IROC: Best of the Best

| August 02, 2001

As long as there has been competitive racing, there has been a debate over who is the best of the best. Can an open wheel driver beat a stock car pilot? What about the guys who drive late models or sprint cars?

The debate will never be settled to a definitive degree, but the International Race of Champions comes closer than any series in determining an overall driving “champion.”

Over the years, IROC titlists have represented a Who’s Who of motorsports: Dale Earnhardt, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti and Bobby Allison are a few. And in its quarter century of existence, the series has earned rave reviews from the pilots who have competed in it.

“No one ever had to sell me on the concept,” Andretti says. “IROC is something special and certainly something unique. It’s fun to be around people you might not otherwise get a chance to know. But, believe me, at the track it’s all business. We’re all out trying to do our own thing.”

Cale Yarborough believes the series lives up to its name.

“Because of what it represents, to me, being invited to compete in IROC is the highest honor any driver can receive,” Yarborough says.

IROC, celebrating its 25th anniversary this season, is designed to determine a champion based entirely on the skill of the competitors. The cars are identical in setup, and drivers aren’t allowed to make changes to the suspension, handling or any other parts of the Pontiac Firebirds except for steering wheel adjustments, seat position and safety belts.

The drivers are selected by IROC organizers, and the criteria for selection involves pilots who have won major races or major championships in various racing disciplines around the world.

This year’s competitors include Kenny Brack of the CART Series, a former winner of the Indy 500 and CART Rookie of the Year in 2000; Winston Cup stars Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Ricky Rudd; defending Busch Series champion Jeff Green; Eddie Cheever Jr., Indy 500 and Indy Racing League standout; and IRL regulars Mark Dismore, Scott Goodyear and Buddy Lazier.

Earnhardt, who was killed in a crash at Daytona in February, was also a part of IROC 2001 and has been replaced by former teammate Mike Skinner.

Through two of the four IROC events in 2001, the edge goes to the stock car guys, with Jarrett winning at Daytona and Labonte taking the checker at Talladega. The series resumed June 9 at Michigan International Speedway.

Cars are assigned to drivers through a blind drawing before each of the four races, and there are no qualifying sessions. Points standings following the first two races determine the starting lineup for Race Three, with the driver with the most points starting at the end of the line and the last place competitor “on the pole.” The format is somewhat different in honor of the 25th anniversary, with Saturday’s pole position determined by a random drawing.

No pit stops are scheduled in an IROC race. If a driver has to pit for any reason, IROC mechanics service the car. Under normal circumstances, there is no penalty for a pit except for time lost on the track, which can be severe since the race is only 100 miles. In addition, yellow flag laps do not count.

IROC: Best of the Best

| August 02, 2001

As long as there has been competitive racing, there has been a debate over who is the best of the best. Can an open wheel driver beat a stock car pilot? What about the guys who drive late models or sprint cars?

The debate will never be settled to a definitive degree, but the International Race of Champions comes closer than any series in determining an overall driving “champion.”

Over the years, IROC titlists have represented a Who’s Who of motorsports: Dale Earnhardt, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti and Bobby Allison are a few. And in its quarter century of existence, the series has earned rave reviews from the pilots who have competed in it.

“No one ever had to sell me on the concept,” Andretti says. “IROC is something special and certainly something unique. It’s fun to be around people you might not otherwise get a chance to know. But, believe me, at the track it’s all business. We’re all out trying to do our own thing.”

Cale Yarborough believes the series lives up to its name.

“Because of what it represents, to me, being invited to compete in IROC is the highest honor any driver can receive,” Yarborough says.

IROC, celebrating its 25th anniversary this season, is designed to determine a champion based entirely on the skill of the competitors. The cars are identical in setup, and drivers aren’t allowed to make changes to the suspension, handling or any other parts of the Pontiac Firebirds except for steering wheel adjustments, seat position and safety belts.

The drivers are selected by IROC organizers, and the criteria for selection involves pilots who have won major races or major championships in various racing disciplines around the world.

This year’s competitors include Kenny Brack of the CART Series, a former winner of the Indy 500 and CART Rookie of the Year in 2000; Winston Cup stars Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Ricky Rudd; defending Busch Series champion Jeff Green; Eddie Cheever Jr., Indy 500 and Indy Racing League standout; and IRL regulars Mark Dismore, Scott Goodyear and Buddy Lazier.

Earnhardt, who was killed in a crash at Daytona in February, was also a part of IROC 2001 and has been replaced by former teammate Mike Skinner.

Through two of the four IROC events in 2001, the edge goes to the stock car guys, with Jarrett winning at Daytona and Labonte taking the checker at Talladega. The series resumed June 9 at Michigan International Speedway.

Cars are assigned to drivers through a blind drawing before each of the four races, and there are no qualifying sessions. Points standings following the first two races determine the starting lineup for Race Three, with the driver with the most points starting at the end of the line and the last place competitor “on the pole.” The format is somewhat different in honor of the 25th anniversary, with Saturday’s pole position determined by a random drawing.

No pit stops are scheduled in an IROC race. If a driver has to pit for any reason, IROC mechanics service the car. Under normal circumstances, there is no penalty for a pit except for time lost on the track, which can be severe since the race is only 100 miles. In addition, yellow flag laps do not count.

Comments are closed.