All roads lead to Rockingham In 2003 NASCAR decided to make its chase for a championship a little more exciting with a change to the format that took regular points racing and turned it into a massive year-end tournament hoping to make the ...
All roads lead to Rockingham
In 2003 NASCAR decided to make its chase for a championship a little more exciting with a change to the format that took regular points racing and turned it into a massive year-end tournament hoping to make the on-track action even that much more exciting.
A few years later the NHRA followed suit.
Now, in 2009, the IHRA has taken the concept one step further with the creation of the first playoff-style sportsman tournament. The difference is that instead of modifying the points structure, the Tournament of Champions features true head-to-head competition to determine the world championship.
The Tournament of Champions finds the best racers in North America via a series of regional qualifying events and ultimately brings them all together on one stage. All year long the field has been taking shape in each of the seven sportsman classes that will be run at the season's final race, the IHRA World Finals at Rockingham Dragway.
"Coming into this season we knew people were either going to love the system or hate it, but even we have been surprised at the number of people who have embraced what it means to them," said Skooter Peaco, Vice President of Racing Operations. "And what it means is that no longer do you have to spend a fortune to be a world champion, all you have to do is win your national or regional event, be among the best in your division and you have a chance to prove your skills against the best. You can't spend your way to a championship. You have to win it.
"Not only has this system already saved drivers a ton of money, but it has allowed many new faces, drivers who otherwise would have never even had a chance at a championship, a chance to be on the world stage in Rockingham. Creating opportunity when there previously was none is the primary goal of the Tournament of Champions. This is a great opportunity for sportsman racers everywhere."
The concept is simple -- win a Nitro Jam national event, a Champion Systems Sportsman Nationals event or finish in the top three in your Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Division and you qualify for the program.
From then on where you are from, what you drive and how much money you have is simply thrown out the door -- at Rockingham it is all about who has the skills to beat the best and therefore be the best.
With the World Finals just around the corner, we will be taking a look back at the drivers and teams who have already qualified for the Tournament of Champions while looking ahead at the dozens of potential spots remaining.
Check back throughout the week as we detail the championship picture and drivers who have already punched their ticket to Rockingham starting with the drivers making up the Rod categories. From there we will look at the stars of the Stock categories and in Top Dragster and Top Sportsman.