ESPN is bringing speed and thunder to its Thursday night lineup during the summer.
The network has signed a multi-year deal with Tony Stewart’s Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) to bring “Thursday Night Thunder” back to TV.
Under the agreement, ESPN will exclusively air the SRX series for six consecutive Thursday nights in the summer of 2023. CBS Sports carried SRX this year.
“SRX has been an impressive property in its first two seasons and has produced competitive and exciting action,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s president of programming and original content, in a statement. “We look forward to bringing live racing back to summertime Thursday nights on ESPN with SRX.”
The series pits previous champions from NASCAR, IndyCar, and other circuits against each other. Details of the ESPN-SRX deal:
- The races are scheduled to be held from July 13-August 17, 2023 (all starting at 9 p.m. ET).
- SRX will announce racetrack locations at a later date.
- Race fans will also be able to watch via the ESPN app.
Since its founding in 1979, ESPN has televised various forms of auto racing, from NASCAR to Formula One.
Stewart was among the young stars who made their bones on short tracks before moving up to NASCAR.
“Thursday Night Thunder is where guys like me, who were just starting our careers in USAC, got the chance to make a name for ourselves because of its presence on ESPN,” said Stewart, the SRX co-founder and 2021 champion, in a statement.
Nicknamed “Smoke,” the legendary driver retired from NASCAR in 2016.
Stewart co-created SRX with super-agent Sandy Montag of The Montag Group, former NASCAR chief operating officer George Pyne, and NASCAR owner Ray Evernham.
Some of the sports’ biggest names have competed since 2021, including Chase Elliott, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Newman. Marco Andretti won the 2022 title.
Said Montag in a statement: “I have worked with Jimmy [Pitaro] and Burke [Magnus] for years, and we are incredibly excited to be in business with ESPN and can’t wait to see SRX on the Worldwide Leader.”
Given its long history with auto racing, ESPN could be a bidder for NASCAR’s media rights if incumbents Fox Sports and NBC Sports can’t agree next year.
NASCAR will likely be seeking a 10-15% increase in overall media rights fees, bringing its annual payout to $900 million to $950 million.