(CBS Local)- The Superstar Racing Experience goes green flag in just two weeks when the drivers take the track at Stafford Speedway in Connecticut on June 12. Taking on short tracks in the dirt with cars built specifically for the series that are slightly different than what some of the drivers are used to, the series aims to show off the skill of the legends and young guns on Saturday nights this summer. For Willy T. Ribbs and Paul Tracy, they know there will be some adjustment period.
“I think for me, the issue is going to be not overdriving the car. These are short tracks and this is a car that’s built around, based around a stock car, but it’s more or less kind of a road race car. It’s a square chassis but you’ve really got to slow things down,” Tracy said on a media call Wednesday. “It’s not like I haven’t driven in a long-time, I’ve been driving some Trans Am cars and some LMP3 cars and you have to hustle those cars to get a lap time and the guys that have done a lot of stock car racing, they know how to run these short tracks. I think for me the big thing is going to be not trying to manhandle the car and make it do something it doesn’t want to do.”
Ribbs points to tire management, making sure that the car maintains throughout the 100 lap race as one of the key areas he’s focused on with this particular car. Though it make take some time for him to adjust to that, there’s one thing he’s fully prepared for, trading some paint along the way.
“The 100-lap main is going to be 50-miles on a half-mile. You talk about tire management? I think (Tony) Stewart and (Bobby) Labonte and some of the other drivers, they learned how to manage the tires. That’s what they grew up on,” Ribbs said. “You have to manage how many people you’re going to hit too because there’s going to be some banging baby, I can tell you that right now. Whoever’s watching this, they’re going to get a thrill.”
In addition to the excitement the two veteran drivers have for getting behind the wheel and adjusting to this new format, they are thrilled to see young drivers like Ernie Francis Jr. get a shot to prove their mettle.
“I’ve watched him and I’ve been telling the press for the last year that Ernie should be in IndyCar right now. He should be in IndyCar or the Cup Series,” Ribbs said of Francis Jr. “The sport has reached out for diversity and well, you don’t have to reach very far. I’m glad he’s in the SRX championship for a lot of reasons. One, he deserves to be there. Two, the world needs to see him.”
Tracy agrees and added that it’s difficult in racing today for younger drivers to make their way up through the ranks so SRX gives some an opportunity to shine.
“I have to completely agree with Willy on that. I’ve seen Ernie race and looked at his credentials and you know in this sport now it’s just so difficult to work your way up the ladder and Ernie has been a winner in everything he’s done,” Tracy said. “The doors of opportunity have never really opened up to even get a test or a try in a top flight open wheel or NASCAR. I feel that he deserves a chance or an opportunity.”
The 23-year-old Francis Jr. is a seven-time champion on the Trans Am series and has won 46 races and 47 poles on the series. He’s excited to get the opportunity to race against the veterans and show his adaptability in driving these cars.
“I don’t know if I really have an advantage, some of these guys I’m racing against have so much experience, years more experience than I have and in things where they drive a lot of short tracks or stock cars in general,” Francis Jr. said. “My background has always been road course racing growing up doing go kart racing and then TransAm World Challenge. It’s really not been much of short track experience in my past. But, I think being a young driver I can adapt pretty well. I think I can figure it out and see how it goes.”
The Superstar Racing Experience inaugural season gets underway at Stafford Speedway in Connecticut on Saturday, June 12 on CBS.