"Tournament Of Champions" -- A Revolutionary New Sportsman Racing Championship System; IHRA changes the rules to include everyone in its sportsman world championship chases

The days of IHRA championships being determined by who can afford to tow to the most races are over. With a revolutionary system where drivers have to earn their way to the World Finals in Rockingham for an elimination-style "winner-take-all" race, IHRA has now opened the door for everyone to have a chance to become a world champion.

Before the 2009 season the championship format for sportsmen was broken. It seemingly rewarded those who could afford to travel to the necessary events to get all their claims in, while punishing those who might not be able to head to five national events. Current economic conditions turned travel into one of the costliest necessities of any racing operation. For sportsman competitors traveling to a combination of their best six Summit Pro-Am events and their five best national events was not cost-effective, and only a dozen or so sportsman competitors could afford to make this commitment.

Things had to change.

One of the responsibilities IHRA has as a sanctioning body is to provide competitors the opportunity to compete at all levels. Recent format changes to IHRA's Summit SuperSeries and it's Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour have proven to be very successful. These changes (local track competition for the SuperSeries and double race weekends for the Pro-Am Tour) have been widely praised as the reasons participants were able to become involved in these programs without the high cost of travel.

These two recent changes addressed travel costs at the grassroots and Pro-Am levels. The last piece of the puzzle was doing something effective for those looking to compete for national championships. In addressing this, IHRA has come up with a new national championship format that will greatly reduce the expense of sportsmen competing for a national championship, will provide enough value for competitors to race at the national event level no matter if they choose to compete at just one national event or at every one, and will create a system where the best competitors from around the country can meet in one location to decide the championship in head-to-head competition. Under the new format, everything will be settled on the track at the World Finals in Rockingham.

In 2009 each national event will become a separate tournament with the Ironman champion of each national event qualifying for a spot in the season-ending world championship race in Rockingham to be held at the World Finals. There not only will the world champion be determined, each national top 10 finisher in each class will be determined as well based on the outcome of the head-to-head competition.

This format provides incredible value for those racers who can only afford to attend the national event closest to them. It also provides opportunity for those who can run at more than one national event because each event is another chance to punch your ticket to Rockingham. If you do poorly at a national event the slate is wiped clean when you enter the next race. Win and You're In! The champions of each tournament (event) meet in Rockingham to face off against each other. This is the first time national event champions from across the U.S. and Canada can face each other in head-to-head competition.

"We want the world champion to win it on the track not by outspending everyone else," IHRA vice president of racing operations Skooter Peaco said. "In the past if a driver could afford to max out their claims they were pretty much guaranteed to finish in the top 10 at the end of the season, regardless of how well or how poorly they did on the track because honestly not a lot of competitors can afford to do that. This new format really will allow all IHRA competitors to compete for a world championship as well as make it quite an accomplishment to score a top 10 finish. A racer will now have to beat everyone in his area at the national event, then do it again against everyone else in Rockingham.

'I know there will be a number of competitors who feel that a champion should not be determined by one event," Peaco continued. "To them I say that I would rather open up the format to allow the thousands of racers a chance to show their skills on a national stage then award a championship to only those who live in a particular region of the country or those that can outspend their competitors to chase points. I'm in no way taking anything away from present or past champions, in fact I truly believe IHRA sportsman racers are as tough or tougher than any on the planet. But the facts are what they are and the economy is what it is. We can't make travel costs go down, but we can open up this format and see how 90% of our existing national racers fare against the 10% currently attending just enough events to have a national score."

The phrase "win and you're in" really says it all. This new format provides unprecedented opportunity for all sportsman racers to take a shot at racing their way, not spending their way, to a world championship. For the first time racers from areas that only have one national event remotely close to them will be able to compete on a level playing field with those competitors who live in close range to multiple national events. Racers from all over the United States and Canada will have an opportunity to prove their skill on the track in head-to-head competition both on a regional and national level, regardless of their financial ability to travel or geographic location.

"Sportsman racing continues to be a key element of IHRA on a local, regional and national basis. We are a blue-collar organization made up of blue-collar competitors that have to race on a budget and can't take endless amounts of time off work chasing a national championship. It is our hope that sportsman competitors will embrace this format and embrace the IHRA tradition of finding innovative ways to support sportsman drag racing on all levels."

About IHRA

Headquartered in Norwalk, Ohio, the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), a division of Feld Entertainment, promotes professional, semi-professional and local-level racing opportunities for drivers at all levels. The $21.5 million IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series is a 10-event North American professional drag racing circuit. In 2009, the series will be comprised of eight events in major cities throughout the United States and two in Canada. IHRA will also host six sportsman national events, the IHRA Sportsman Nationals presented by VP Racing Fuels, at seven facilities in the United States. The Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Championship presented by Mr. Gasket consists of competition at national events and 40 events in six regional divisions, while IHRA's Summit SuperSeries is conducted nearly every weekend at over 85 IHRA-sanctioned tracks. Providing a safe environment to develop future stars, IHRA offers the Junior Dragster Racing Series for youths ages 8-17. Stand-alone events include Feld Entertainment Motor Sports' action-packed "Thunder Jam" shows and the street legal racing and lifestyle event series Street Warriorz. More information can be found at www.nitrojam.com.

-credit: ihra