A surprise announcement came this week when it was revealed that Ray Evernham and Rob Kauffman had secured the rights to the International Race of Champions.
In its original configuration, IROC was an All-Star exhibition series that pitted stars from all corners of racing into equal racecars. IROC fielded 12 cars for four or five races per year, with some races having less than 12 starters as drivers would drop out of the series due to other commitments or injury.
There was usually a fair mix of drivers; although there was a NASCAR lean in the final few seasons, there was always an open wheel presence and usually dirt and sports car stars.
There were three eras of IROC vehicle after the first season in 1974 was contested with Porsche Carreras. Seasons two to 13 were all Chevrolet Camaros, then a five-season gap with Dodge Daytonas and Avengers before IROC exclusively contested Pontiac Trans Ams in its final 11 seasons. Cars were tested and tuned by NASCAR independent legend Dave Marcis to ensure both viability and balance. The series ended in 2006.
In the press release announcing the IROC rebirth, Evernham stated he was looking at possibly contesting a race in 2024. He later expanded on this in an interview with Racing America, saying the new owners were “in the early stages” of planning a race.
He also made it clear he is on the hunt for old IROC cars currently, seeing if they are in workable condition.
In all likelihood, another scenario that Evernham mentioned in the interview — the idea of building new cars identical to the old ones — would be the longterm viable scenario for IROC after this year.
It is extremely interesting that Kauffman is involved in this project. Still the listed chairman of the Race Teams Alliance, Kauffman has a fair amount of influence on NASCAR.
In November 2022, Sports Business Journal reported the RTA was exploring a way to do outside exhibition races. The idea would be to create a new revenue stream through a series outside of NASCAR, which would run in the offseason.
IROC may have no involvement in that theoretical series, which was never announced nor officially followed up on by the RTA.
But Kauffman’s involvement in IROC’s potential resurrection 14 months after that article definitely brings up that question. And also just how involved the RTA will be in this endeavor as the organization and NASCAR continue to negotiate the new charter/media rights agreement for the new contracts in 2025.
Evernham also co-founded the Camping World SRX Series and was in charge for the first season before publicly walking away from it prior to the second season. Before he did, however, Evernham also spoke to SBJ on a number of his ideas for the second season, none of which ended up coming to pass.
There seemed to be some smoke to the idea of there being a road course on the SRX calendar back then. It would make a lot of sense for IROC to have a road course race in its revival, and especially for its first race back.
The tight space of an oval may not be a great place to drive multiple 20-year-old Trans Ams, but road courses lend themselves very well to historic car events.
It’s fairly obvious that a goal here will be trying to secure a TV contract this year for 2025 and beyond. If the idea is to follow in SRX’s footsteps of having more than five races a season in consecutive fashion, doing an eight-race season with an off-weekend in the middle seems like a fair deal. The SRX season both feels too long and way too short, as the series starts to drag in week five but then ends the week after.
It’s really tough to even guess what the TV landscape will look like in six months’ time. There are a number of huge deals for big sports properties, such as the NBA, UFC, NCAA CFP and Monday Night RAW, that should be completed in that time frame.
Once all of the dominoes fall, IROC may not get a big media contract, but there should be a few options standing. Apple TV+ seems like the one that would be losing out on a lot of these sport contracts after missing out on NASCAR and would be a fine landing place if that stays the case.
It feels like there is a lot of potential for IROC. We haven’t even considered the idea of using the series to test alternate ways to eliminate fossil fuels from motorsport, whether that comes in an electric power plant or using alternate non-carbon racing fuels.
But of course, public plans for the series are still vague. And that’s probably by design. The development of IROC will be an underlying story to keep an eye on in 2024.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.
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