Star SRX race car drivers gear up for unknown Slinger Speedway

Greg Biffle knows a guy. Bobby Labonte too. Unfortunately, it’s the same guy.

Helio Castroneves isn’t sure telling anyone about Slinger Speedway would really help.

And Hailie Deegan was looking for a video to understand the song. From there, she’ll trust her instincts as she and the other Superstar Racing Experience riders cover the tough quarter-mile on Saturday to race for the first time.

Luke Fenhaus has a different problem. Even at 17, he knows all about Slinger. His challenge will be to quickly figure out how to drive an SRX car that is similar, but not nearly enough, to the super late model he drove to victory at the Slinger Nationals on Tuesday night.

Biffle, Labonte, Castroneves and Deegan are among the national drivers and Fenhaus the local who will compete on Saturday in the fifth of six rounds of SRX, the TV-designed series that pits 12 drivers of various racing forms against each other. on classic American short tracks live on CBS.

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Ten of them haven’t even seen Slinger in person.

“Each race track has its own little quirks,” Biffle said. “Maybe Turn 1 is a different entrance to Turn 3. Watch it if you climb up, coming out of Turn 2 there’s a big bump that will suck you into the wall.

“And I’m definitely going to call Matt Kenseth because he’s done a lot of laps around this race track. And I’m glad he’s not in this race because he would definitely be a shoo-in for this track. race.

Kenseth, the 2003 NASCAR champion from Cambridge, first raced at Slinger over 30 years ago and won the Slinger Nationals, the track’s flagship annual event, a record eight times. Biffle, who is competing in the second of his two SRX races, is a champion in what is now the Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series. They were teammates for 15 seasons at Roush Fenway Racing.

“Now that Greg is going to talk to Matt and that they’ve been teammates, I probably won’t get the same information from Matt,” said Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR Cup champion.

“I know a few. I’m probably going to talk to a few people (including Erik Jones, who just managed the Nationals) and watching a video is probably the most important thing. In short track racing, I ran on flat quarter mile tracks, but not on an incline track like this.

Castroneves might have the biggest fit. As the most recent quadruple winner of the Indy 500, his favorite track is 10 times longer than Slinger.

“My intention is just to show up and see what happens,” Castroneves said. “Even if I watch videos I won’t understand much because these cars are definitely completely different from what I expected.

“The concentration is just amazing because it’s such a short track that you have to hit the goals all the time. … Let’s see how it goes. “

Deegan replaces Castroneves’ longtime friend Tony Kanaan, another Indy winner, who misses two of the SRX events due to scheduling conflicts with some races he does in Brazil. She finished second behind championship leader Tony Stewart in her dirt series debut in Knoxville, Iowa.

Deegan, 19, is in his first full season in the truck series. She said she found the SRX car – which is built on a specially designed platform similar to a recent model and powered by the same engines used in the truck series – had some of the same handling characteristics. than his usual conduct.

“I’ve never been to Slinger before, so I guess I’m going to have to do my little in-depth debriefing, try to figure out the track by looking at past races, probably watching the latest model races and seeing what happens there. -low, ”Deegan said.

“(I’m gonna) try to see how people set up passes and different things like that, reboots.”

Fenhaus knows all about these things. The senior rider in the weekly races from Wausau East High School in Slinger this season, led 111 laps of the 200 national laps and won in a mogul and race battle with Derek Kraus to win entry as “local hero” on the evening of Saturday night. race.

These are the cars he knows little about. Due to his own racing commitments, Fenhaus saw some of the first race at Stafford Speedway in Connecticut, but not much SRX action since. During a Zoom call on Wednesday, Michael Waltrip – the only other SRX rider to have raced at Slinger – offered a glimpse of Fenhaus.

“They have a lot of power and not a lot of grip,” said Waltrip. “The challenge will be huge, but when you know the track the way you do, I think it will help you get used to it quickly.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner also told Fenhaus to expect contact. Paul Tracy, a 31-time CART and Champ Car winner, has earned a reputation as SRX’s toughest rider, but he’s not the only single-seater rider who has learned to use his bumper.

“I want you to have the time of your life,” Waltrip said. “You want to be respectful. You don’t want to just eliminate people. We also saw a bit of it. But rubbin is running, and I know how hard this Slinger trail is. I would expect a bump from you if that’s what it takes to win.

Fenhaus, who skips a scheduled ARCA Midwest Tour race to run SRX – “a no-brainer,” he said – is up to the challenge.

“I’m really looking forward to it; I’m really excited to see how the cars will react,” said Fenhaus. “Slinger is such a tricky track.… There are creases on the track and bumps on the track. , and you have to move.

“I just don’t know how the brakes will react, the tires, the horsepower. I’m just going to study a few videos and hopefully get a good idea right away on Saturday and try to go from there.

Everyone has a learning curve.