MetroSports Magazine Katie Swartvagher Reaching New Heights In Her Quest For The 2022 Olympics Kathreen Sterling Olympic Boxing Hopeful Fighting for a Higher Cause
Tony Stewart & Ray Evernhamâ€™s SRX Racing Born in White Plains NY
Tahl Leibovits is Tokyo-bound as he qualifies for his sixth Paralympics Games
BarrelUp Baseball Skills for Baseball and for Life
Contents July-August 2020
Features 4 Fighting For A Higher Cause New York City boxer, Kathreen Sterling sets her sights on the Olym pics 10 Reaching New Heights in Her Quest for the 2022 Olympics Fishkill NY native, Katie Swartvagher pursues her Olympic dreams 16 BarrelUp Baseball Building skills for baseball and for life 20 Tahl Liebovitz Heading to the Tokyo Paralympics Hard work and perseverence over come a hard life for a Queens, NY, Paralympic Gold Medalist 23 White Plains NY Continues Its Auto Racing Tradition Tony Stewart and Ray Evernhamâ€™s New SRX Racing Series was born in White Plains
Above: Kathreen Sterling. Photo Courtesy - Arturo Olmos
Cover Photo Courtesy: Miriah Johnson MetroSports Magazine | 1
Train Like a Champion. Train with a Champion. MetroSports Magazine’s former Athlete of the Month and cover of our May-June 2015 issue, Keisher “Fire” McLeod, a former NY Golden Gloves Champion, current NYS Flyweight Champion and current WIBA World Flyweight Champion can now be your personal boxing trainer at the world famous Gleason’s Gym.
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2 | July-August 2020
MetroSports Magazine (MSM) is published six times a year by the New York Sports Photo Group. MSM is available online and can be downloaded in electronic format for viewing on tablet and hand-held devices, laptop and desktop computers and purchased as full-color glossy print editions. Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Art Director: Warren Rosenberg Publisher: New York Sports Photo Group: nyspg.com Editorial Director / Sales: John Chuhran Director of Photography: Clark Thompson Social Media: Clark Thompson Photo Contributors: Warren Rosenberg, Miriah Johnson, Arturo Olmos, Jorja Vornheder, Pierre Swartvagher Advertising: For rate card contact firstname.lastname@example.org Please direct all inquiries to: email@example.com Visit us on the web at: MetroSportsMag.com
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Fighting for a Higher Cause
It is so promising to see younger girls competing in the sport of boxing. One reason I will never give up in my own mission is the Black girls behind me who need to see the work and commitment to the craft. By Warren Rosenberg
oxing can be a brutal sport. If you thought about the training required to reach the heights of boxing in pursuit of a place on the Olympic Boxing team, you’d likely not think of starting with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design from the prestigious Pratt Institute. That seems like an uncharacteristic step on the hopeful pathway to the Olympics of Brooklyn’s Kathreen Sterling. With ten amateur bouts under her belt, Kathreen didn’t start training to become a boxer until February 2016, after finishing her college studies and stepping into the ring for her first fight in June 2017. She competes in USA Boxing’s Elite Female class in the 112lb division. To date, she has amassed a combined collection of 9 rings, medals, trophies and belts.
