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Ray Evernham and Rob Kauffman Buy IROC: What Is It?

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Legendary NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham and former team owner Rob Kauffman announced they have purchased the IROC (International Race of Champions) branding along with forming IROC Holdings LLC.

IROC is a series beloved by older fans, but, newer fans may be wondering what IROC even was. Well, here is a look at the history of one of motorsports’ most ambitious ventures.

  • Evernham is the former crew chief for Jeff Gordon and the “Rainbow Warriors”, who won 3 Cup Series Championships in the 1990s. Kauffman has been involved with former Cup Series teams Michael Waltrip Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing. They stated a goal to run a race in 2024.
  • This will be Evernham’s second chance at starting an All-Star racing series. He recently helped start the Superstar Racing Experience with Tony Stewart, but, Evernham announced in 2022 that he no longer has an “Active role” with the SRX.
  • Fans were excited to hear this news. Many fans have been asking for IROC to return, and now it seems it may return in some form.

What Was IROC?

IROC was a North American All-Star Racing Series held from 1973 to 1980 and from 1984 until 2006, and it was largely the inspiration for the SRX Series we know today. The original concept was to take the best drivers from North American Racing Series such as NASCAR, IndyCar, sports cars, and even dirt to compete in virtually identical race cars. Les Richter, Roger Penske, and Mike Phelps originally formed the series, which started in the fall of 1973.

The first season, held from the fall of 1973 into early 1974, saw Mark Donohue take the Driver’s Championship. There were three races held at Riverside, California with the final race held at the Daytona Road Course in February of 1974. NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson, Bobby Allison, and Richard Petty all participated in that first season.

The IROC season was usually 4 races in length, with races being about 100 miles or so on ovals. While the first season had all races on road courses, the series became either a predominantly or exclusively oval series as it evolved. These races were often held in conjunction with NASCAR race weekends.

The first full-time NASCAR driver to win a Championship in the series was Bobby Allison in 1980, IROC’s 6th season. From that season until IROC ended in 2006, NASCAR drivers won the Championship every year except for 1986 and 1988, where Al Unser Jr. won.

The most successful driver in the series, in terms of Championships, was Mark Martin. He won 5 Championships in the years 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2005. He also won 13 races in his IROC career.

As the series gravitated more towards ovals, the series obviously became more NASCAR-centric. Drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Kevin Harvick, and Tony Stewart won Championships in the series amongst a slew of others. In 2006, 6 of the 12 full-time teams fielded NASCAR drivers.

After 2006, a lack of sponsorship caused IROC to go on an indefinite hiatus. According to Motorsport.com, the series held an auction for all of its’ equipment in 2008 after shutting down entirely. It has been dormant ever since.

What’s The Future of IROC?

With Evernham and Kauffman buying IROC, the future seems bright for revitalization. Could they make some major changes to the series?

Maybe they could expand the season beyond the traditional 4 races to 6 or 7. Maybe they could place a larger emphasis on road course racing, which was lacking in the later years of the most recent iteration of IROC.

Could a partnership with the SRX series be in the cards? It seems SRX has established itself amongst local short tracks in the middle of the week, and, IROC was historically a superspeedway series on weekends. Maybe the two are not going for the same audience.

Either way, the future looks bright for IROC. A series that was once thought to be could be coming back this year.

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Joshua Lipowski

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