International Race of Champions, where art thou?
The 12 car, 12 driver, 4 race dash for cash format championship was a crowd pleaser.
North America needs its race of champions back.
I might take a lot of flack, but the International Race of Champions, known most as the IROC series was the best one make series on the planet.
With the amount of politics, rule changes, debris cautions and power units in racing today, I miss the anticipation of those four races each year, or the sheer joy of finding out who will be behind the wheel of the cars that year at Daytona.
Nail in the coffin
IROC shut down officially in 2008. It had a highly publicized auction for all the equipment, cars and memorabilia and just simply disappeared forever. The series was taken down by lack of sponsorship, and hard liquor being banned from the track.
Bobby Allison, Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Mark Donohue.
Those are just a sample of the many names who have claimed an IROC Championship. Running from 1974 until 2006, (with a brief hiatus in the 80s) the series gave a number of different manufactures an opportunity to show off their cars, and the North American public a live, four time a year race full of the worlds top drivers from multiple disciplines of racing.
IROC vs ROC
This will be the point when everyone wonders if the authors knows of the other Race of Champions. That really really big one weekend event towards the end of the calendar year. Which didnt run last year. Yeah, not really the same thing
The format for the North American IROC was more of a season mentality than a weekend shootout like it’s Euro-centric compadre.
Showing it live on main stream US network was the biggest selling feature for IROC, and something that I think should have kept the series in the game. Kurt Busch vs Sebastian Bourdais vs Steve Kinser vs Scott Pruett. Any network with a friendliness to auto racing would be stupid to not at least put a bid on it.
Could it happen again?
So, could we ever see another IROC? Well, this writer wants it back, but would want it done right.
A proper title sponsor. Likely the manufacturer who makes the cars all the drivers are in. Four races and prepping 12-16 cars for that race cant be too pricey. Which brings the next big point. The car.
A proper three year rotation of the car, to not only keep the car fresh, but keep the sponsors fresh. I have a feeling that giving a different manufacturer the stage for both competition and advertising is a great thing. And a versatile car, because my version of IROC doesnt run just ovals.
The drivers. They are one of the biggest spokes in the wheel. Without a good range of drivers, driving styles and potentially new budding rivalries, we are just gonna be watching another one make series.
With a completely different North American racing landscape from 2006, I think the variety of drivers and disciplines that can be represented would be phenomenal. With Pirelli World Challenge bursting back onto the scene and bringing an absolute deluge of manufacturers with it, a new amalgamated endurance championship and a great crop of young stock car and sprint car drivers, as well as a number of powerhouse names coming from Indy, what could go wrong? And I didn’t even touch the rally-sport community of champions.
Got to have a schedule
And lastly, the variety of tracks. We cannot invite Ken Block, Johnny O'Connell, Lawson Aschenbach, Ricky and Jordan Taylor and Gabby Chaves and force them into 3 oval/drafting races.
No, we need the following schedule.
1. Daytona, February. This race must be run during Speedweeks, or it doesn’t utilize the full spectator potential of that track in its year.
2. Indy Road Course, May. Indy in May. Duh! And the new configuration to the road course looked and raced rather good last May. Run as companion event with IndyCar.
3. Eldora, July. Run in conduction with the midsummer classic on a Wednesday. Maybe tv coverage could chop out the time trials for the trucks and run a little IROC race instead.
4. SEMA/Las Vegas GRC, October. Run on the rallycross track build for the GRC season finale. Takes advantage of so much for advertisers with the series with SEMA happening at the same time, and ends on a stage nearly as grand as it began.
When we really run through the different locations and series they could run with, it does seem like a logistical nightmare, and potential network nightmare. But in the same breath I say North America needs its IROC back. It can be worked, it can be profitable, and I think that if it was resurrected, you would see plenty of North America’s champions (and don’t discriminate) jumping at the chance to win the IROC championship. Oh and a car that can handle all those tracks…
Has the North American racing landscape ever been so broad and flush with so much talent before? Who would come out on top?