As former professional boxer, Cara Castronuova, and Gleason’s Gym owner, Bruce Silverglade, have attested in previous MetroSports Magazine articles, the Sars Co-V 2 virus and the Covid-19 pandemic have wreaked havoc on the metro area boxing world, on business, and on life in general. The effect that the pandemic has had on Kathreen is, perhaps, more unusual. Normally training out of the Mendez Boxing gym in Manhattan under the guidance of her coach, Elliot Ness, and teaching boxing fitness classes at Shadowbox NYC in the Flatiron section of Manhattan, Kathreen has been quarantined out of the U.S. since February. During what were the days of naive normalcy before the mandatory restrictions were put in place on March, Kathreen traveled to Trinidad at the invitation of the Trinidad and Tobago Boxing Association to participate in a training camp with the national team in preparation for Continental Olympic Qualifiers. When the U.S. closed its borders to entry from that region
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on March 16th, she became stranded. For the past five months, Kathreen has been living and training at the gym in San Fernando, Trinidad, and working to find a way to return to New York. But that has not deterred her quest, for her fight is one with a greater purpose. Born in Queens, N.Y. and raised in Philadelphia, Kathreen is justifiably proud of her Haitian heritage. “While I have a ton of Haitian pride,
Above: Road in Marabella, Trinidad, where Kathreen gets in her road work while isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Courtesy - Kathreen Sterling Facing Page: Photo Credit: Arturo Olmos https://arturoolmos.com/
Photo: Warren Rosenberg MSG Sports & Entertainment
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I don’t want people to assume that all Haitian boxers engage with their heritage exactly the same. My experience being brought up in a Haitian household can only apply to me. That said, I personally have done a great deal of self-education on my background. I would say that what makes me tough is my ever-growing alignment with the spirit of the people that struggled for their humanity and dignity in a world committed to denying Haitians of those birthrights. I don’t quit because they couldn’t.” It was her participation in the recent Caribbean Championships where she defeated Jewel Lambert that perhaps helped to solidify her love of the sport of boxing and how it impacts her life. “My most memorable fight was the finals of Caribbean Championships in December 2019. I remember being extremely nervous before entering the ring due to the pressure of being the only Haitian boxer male or female to even show up to the international level event. In retrospect, I actually had such a full heart throughout the rounds and realized how spiritually fulfilling fighting is for me. The outcome of that tournament allowed me to initiate meaningful connections with various
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boxers and organizers in the Caribbean region. I proved to myself that with a focus on keeping my mind and spirit right beyond setbacks I could accomplish incredible things.” At a time when, justifiably, equality and justice have once again become front page news, Kathreen represents a person of intersectionality, someone who possesses the intersecting social categorizations of race and gender. Reflecting, in a recent social media post, on a young women she met at the training facility, Kathreen wrote that the, “highlight of last night’s sparring session was meeting the 14 year old novice competitor, Jayda! I have so much respect for her and how she approaches her craft. Her amateur career is also in great hands with her grandfather being the head coach of the Grenadian National Boxing Team. It is so promising to see younger girls competing in the sport of boxing. One reason I will never give up in my own mission is the Black girls behind me who need to see the work and commitment to the craft.” Her advice to young girls who look to follow in her footsteps is “work hard and smart, trust your intuition on who and what is good for
Above: Kathreen (right) with 14-year old Jayda. Photo Courtesy - Kathreen Sterling Below: Kathreen (blue) at Madison Square Gardenâ€™s Ring Masters Championships. Photo Credit - Warren Rosenberg
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Above and Facing Page: Kathreen Ster;ing (blue) at MSG’s Ring Masters Championships. Photo Credit - Warren Rosenberg
for you and your vision (always relinquishing anything else), and always make sure your dreams and goals outweigh the setbacks with devoted self-care and persistence.” When asked about why the quest for a spot on the Olympic Boxing Team was important to her, Kathreen told us that “the obvious history making aspect of the accomplishment is only scratching the surface of the positive impact. I also envision the vibrant change I can bring to life for Haitians living in Haiti (and Haitian decedents) in the form of boxing and social programs down the line after reaching my goals.” 8 | July-August 2020
As she moves forward toward her goal of qualifying for the Olympics with the postponed Qualifier taking place in March 2021, she expects to spilt her training time among gyms in NYC, Philadelphia, and Toronto in preparing for the event. And, in order to keep her weight where it needs to be “I’d love to thank UNVEIL NUTRITION for providing me with 100% plant based weekly meal preps delivered straight to me in *wartime* to assist in reaching optimal performance and that beloved 51kg on the scale! Ha! Their Instagram is @unveil_nutrition, please check them out!”
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Reaching New Heights in Her Quest for the 2022 Olympics
Katie Swartvahger has always exhibited daredevil tendencies. Most athletes can tell you when they first became interested in their chosen sport. But, at only 18 months of age, Katie could barely talk. Her proclivity for daredevil sports and her love of heights and acrobatics was evident as a toddler.
By Warren Rosenberg
s nineteen year-old Wappingers Falls New York native Katie Swartvagher tells it, “my parents decided I needed an outlet for all of my energy when they found me sitting atop our fridge which I had scaled at 18 months old. They immediately enrolled me in mommy and me gymnastics classes and I loved it. It made me more creative however, as I got a little taller I started climbing between our hallway walls and would drop onto unsuspecting passers-by as they made their way down the hall.” That could pose quite a challenge in a household with six siblings.
