THE LOST dREaM Of iROC
Eric Schweikardt /Sports illustrated/Getty images La T archive
WHAT AMERICA’S EFFORT AT A TRUE “ALL-STAR RACE”
From a road racing-oriented series featuring sports cars,
IROC soon evolved into a NASCAR-oriented show that,
for all the memorable racing it produced, failed to
become a permanent fixture in the international – or
even North American – motorsports landscape.
1 Jackie Stewart
Donohue after his
triumph in IROC I.
2 Stock car-based
1977, pointing the
way to the future.
3 Initial IROC fleet
of production-based Porsches
was cool but
i SC archive/Getty images
he goal of a level playing field has been
a common theme throughout the history
of auto racing, but in 1973 it was taken a
step further with the creation of the
International Race of Champions, better
known as IROC. One-upping the modern
mantra of managed competition, IROC
aimed to remove the mechanical aspect
from the competition equation by pitting
invited stars from throughout the racing
world in “identical” cars prepared by a
common team of mechanics. IROC’s
“all-star game of racing” endured for
more than three decades, but never quite
lived up to its pretentions.
The first series featured Porsche
Carrera RSRs and was run entirely on
road courses. Three races were run at
Riverside Raceway in Southern California,
while a finale was staged on Daytona’s
infield course. Mark Donohue won three
races and the title, yet downplayed its
significance. The Can-Am and Indy 500
champ noted that his familiarity with the
circuits gave him a clear advantage.
The following year brought a switch to
Chevrolet Camaros, although they
continued to be production-based cars built
by Penske Racing, and the international
flavor was bolstered when Formula 1’s
Emerson’s Fittipaldi won a race at Riverside.
Americans still dominated overall, with
Bobby Unser besting fellow Indy car racer
A.J. Foyt for the title.
In the years that followed, that
American monopoly evolved into
domination by NASCAR, both in drivers
and the cars. The latter switched in 1977
to Banjo Matthews-built NASCAR-style
stockers, while F1 and road racing
specialist drivers shrank to a token
presence. From 1992-2005, all IROC
races were run on ovals of various lengths.
While that might have made sense in
terms of logistics, positioning IROC as a
NASCAR support series served to dilute
its identity. By 2007, unable to secure
title sponsorship, IROC passed into
history, its worthy premise still unproven
and its mission unfulfilled.
and Al Unser Jr.
also shone, taking
two IROC crowns.
THE ACE OF ACES
A series that
Mark Martin. The
ageless veteran is
the all-time IROC
ace, with 13 race
wins, as well as five