RX Series Back To Stafford Speedway For Second Event Of 2023

In the brief history of the Camping World SRX Series, Stafford Motor Speedway has served a big role as part of some historic firsts. 

The first SRX Series in the division’s history was held at Stafford Speedway in 2021. When the 2023 SRX Series schedule was announced, Stafford became the first track to be on the series schedule for three consecutive years. 

And Thursday’s second of six SRX Series events in 2023 – at Stafford Speedway for the second consecutive week – will mark an unexpected first in the relationship between the SRX Series and the historic half-mile paved track 25 minutes of Hartford. 

Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont was scheduled to host the second event on the 2023 SRX Series schedule. Due to historic and catastrophic flooding and the declaration of a federal state of emergency, SRX officials in conjunction with Thunder Road management and the governor of Vermont, decided it was in the best interest of all involved to cancel the series’ visit to Thunder Road. Track management has been guaranteed a spot on the 2024 series schedule.  

“After two days of many conversations between [Thunder Road co-owner] Cris Michaud and [Vermont] Governor Phil Scott – and then me sharing that information with the ownership and leadership of SRX, along with our television partner ESPN – the decision was made that it would be in the best interest of the community in Barre and Vermont in general that we not bring our large operational group into an already impaired state and cause further stress on an already impaired infrastructure,” SRX CEO Don Hawk said. “The forecast indicated that they would likely get several more inches of rain last week and this week after there was already a declared federal state of emergency in the area, which happened.” 

After the decision was made that going to Thunder Road wasn’t feasible, series management tackled the decision of how to replace Thunder Road. 

“We explored many options available to us,” Hawk said. “Other tracks, other states, and every single time we came back to ‘Why not stay here?’ We know Stafford can deliver a great crowd and a great show. I just felt like it was best to hold in place. And before Stafford would 100 percent commit to taking on the event, [track Chief Operating Officer] Paul Arute called Cris Michaud to make sure he was alright with the plan. That says a lot about the Arute family and how they operate and work with the short track family in New England.” 

It means Stafford Speedway – which has been owned and operated by the Arute family for over 50 years – will become the first track to host the SRX Series four times and also twice in one season. 

“If you’re in a bind, you go to family,” Hawk said. “The Arute’s are like family to the SRX Series now.” 

Stafford hosted the inaugural series event on June 12, 2021. That event saw track veteran and six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby best the superstars on his home turf. Last year Stafford played host to the third event on the series schedule, which featured a wildly popular victory for former NASCAR star Ryan Newman. Last Thursday the 2023 season kicked off for the SRX with Denny Hamlin winning in his series debut with Newman finishing second. 

“Stafford has always produced really good racing,” SRX Series co-founder and 2021 series champion Tony Stewart said. “It’s a fun, unique track. It’s a very technical track for — you don’t hear people talk about technical tracks, not technical tracks too often anymore, but Stafford is very unique. It’s got elevation change in Turns 1 and 2. It’s kind of a double apex corner. Turns 3 and 4 it’s kind of a decreasing radius, so to speak, so it gives the drivers a lot of options on where to go depending on how their driving style matches the car.” 

The 10,000 seat facility has sold out for all three series events it has hosted.

Fans will see a different lineup from the season opening event. Gone from the opening race lineup are Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.  

In addition to Stewart and Newman, the full-time roster for the series for 2023 features 2022 SRX Series champion Marco Andretti, Hallie Deegan, Ken Schrader, Bobby Labonte and Paul Tracy. Other part-time drivers in the field include Kenny Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Greg Biffle and Tony Kanaan. And a 13th addition to the field was made after the decision to return to Stafford for the second consecutive week. Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR Cup Series regular Ryan Preece was added to the lineup. Preece, a Berlin, CT native is a former regular and track champion at Stafford. 

“Everything that’s going on up in here in Vermont, my thoughts and prayers are for all the families that are losing a lot right now,” Preece said. “And I’m a huge fan of Thunder Road myself. … Stafford is a place that’s near and dear to my heart. … When [the SRX Series] called and this opportunity came up, I said ‘I’ve got to do it.’”

While Preece has plenty of laps around Stafford, and Biffle finished second at the 2021 Stafford SRX event, Suarez and Wallace are coming in blind against a field that raced at the track last week. 

“You can look at it that I’m at a disadvantage, but I know I can adapt quick,” Suarez said. “I think I adapt to places quicker than most. I think we’ll be fine. I just have to make sure I can learn the car quickly and learn the track quickly. I’ll have the two heat races to catch up with all of them. 

“I watched the race from last week. I think I learned some things just from watching that. I think that’s most of the preparation I can do. I think it was good racing watching it. I think it’s going to be fun. It looked like everyone was having fun out there.”