Above and Facing Page: Photo Credit - Jorja Vornheder Facing Page (Inset): Photo Credit - Pierre Swartvagher
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The road has not been easy for this fierce competitor who has suffered some serious injuries along the way. “When I was in fourth grade, I was training at gymnastics and fell off the bar. In doing so I fractured my tibia and my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ended up flipping over my kneecap.” . Her injury was diagnosed and a Tibial Spine Fracture. “I needed surgery to suture everything in my knee back in place. I ended up in a wheelchair for two months and in physical therapy for another six to get my knee to move again.
From NYC (inset) to Park City Utah
Above: Photo Credit Pierre Swartvagher
At the end of that six months, the day my surgeon told me I could go back to gymnastics, I was back in the gym. Even though my strength and flexibility was not what it used to be I wanted to be back on the floor flipping.” That might have been enough to discourage most people. It didn’t deter Katie. MetroSports Magazine had previously met Katie back in 2014 when we covered a State qualifying meet in gymnastics. At that time, Katie was training at Gold Star Gymnastics in Pleasant Valley, New York, under the tutelage of Adrianna Cepoi and her Romanian Olympians, Sorin Cepoi and Teodora Ungureanu. It was shortly after that, when 13-year old Katie came across a Facebook Ad placed by the U.S.A. Ski Team looking to recruit gymnasts into their athlete development program. Although she had never strapped on a pair of skis before, and had to start with the most basic of training, Katie applied. “I submitted a video to be reviewed and was invited to try out for the team. 12 | July-August 2020
“After they reviewed it they asked me to come try out for the Elite Aerial Development Program. I tried out three times, each time with an extremely talented group of people. They tested us rigorously for a week to see how well we did in water ramping, strength, flexibility and trampoline. In the strength tests they tested us on many things including handstand pushups, leg lifts, pull-ups, vertical jump, long jump, box jump and a few more. They had trampoline routines that we spent the week learning which they tested us on at the end of the week. After the third tryout camp I was asked to move to Lake Placid New York to live and train at the Olympic Training Center.” “I had never really skied before so when I got to the camp they taught me the basics. Out of the seven day camp I only actually ramped on three of the days, the other four were spent learning to hop-turn and ski straight. After that week I totally fell in love with Aerials. I tried out for
Above: Photo Credit -Warren Rosenberg Below: Photo Credit - Warren Rosenberg
Above: Photo Credit - Jorja Vornheder Below: Photo Credit - Jorja Vornheder
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the Elite Aerial Development Program two more times before making the team at the age of15.” She was one of only 12 teenagers selected from applicants across the country for a place on the team.” In August of 2016, the then 16 year old from Wappingers Falls, NY left home to live and train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Lake Placid, New York, where she remained for two years. A ninth grade student at the time attending John Jay High School, Katie transitioned to online schooling to complete high school and is currently pursuing online studies through Dutchess Community College. “When I lived at the Olympic Training Center, my day would start around 8 am with a full warm-up including a light workout and trampoline. After our warmup we would train at the water ramps for an hour and a half, go back to the OTC for lunch, and then right back to the ramps for another hour and a half. When we finished ramping for the day we would return to the OTC and have a workout and more trampoline time. Mondays we would do arms, Tuesdays and Fridays we would do 14 | July-Augist 2020
core, and Wednesdays and Saturdays we did leg circuits. We had off Thursdays and Sundays to recover and go do fun activities.” In July of 2018, Katie’s training site was moved across the country to Park City, Utah, where she has lived and trained, 40 weeks per year, for the past two years. That is where she is now and where MetroSports Magazine interviewed her. “In Utah training is a little different, because we don’t have immediate access to all the things we did in Lake Placid. Here, we train three days on one day off. We train six days a week, every month, for about 3 weeks. We have 5-7 days off at the end of each camp. Our training revolves around jumping trampoline and gym workouts. When we are no longer able to jump in the pool because it is too cold we transition to dry land training. Most of October and November is spent in the gym and on the trampolines. In November we build the air site from scratch and start training on it soon after. When our winter season comes to an end we’re back in the gym until the water ramps open up again.
