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Tony Stewart may have trouble keeping Stewart-Haas Racing in the upper echelon of NASCAR but give the man props for his marketing chops. A week after announcing a $1 million prize for the winner of a sprint car race at his Ohio track, the three-time Cup Series champion rolled out a savvy bit of scheduling for Year 3 of his Superstar Racing Experience (SRX).

NASCAR executives and track owners probably aren’t going to like it.

Tony Stewart has started rolling out plans for the 2023 SRX season

Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), a reasonable facsimile of the old IROC series, is beginning to roll out plans for 2023. Last week, SRX co-founder Tony Stewart announced the six-race competition is moving from Saturday nights on CBS to Thursday nights on ESPN.

That move is good news for the many small tracks around the country. The owners and competitors there want fans in the grandstands rather than at home watching past and present big names racing on TV.

We don’t know yet what the 2023 driver lineup will look like, but SRX released its schedule on Wednesday, and it once again is heavy with venues in northeastern and midwestern states.

The geography is a concession to logistics. The races run in consecutive weeks, and SRX builds and maintains the cars. That means staying close to the shop so the cars can be repaired and wrapped as necessary and still make it to the next track the following Thursday.

Tony Stewart’s SRX schedule is convenient for NASCAR drivers

Tony Stewart talks with his crew prior to the start of the SRX qualifying race at Sharon Speedway on July 23, 2022. | Jason Miller/SRX/Getty Images
Tony Stewart talks with his crew prior to the start of the SRX qualifying race at Sharon Speedway on July 23, 2022. | Jason Miller/SRX/Getty Images

Tony Stewart has the marketing gene in him, and he also knows how to save on expenses; he’s scheduled an SRX race into his own Eldora Speedway for the second time in three years. That’s also the track where Stewart is putting up a $1,000,023 prize to the winner of a sprint car race a month earlier.

Nearly the entire schedule is geared toward competing at venues that are a short hop from the NASCAR Cup Series race that weekend:

  • July 13: Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, with NASCAR in Loudon, New Hampshire, on July 16.
  • July 20: Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont, with NASCAR at Pocono on July 23.
  • July 27: Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia, with NASCAR at Richmond on July 30.
  • Aug. 3: Berlin Raceway in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with NASCAR at Michigan International on Aug. 6.
  • Aug. 10: Eldora Speedway in New Weston, Ohio, with NASCAR at Indianapolis on Aug. 13.
  • Aug. 17: Lucas Auto Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, with NASCAR at Watkins Glen on Aug. 20.

Stafford is the only track SRX has scheduled in each of its three seasons. However, the more important takeaway is how easy it will be for Cup Series drivers to commute from the first five tracks to their NASCAR obligations a couple of days later.

This could get uncomfortable for NASCAR executives

There was a little bit of geographical synchronization last season between SRX races on Saturday and NASCAR events on Sunday. However, Cup Series qualifying on Saturday typically made it impractical for drivers to consider double duty. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott raced at Sharon Speedway in Ohio on Saturday and then Pococo the following afternoon, but there was no other participation by active top-series drivers.

This time around, SRX co-founder Tony Stewart might find it easier to convince some big names to give it a try. Perhaps the recruitment can begin in the Stewart-Haas Racing garage. When Stafford Speedway tweeted out its race date and tagged Kevin Harvick, the future Hall of Famer responded, “Hmmm seems convenient.”

At some point, however, NASCAR is probably going to have a problem with Stewart’s scheduling. NASCAR and its tracks make money when fans buy tickets to their races. If those fans are spending money on Thursday at the SRX race, they might be less inclined to pay to watch nearby Xfinity Series action on Saturday or the Cup Series race on Sunday.

Stewart likely doesn’t care much about hurting NASCAR’s feelings after SHR got socked with back-to-back big fines late last season. But this could be setting the parties up for a showdown, especially if there are Cup Series drivers showing up in the majority of next season’s SRX events.

Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at [email protected].