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Marco Andretti returns to SRX to defend championship

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - AUGUST 23: Marco Andretti, driver of the #98 U. S. Concrete / Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda, stands on the grid prior to the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 23, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(AP) — Marco Andretti will attempt to defend the only professional championship of his career when he returns this summer to Superstar Racing Experience, the all-star series created by Tony Stewart.

Andretti was among five IndyCar drivers named Tuesday to the series, which last week confirmed Stewart would return to run the full six-race season. Stewart won the inaugural SRX championship in 2021.

Andretti, who also plans to enter the Indianapolis 500 again this year, is an original SRX full-time competitor and returns for the third season of the series. SRX raced its first two years on Saturday nights but moves to ESPN this summer on Thursday nights for a recreation of the network’s original “Thursday Night Thunder” motorsports programming.

“My Thursday nights are a lot more interesting this year and looking forward to driving against even more of my fast friends this season,” Andretti said. “Can’t wait to have a shot at trying to win it again. I’m feeling more and more comfortable in the Cup guy’s sandbox.”

The Ray Evernham-designed cars used in SRX are more suited for drivers with a NASCAR background, which is why it has taken all-stars from the open-wheel disciplines a bit longer to compete for wins. But it hasn’t stopped the interest, and the crop announced Tuesday includes current IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden, Indianapolis 500 entrant Tony Kanaan, former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and SRX resident villain Paul Tracy, who will return for a third season.

Helio Castroneves, a four-time winner of the Indy 500, had previously announced he’ll run three races this summer.

Hunter-Reay, both a former IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner, will compete in all six races alongside Andretti, Stewart and Tracy, among others. Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar champion, will race at the Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia on July 27. Kanaan will race at Stafford Speedway in Connecticut, Thunder Road Speedway in Vermont and Stewart-owned Eldora Speedway in Ohio.

“One of the most appealing things to me about competing in SRX is the ability to run at some of these historic short tracks where some of the legends of motorsports have competed,” Newgarden said. “Motor Mile Speedway is another historic track that has hosted racing for decades. I’ve heard it’s a true short track with demanding racing and lots of paint swapping. It should be a great race.”

SRX has previously announced planned participation from NASCAR stars Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer, who will all be newcomers to the all-star series. SRX pits drivers from various disciplines in identically prepared cars.