“My next step is to do what I can to make the US National team. To do so I will have to win the North American Cup. Hopefully, we will have a competition season this year.” “I am still in touch with my former gymnastics coaches as well as some former Aerial coaches. They have always supported my dreams and helped me get closer to them. Without the help of Sorin Cepoi, Teadora Ungureanu-Cepoi, Adriana Cepoi, and my first Aerials coach Jaroslav Novak, I would not be where I am now. Sorin and Teadora shaped me into the flipper I am today. Adriana helped me fine tune my skills and strength when I was working towards the EADP. Jari taught me to ski, get off the jump, and land under pressure. I wouldn’t be where I am today without each and every one of them.” MetroSports Magazine asked the Olympians, Sorin and Teodora, what they remembered of Katie and what they thought of her chances to make the Olympic team. “Katie came to our gym as a level 5 gymnast. While she might not have shown the best of talent at that time, she had enormous drive to learn and progress her skills. She always dreamed of becomming an Olympian. Her mother told us that. We know that Katie will work very hard to achieve her dream to be an Olympian and she’ll find a way to do just that. We wish her the best of luck and we’re lookimg forward to see her on the podium at the Winter Olympics.” You can’t find a better Dynamic Gymnastics - Home of the Olympians, Sorin and Teodora 1949 East Main Street, Mohegan Lake, New York, (914) 528- 5437
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Building Skills for Baseball and for Life
of sports participation and training T hearebenefits well established and there are many pro-
viders of such programs throughout the New York Metro area - one such program is BarrelUp Baseball. The initial idea for BarrelUp Baseball began in the summer of 2018. As founder, owner and coach Jean Carlos Minier told MetroSports Magazine, â€œat that point it was just an idea that I wanted to bring to life. Our athlete training program really started to take off in a positive way in April 2019. Prior to that, in January 2019, I started a podcast along with my cohost, Darrell Polanco. Interest has continued to rise and we have welcomed our third member, Brando Cruz, who is also a cohost of the showâ€?. BarrelUp Baseball provides long term athletic development for young people who are interested in
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bettering their baseball skills and learn about the game through the podcast channel. Off the field we the organization is currently working on partnerships with top colleges and universities, working towards one day serving as a recruiting program with the goal of helping young athletes obtain athletic scholarships so that they can also further their education. As with many sports and athletic training programs, the Covid-19 pandemic has made operations difficult, if not impossible. During the winter months prior to Covid, training for both baseball and softball was conducted at the facility of A- Game sports in New Rochelle. During the summer months, training moved outdoors, to public baseball fields throughout Westchester County, the Bronx and Manhattan.
“When Covid-19 struck the nation, it was time to get creative and look for effective ways to keep my passion and business afloat”, Jean Carlos noted. “Webcam services like Zoom and Instagram live came in handy and allowed me to conduct my lessons virtually and effectively bridged the gap that has left many businesses in a bad state. I can say that I am grateful for technology”. With safety a primary consideration during the Covid-19 pandemic, BarrelUp Baseball is committed to providing baseball and softball training services to trainees who show no signs or symptoms of the virus, ensuring that they are safe and that I members of the staff are safe. “The most important aspect of continuing our training services throughout the Covid epidemic is to bring a sense of normalcy to our athletes and the community.” When selecting a provider of athletic training services, it is important to know who you will be working with and their background and experience in sports. Jean Carlos has been playing baseball for most of his life and has achieved many accomplishments. “My background in baseball dates back to the age of 4. I started playing the game at that early age as it was more than just a game in our culture, it’s a way of life that runs through the veins of the Dominican heritage. The first baseball league that I participated in, was the Van Cortland league in the Bronx New York. My talent was noticeably getting better at the time, better
Above: BarrelUp Baseball founder Jean Carlos Minier
to the point that my father sent me to live to Dominican Republic at the age of 11. The sole purpose of that move was to perfect my craft on the island with the best coaches in the world who reside there, and who have a long history of sending players to major league baseball (MLB).
