(CBS Local)- A month of Camping World SRX Series races are now in the books and just two races remain in its inaugural season. On deck this week for the drivers? Slinger Super Speedway, the track billed as the world's fastest quarter mile oval. That designation is precisely why CBS pit reporter Matt Yocum has had this weekend circled on his calendar since the announcement of the track list earlier this year.
"This is a race, I've been waiting for the entire summer six pack of SRX racing. It's a quarter mile, basically, a bowl. And I always go back to when Dick Trickle and Darrell Waltrip used to say that Bristol, was like a jet fighter in a gymnasium," Yocum said. "It's a fast, high-banked quarter mile. It's 11-12 second laps. And when something happens, it's happened, and you're already involved in it before you realize what has happened."
The sheer speed that comes with those quarter of a minute laps will likely lead to a fair share of scrapes and bumps for the drivers as Yocum notes. The nature of the track and style of racing expected this weekend lends itself well to what Yocum calls the core mission of the broadcast: fun.
"The driver is the story. I love standing around, listening to the conversations while those guys are practicing or sitting in the drivers lounge, while those guys are yucking it up and busting on each other and telling stories," Yocum said. "And we've tried to deliver a little bit of that which is top, but we really attempt deliver more of the personalities, the fun. When you think of our show, fun is the first word that comes to mind, because every time we walk through the gate. It's a fun day at the track with those guys."
The whole driver lineup has been having fun with the series thus far, but Ernie Francis Jr., the youngest of the regular drivers, has turned the fun into an opportunity to showcase his talent on a national stage. The 23-year-old picked up the win at Lucas Oil Raceway last week and sits second in the series points standings behind Tony Stewart.
Francis Jr. has plenty of winning pedigree, a seven-time Trans Am champion, but entering the summer, the casual motorsports fan and maybe even some in the industry didn't know much about him. That, Yocum says, is quickly changing.
"Here's a kid that is 23 years old and is an old soul in a way of how he approaches racing, getting up to speed. How calm he is but yet how fiery he can get to where he's not going to be roughed up. He isn't going to be pushed around. And how you race him that's how he's gonna race you. That's old school Mark Martin type racing," Yocum said. "I think he is just as talented as Kyle Larson. I think he is just as talented as a young Tony Stewart to me."
He's not the only comparatively unknown (relative to the series' legends) driver to set himself up for opportunities after the series. Doug Coby, the winner at Stafford, turned that success into a truck series ride. This week, 17-year-old Luke Fenhaus will get his shot at competing with the series legends after becoming the youngest ever Slinger Nationals Late Model race on Tuesday. Don't let his age fool you, Fenhaus is coming to the track Saturday with one goal: win.
"I'm really looking forward to the experience and talking to everyone and really enjoying the moment, going to soak it in. But, I'd like to run really well, even win if possible," Fenhaus told reporters. "We'll see how good testing goes and how I get a hold of the feel for the car. I'm not sure how they drive, not sure how much weight they hold in the shocks. It's going to be interesting for sure but we're going to try to win."
Yocum notes that giving opportunities like this to racers like Fenhaus, Coby and Francis Jr. were part of the overall vision for the series when Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart were putting it together. The chance for a national audience to discover a new racing superstar.
"You've got an opportunity for a kid who maybe nobody except in the state of Wisconsin even knows who he is in Luke Fenhaus. He gets an opportunity to race against the biggest names in the sport and help put himself on the map and that's what Ernie Francis has done," Yocum said. "That's what Ray Evernham said, it's a series to have an opportunity to see the big names come back out, but it's also a series that gives the opportunity to make a superstar, out of somebody, people have never heard of."
The Camping World SRX Series at Slinger Super Speedway is set for 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 10 with coverage on CBS Television Network and streaming on Paramount+.
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