CBS Sports Hits the Road With F&F for Superstar Racing Experience Production
Short tracks are the focus of attention in the six-week series
The roots of auto racing invariably filter down from massive multimillion-dollar speedways to asphalt and dirt short tracks across America. For the next six weeks, some of those tracks will be front and center as the Camping World Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) brings 12 racing legends to small-town USA, bringing world-class drivers to world-class short tracks.
“Grassroots tracks on a Saturday night is something I think people will enjoy seeing because that is a really fun time, with tailgating and an electricity at the night races,” says Pam Miller, SRX producer, CBS Sports. “And each track has its little traditions. So having all of these guys who are icons and legends on the track with the families is pretty cool and a really great thing.”
An interesting aspect of the production is that the entire production team (about 70) will be onsite because many of the tracks simply don’t have the fiber and other connectivity required to transport signals to remote production teams, according to Jim Cornell, SRX director, CBS Sports. F&F Productions will provide production facilities, with GTX 20 A and B and GTX 12A onsite to provide ample space for the team. BSI will also be on hand with its truck for in-car–camera support.
“For the two hours we’re on the air,” says Cornell, “everything will be onsite. When people complain about not having internet service in certain places, it’s a reality that needs to be addressed and something we’ve experienced first-hand.”
SRX drivers include legends Tony Stewart, Bill Elliott, Tony Kanaan, Paul Tracy, Bobby Labonte, and 2021 Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves. Seeing well-established superstars with well-established rivalries racing in identical cars is something both Miller and Cornell are looking forward to. Local stars on each track will also be in the race, giving it a dimension unique to the event.
“The 12 guys are true characters,” says Miller, “and they will get into equal cars to try to see who’s the better driver and who has the most courage on that night. They may come across as friends, but, once they put that helmet on, they want to beat each other.”
Cornell is looking forward to the level of access to the drivers the production team will have. Not only are there only 12 of them, but they are not part of larger racing teams or league.
“We’re used having to deal with organizations that like to say no,” he says, “but everything so far has been yes, yes, yes. I think the guys at SRX realized that there’s also an entertainment part.” Access, he notes, ranges from being able to listen in to in-car communications live during the race to the different camera angles of the in-car cameras and the use of drones.
“We’re going to have access with the drones that is going to open up some eyes as to what other sports can do with them,” he says. “There’s a heavy drone and a lighter, high-speed drone, which I believe can go 50-70 mph. We’re not going to be able to keep up with the cars, but I don’t think we’re going to be blimp-distance away.”
Beverly Hills Aerials will provide the drone coverage, and Cornell hopes to get some unique angles on the action given how small the tracks are. “The drivers won’t be afraid to bump each other well, and I’ll be able to get a drone over the top and close enough to see the cars bumping each other, which will be interesting.”
Along with the personalities of the drivers are the features and differences of the tracks, beginning with that some are dirt tracks. The opening race will be held at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, CT, and SRX co-founder Ray Evernham says the open-wheel–modified division there has been a breeding ground for racing families.
“What we wanted to do was find historic tracks that have not just a difficulty factor but a great following, a great DNA in motorsports,” he explains. “[Stafford Motor Speedway] has sent many people up the ladder to stock-car racing, like the Bodines, the Bouchards, Richie Evans, and people like the Andrettis and Gordon Johncock, who have gone off to Indy.”
Miller says dirt tracks will also give viewers something brand new, especially since the races are in primetime. All six Camping World SRX Series races will be broadcast live on CBS, with broadcast coverage streaming live on Paramount+ Premium.
“There is a different feeling at a race on a dirt track,” says Miller, “and I don’t recall every having seen a dirt track in primetime on a network. That is going to be unique for people. The way these guys race on dirt is fascinating because it’s different. They have to go into the corners different, they have to have a cushion as they get closer to the wall, and they have to find grip and the places they can find an advantage.”
Each race will begin with two 15-minute heats that set up the main event, which will be 100 laps (Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin, because it is so short, will have 150 laps).
“You can’t breathe on a lap at Slinger as it’s a 10- to 12-second lap,” notes Miller. “Stafford is just really cool and feels like you’re at the old Fenway Park as you walk to the track through a neighborhood. There’s a great mix of heritage, and all the asphalt tracks even have different corners, different banking, and different challenges that I think will be just as exciting as the dirt tracks.”
CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus is already looking forward to the SRX finale at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
“From a television standpoint, it’s the perfect way to end our series,” he says. “Any time you hear the word fairgrounds, you think of great, historic, and traditional racing, and it’s pure Americana. I think this series has a very international flavor in many ways, but it’s also really an American product. To be at these historic tracks and to be at the fairgrounds and to be in a city that is as great as Nashville, I think, is great. I think it’s a dream come true from a television-production standpoint, and I think it’s going to be a great way to end the series.”