The History of IROC Racing - Never Before Seen Photos

The IROC Series - Looking Back at the International Race of Champions

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The series ran continuously from 1974 to 1980, then, when the economy took a nosedive, it was suspended for three years and then resumed in 1984. Once reborn, one noticeable change was the introduction of the third-gen Camaro into the series. The Z28 was the launching pad for the IROC-Z in 1985; a model that would last until 1990 when Chevrolet’s involvement with the IROC series ended.

Tragedy struck following Race 1 of the 2001 IROC season when on February 18, 2001, Dale Earnhardt lost his life in the last corner of the final lap of the Daytona 500. In one instant, NASCAR lost its edge and IROC lost a good chunk of its soul. Many agree that NASCAR racing has never been the same since, and although it’s still going today, the IROC series ended in 2006.

Iroc Racing Camaro Rutherford Riverside 2/21

Johnny Rutherford goes a little too wide at Riverside.

Iroc Racing Camaro Allison Vii 3/21

Bobby Allison looks to escape unscathed during IROC VII in 1980. The same cannot be said for Darrell Waltrip and Mario Andretti.

Iroc Racing Camaro Xiii Foyt Pruett 4/21

Being who the racers are in this group, this looks like IROC XIII in 1989. You have A.J. Foyt, Scott Pruett, Dale Earnhardt, and up top is IROC XV champion Rusty Wallace.

The IROC series was a great idea that brought many drivers together from various sanctioning bodies to see what these guys were made of. Although some say the NASCAR guys had an unfair advantage due to the IROC cars being more similar to their everyday race cars than what the Indy and Formula One guys were used to, but that didn’t deter its popularity among racing fans, and it got European drivers some great exposure in America.

As a youngster, I always wondered why they never invited NHRA drag racing champions like Don Prudhomme or Don Garlits to mix it up in the turns. But as I got older I realized those are two totally different kinds of racing and the straight-line guys had a lot to learn about late-braking and apexes before racing with experienced road racers. But the idea wasn’t totally out of the question, as just prior to the series’ demise, Funny Car pilot Ron Capps did some testing in IROC cars at Talladega and Chicagoland raceways. It would have been neat to see a few drag racers get into the action.

Iroc Racing Camaro Earnhardt 5/21

Rubbin’s racin,’ and this witness mark on Earnhardt’s Camaro proves that these guys are just as competitive in the IROC world as they are in their native NASCAR country.

Iroc Racing Camaro Viii Yarborough 6/21

Two CART and two NASCAR guys. This is from IROC VIII. The one and only year (1984) Cale Yarborough took the series title.

Iroc Racing Camaro Wallace Earnhardt 7/21

Here are two NASCAR guys in familiar territory. Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt had many battles in their regular “company cars,” and this IROC race was no different.

Iroc Racing Camaro Fittipaldi Earnhardt 8/21

Here is another great matchup between a CART/F1 racer Emerson Fittipaldi and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. This looks to be IROC VIII, in which Earnhardt finished Ninth and Fittipaldi came in Eleventh for the season.

It’s hard to say if the IROC series will ever come back, but it sure would be cool to see 12 of today’s top race car drivers strap in to identically prepared fifth-gen Camaros and battle it out a few times a year.

Special thanks to Circle Track magazine Publisher Rob Fisher for digging through the archives and coming up with these fantastic images, most of which have never been published until now.

Iroc Racing Camaro Racing 9/21

Go time!

Iroc Racing Camaro 1989 Earnhardt 10/21

It’s hard to get used to Dale Earnhardt in anything other than a black car, but in 1989 he raced (at least once) this white Camaro. As a side note, this was the final year of the Camaro in IROC racing. In 1990 the switch was made to the Dodge Daytona.

Iroc Racing Camaro Fifth Gen 11/21

Tavis Highlander drew up this IROC fifth-gen a few years ago, and he gave us a little taste of what the series’ cars might have looked like if the series was still going today.

IROC Champions
Year Race Winner
1974 IROC 1 Mark Donohue
1975 IROC II Bobby Unser
1976 IROC III A.J. Foyt
1977 IROC IV A.J. Foyt
1978 IROC V Al Unser
1979 IROC VI Mario Andretti
1980 IROC VII Bobby Allison
1984 IROC VIII Cale Yarborough
1985 IROC IX Harry Gant
1986 IROC X Al Unser Jr.
1987 IROC XI Geoff Bodine
1988 IROC XII Al Unser Jr.
1989 IROC XIII Terry Labonte
1990 IROC XIV Dale Earnhardt
1991 IROC XV Rusty Wallace
1992 IROC XVI Ricky Rudd
1993 IROC XVII Davey Allison
1994 IROC XVIII Mark Martin
1995 IROC XIX Dale Earnhardt
1996 IROC XX Mark Martin
1997 IROC XXI Mark Martin
1998 IROC XXII Mark Martin
1999 IROC XXIII Dale Earnhardt
2000 IROC XXIV Dale Earnhardt
2001 IROC XXV Bobby Labonte
2002 IROC XXVI Kevin Harvick
2003 IROC XXVII Kurt Busch
2004 IROC XXVIII Matt Kenseth
2005 IROC XXIX Mark Martin
2006 IROC XXX Tony Stewart

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