to watch on Sundays in faster cars and at more prominent tracks. Speaking of which…

The Track Lineup

Giving local short tracks this type of attention is awesome for die-hard racing fans. It was awesome for me as well as I had never seen races at places like Stafford Speedway, Slinger Speedway, or Berlin. However, does this appeal to a broad enough audience when the fields become less diverse?

Look at NASCAR’s TV broadcasts for 2023 and 2024. Of the 12 races held at big, fast superspeedway tracks, Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta, 11 (91.7%) of those were or will be carried by network TV. Compare that to the 13 short track races at Richmond, Martinsville, Bristol, and Iowa. Only 5 (38%) of those races were shown on network TV. This includes races like the Bristol Night Race and NBC’s season opener at Iowa being on cable instead of network TV.

NASCAR does not put as many short-track races on network TV because it simply does not gather the same TV numbers as the more prominent tracks do. Now, the current short-track package may have something to do with that, but, still, it shows that fewer people tune in to short-track races.

Objectively speaking, does the average TV viewer care about a short-track race in a random part of the country on a Thursday night? As great as these race tracks are, they do not have the pull to a casual viewer that a Daytona, Talladega or even a Chicago Street Race has.

Then again, the viewership numbers were solid over the first two years, and these same types of tracks were being raced. The race track types have been one of the constants of the SRX, so, blaming the tracks may be a bit shortsighted.

Did IROC Have Anything to do with it?

The timing is certainly interesting. The same week that Ray Evernham announced IROC is returning, the SRX, which was heavily influenced by the old IROC series, is shutting down.

Evernham was one of the founders of SRX before he left the company. Is it possible that he knew that the series was in trouble, and he worked to start IROC up again as a result? Maybe, but, IROC and the SRX were two very different things.

Both series were based on taking equal cars and putting All-Star drivers from multiple racing series in them. However, that is as far as the similarities end. IROC featured mainly current stars on superspeedways and road courses, while the SRX featured mainly past stars on short tracks. These two series were very different. Bob Pockrass even said that IROC likely did not have an impact on the SRX shutting down.

What do you think about why the SRX shut down? Will it return in the future? We will have to see as time goes on.

Let us know what you think

Join the conversation on socials

Share this:

Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts