Tinton Falls N.J. - Early in 1973, a group of racing aficionados from Penske Racing gathered to propose a solution to an age-old question. "Who is the best race car driver in the world?" A complicated assignment, considering the variety of...
Tinton Falls N.J. - Early in 1973, a group of racing aficionados from Penske Racing gathered to propose a solution to an age-old question. "Who is the best race car driver in the world?"
A complicated assignment, considering the variety of forms of motorsports.
"What would zapped if you took twelve of the worlds greatest drivers, and placed them in identical cars?".
The International Race Of Champions was Born (IROC).
Twenty-nine years later the concept of a level playing field for competitors still thrives, as Iron is set to kick off it's 2002 season on February 15 at Daytona International Speedway.
The drivers selected to compete in 2002 include IRL drivers Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish, Buddy Lazier, Scott Sharp, and Al Unser Jr.
NASCAR, Winston Cup is represented by Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte (2001 IROC series Champion), Sterling Marlin, and Tony Stewart.
On behalf of the Craftsman Truck Series, Jack Sprague, and from the Pennzoil World of Outlaws, Danny Lasoski.
To the ire of many, Winston Cup Champion, Jeff Gordon was invited to compete, however declined due to the time demands.
"I think the media made a bigger deal out it than we did. We are disappointed that Jeff cannot compete, but he called us, and we understand. Jeff said he did not want to do it unless he could give it one hundred percent, and we respect that, there are no hard feelings". Notes George Signore, Director of Public Relations to the series.
Gordon is not the first Champion to decline the invitation, Bobby Allison did not accept in 1983.
True Value Hardware has signed on to again be the series sponsor, and the drivers will compete identically prepared stock cars with three hundred fifty inch motors and Pontiac Firebird bodies.
To achieve parity in the machines, a team of 25 employees work full time, year round carefully preparing and tracking each component used on the cars.
Jay Signore, President of IROC calls it "A total team approach"
The Philosophy used in the race shop is similar to the regimentation of military aircraft mechanics, as each part, tool, and component has a recorded history.
As the shop team prepares, four race transports are being equipped to transport 13 cars (one test vehicle), seven extra motors, and every conceivable spare part for the trip to Daytona.
As part of the total effort, all IROC employees travel to each event.
"Except for our secretary, we all go, this is what we work all year for", states the series President.
After the Daytona event the series will head west to California Speedway in Fontana (April 27), Chigagoland Speedway (July 13), and the season finale August third at the Indianapolis Motor speedway.
2002 marks the first time the series will compete in Chicago, and the last time the series will use the Firebird Body.
General Motors announced that it will discontinue it's Camaro, and Firebird Models.
IROC has been in talks will all major auto makers, and expects to announce its 2003 replacement plans during the year.
Since it's inception, one hundred and eleven different drivers have accepted invitations to compete in the series, which has raced on 14 different circuits.
The series has established itself as a mark of excellence and consistency for drivers and mechanics, and all indications are that 2002 will provide the same standard of excellence in competition.