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At the same time I continued my schooling but my main focus was baseball. I lived in the Dominican Republic for almost 5 years and at the age of 15, MLB scouts started to take notice of and interest in me. Unfortunately, our family business started failing and delinquency started to rise in the country and it was just not safe to live there anymore. I returned to the U.S. during my 10th grade year and played high school baseball for 3 years. I was way ahead of the baseball players here when it comes to talent and dedication. I posted insane offensive numbers throughout those three years with my best year being my senior year where I hit .696 for average with a .750 on base percentage. Colleges all around the country were interested in me but the one that really seemed intrigued was Dominican College up in Orange burgh New York, a Division 2 school that has a highly regarded baseball program.” “I went there for 2 years, my first year I got red shirted due to NCAA international student regulations. Even though I could not play in the
regular season, I posted pretty good numbers in the fall hitting over .300 average in a wood bat league. The following year, while battling minor injuries, the whole theme and tempo of the team changed, and many players who were considered to be starters the first year, lost their spot including myself. After my sophomore year I made the hardest decision of my life and I decided to hang up the cleats. I also transferred from Dominican to The College if Westchester where I completed my bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration.” When we posed the following question to Jean Carlos, we couldn’t have been more impressed with his inspirational answer. MetroSports: What’s next for BarrelUp Baseball when things get back to normal? Jean Carlos: Ideally we want to keep expanding our player development services throughout the tri-state area and make the necessary connections with college programs and MLB scouts to help those that have the same dream that I once had which was to play in the big leagues.
Above: When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the New York Metro region, BarrelUp Baseball founder, Jean Carlos Minier, put his business and social media marketing training to use, moving online to Instagram and YouTube.
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New York’s Tahl Leibovitz Qualifies for the 2021 Paralympics Games in Tokyo Hard work and persevernce overcome a hard life By Warren Rosenberg
The Thursday Night Live – T2 Challenge has certainly brought some exciting table tennis play to the Westchester Table Tennis Center. Over the course of the past four weeks, the talents of two U.S. Olympic team members and eight U.S.A. Table Tennis national team members have battled in the fast-paced and exciting T2 format. The match-up for week four highlighted the talents of the recently named U.S. Paralympic athlete, Tahl Leibowitz, as he went head-to-head against Jennifer Wu. Leibowitz, along with Ian Seidenfeld and Jenson Van Emburgh is one of three athletes named by USA Table Tennis as members of the U.S. delega20 | July-August 2020
tion to the 2020 Paralympic Games. Those games are now scheduled for 2021 in Tokyo. This will be Leibowitz’s sixth Paralympics game. Leibovitz is a Paralympic Gold Medalist having won his first Paralympics in the 1996 games in Atlanta. He is also a fifty-time champion in international Paralympic competitions, thirteen time Pan American Para Gold Medalist, and an inductee into the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame. While the challenges to be overcome by any para-athlete may be difficult, those faced by Tahl Leibowitz have been incredibly difficult, Photo on top of page: Courtesy Sean O’Nelii, USA Table Tennis
but they have not held him back. Born with the condition osteochondroma his early life was not easy, and not only because of this medical condition. Strife and addiction problems at home forced Tahl out onto the streets. As quoted in “The Times of Israel” (8/22/12) article by Hillel Kuttler, “Leibovitz often ran away from home or was kicked out by his father.” He quotes Leibovitz as saying, “My dad had problems with alcohol. At about 14, before I entered high school, I ended up living on the E train. I didn’t have anywhere to live. I’d play table tennis in the day, and at night I would take the trains.” didn’t have anywhere to live. I’d play table tennis in the day, and at night I would take the trains.”
In the face of all these challenges, Leibovitz found salvation in the sport of Table Tennis and went on to success in the sport and earned his bachelor and master degrees. He now uses his experiences, and his talent, to help others through his professional practice as a social worker and through an organization he founded with his wife, Dawn. Leibowitz is the C.E.O. of Project Table Tennis, “a team oriented company which operates nationally throughout the United States implementing, managing and supporting a series of ongoing projects centered around families and communities. Most of our projects utilize Table Tennis as a vehicle to create meaningful relationships between people. Project Table Tennis addresses Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Veterans with DisabiliMetroSports Magazine | 21
ities, Drug & Alcohol Abuse as well as Obesity by serving seniors, youth and children. We have recently added autistic athlete and senior center support” according to the Project Table Tennis website.
