Superstar Racing Experience
Johnny Benson Jr. Added to SRX Driver Roster at Berlin
Jul 29, 2023
One week ago, Kyle Busch won in his Camping World SRX Series debut at Pulaski County Motorsports Park (VA). This Thursday, Busch will once again take on the Superstar Racing Experience roster, this time at a short track venue he’s quite familiar with.
This week’s stop for SRX is Berlin Raceway, a tricky 7/16-mile oval near the Grand Rapids area of West Michigan. It’s a track where Busch has raced, and won, in Late Model competition multiple times over the years.
At one time, Busch even hosted a race at the track, known in its later years as the Rowdy 251. He was a three-time winner in the event, and he’s also finished third in the Money in the Bank 150 Super Late Model event at Berlin.
While Busch’s most recent visit to Berlin did not go as well as he hoped, he has plenty of fond memories of the track.
“The last race I ran there, that was about the time in which the Super Late Model program was on the downhill and we were shutting it down,” said Busch. “Effectively, was crew chiefing myself, and I couldn’t quite the feel I was looking for in the race car to be fast and get the turn through the corners where I needed it to keep the tires on it. I had to push too hard through the race, wore the tires out too much and didn’t have a great event.
“The years prior to that, I had really good cars, really fast, always up front. Johnny VanDoorn is another local hero from the Michigan favorite who was very fast, and I remember him being one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever been around.”
Busch will have that success at Berlin to lean on Thursday night with SRX, but he acknowledges the SRX machines are considerably different than the Late Models he has typically driven there.
“To me, it’s going to be about learning what the car can do,” explained Busch. “The cars I’ve raced at Berlin before are vastly different than these things. Having a heads-up of how the track likes to be raced is a good starting point.
“Then, figuring out how to apply the driving techniques of the other car to this car and making my way around the speedway with the most speed to be the fastest, that’s going to be the biggest thing.”
Still, that experience will be more than some drivers will have when they arrive in Michigan. Busch remembers how challenging the track was when he first raced there, finishing 11th in an ASA National Tour event in 2002.
“Berlin is a very challenging, tricky track. I remember showing up there for the first time with the ASA series in 2002 and feeling like I was a fish out of water. I was lost. It took a little bit of time to figure that place out.”
With its long, sweeping curves and an abrasive racing surface, Busch expects tire management to be key for whoever takes the win Thursday night.
“This is a really round, sweeping race track, so brake isn’t going to be as important. The tires are going to be the biggest thing. It’s an old, worn-out surface.”
Whether it’s Pulaski County last week, Berlin this week, or wherever we may see Busch in a future SRX event, he is excited about the attention the series brings to grassroots short tracks, and the atmosphere those fans bring to the event.
“The coolest part about it all is probably the short track atmosphere, right? Going to all these different short tracks across America, getting some recognition to some of these great short tracks that put on some great racing and have been around for a long time. The crowd shows up.
“Stafford has been big. I know Berlin is huge, all the people up there in Michigan love their racing. I’ve been to Berlin, I’ve raced there a few times, so I’ve been fortunate enough to see that firsthand. You see a lot of these great short tracks, and the fans turn out to watch SRX.
He also hopes that some fans who might be making their first trip to Berlin this week to see stars such as himself, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, or any of the other familiar names in the field will become fans of the track.
“Maybe some people from the local areas will come out and support the SRX race and say, you know what, this is pretty cool. Let’s come see the local stars next week or a month from now or whenever that might be.”
-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America