While he did not have the success he had hoped for in round four of the “Thursday Night Live – T2 Challenge”, we trust that good things will continue to come Tahl’s way and that he can add another gold medal to his impressive collection of table tennis accomplishments.
Look for coverage of cart racing from Poughkeepsie Raceway in our next issue
Above: Brendon Tymon leads the pack at Poughkeepsie Raceway. Photo credit - Clark Thompson www.Clarkshots1.com
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White Plains, NY, Continues Its Auto Racing Tradition with the Launch of the SRX Superstar Racing Experience By Warren Rosenberg
hile the cities of Charlotte, Indinapolis and Daytona are typically what come to mind when thinking of automobile racing in the United States, the city of White Plains, New York, along with other N.Y. Metro area municipalities has a much longer historical connection to racing and, this week, played a role in continuing that tradition for it was the site of early conversations and planning for the just announced Superstar Racing Experience, SRX, a partnership among NASCAR Hall of Famers Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham, former NASCAR COO and now financier, George Pyne and Sandy Montag, principal of The Montag Group media agency .
Above left: Tony Stewart - Photo Credit Warren Rosenberg, www.nyspg.com Above right: Ray Evernham - Photo Credit Zach Catanzareti CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90402460
As previously reported in MetroSports Magazine, America’s second officiallysanctioned automobile race, the 1896 Cosmopolitan Race, was run on the streets of Manhattan, the Bronx, Yonkers, Hastings and Ardsley, running from New York’s City Hall to the Ardsley Country Club near the site of Cosmopolitan Magazine’s then headquarters. In 1908, America’s first international stock car road race, the 1908 Briarcliff Trophy Race, was run through the Westchester towns of Briarcliff Manor, Millwood, Yorktown, Mt. Kisco, Armonk, Valhalla and Pleasantville. Many of the team garages for the 1908 Briarcliff Race were located at the Mammoth Garage MaMetroSports Magazine | 23
Above: The planned SRX race car. Source: SRX Racing
Located less than 1/2 mile from the site of that former garage, and 3 miles from the site of the 1910 White Plains Hill Climb on Anderson Hill Road race sits the White Plains Renaissance Square, home to the offices of George Pyne’s Bruin Sports Capital and Sandy Montag’s media agency, The Montag Group. Pyne formerly rose up the ranks of NASCAR to serve as COO. It was at this site in White Plains that the initial discussions about forming the new SRX racing series. As quoted in Sports Business Daily, Montag notes that “George and I were B.S.-ing 914-997-1399
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one night, and he asked me what I thought of this idea. We started brainstorming, and he brought me into the equation. After many, many discussions we decided to form SRX with Ray, George, myself. After some conversations, we brought in Tony Stewart. We really wanted to build a stand-alone property that would really improve on the experience for auto racing in a way that is fan-friendly, television-friendly, sponsor-friendly.” Other notables in White Plains auto racing history are racers Ray “Zero” Brown, a
stock car racer in the 1940s and 50s and Bobby Albert and dirt racer in the 1940s driving modified cars and midgets in the 1940s, both White Plains natives. The Superstar Racing Experience has signed a contract with the CBS Sports network to broadcast 6 races, featuring 12 notable drivers from different auto racing series in identical cars designed by Evernham, on short tracks across the U.S. For New York metro area racing fans, Evernham has indicated that one of those track might be Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, approximately 120 miles from White Plainsâ€™ Renaissance Square.
As of publication, the following drivers have signed on for season one of the Superstar Racing Experience - SRX Tony Stewart (NASCAR, IndyCar) -2002 NASCAR Cup Champion -1997 Indy Racing League Champion Tony Kanaan (IndyCar) -2013 Indianapolis 500 Winner -2004 IndyCar Series Champion Paul Tracy (IndyCar) -2003 CART Series Champion Bobby Labonte (NASCAR) -2000 NASCAR Cup Champion Helio Castroneves (IndyCar) -2001,2002,2009 Indanaoplis 500 Winner
Below: The White Plains, NY, Renaissance Square where conversations about the SRX Racing Series were born. Photo credit - Warren Rosenberg
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MetroSports Magazine July-August 2020