Evernham Discusses IROC’s Brand Revival & Plans

Evernham IROC

Ray Evernham (pictured) and Rob Kauffman purchased the IROC brand in January. (Jacob Seelman/Race Face Digital photo)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – For years since the dissolution of the International Race of Champions, colloquially referred to as IROC, fans have often wondered what became of the assets of the popular all-star series.

After all, it’s not often that stars of NASCAR, IndyCar, sprint cars, sports cars, and more could be seen on the same racetrack in similar vehicles. IROC provided that unique opportunity starting in 1974.

The series disbanded following its 30th edition in 2006 and became a chapter in motorsports history that developed somewhat of a cult following due to its special format and diverse roster of talent.

That chapter had a bit of life breathed into it back in January, when NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham and Race Team Alliance chairman Rob Kauffman teamed to purchase the IROC trademark from Pelican Marketing Group, sparking a renewed interest in IROC’s lineage and racing stories.

Evernham visited Darlington Raceway during NASCAR throwback weekend, ahead of his duties as grand marshal for the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400, and took a few moments to discuss his vision for the IROC brand.

The three-time Cup Series champion crew chief began his professional career 40 years ago, at the age of 26, as a chassis specialist for IROC. In that role, Evernham’s mission was to help make the 12 IROC race cars as close to identically prepared as humanly possible, so that races came down purely to driver skill.

“I think part of what fans can see is all the excitement around [NASCAR] Throwback Weekend here at Darlington and what an incredible job [that] NASCAR and the Hall of Fame of Dunwood … the alumni area … have done in building it,” tipped Evernham. “What that says is that motorsports history is popular right now and, thankfully, we were able to purchase the IROC brand to try and capitalize on that.

“We’re working on putting a reunion back together, finding how many cars there are still out there and how many [past IROC] drivers are out there, to really determine how many people are still excited about the brand,” he continued. “I don’t really have a lot of plans yet, other than the one reunion scheduled for July. But, as you can see with the excitement here, this throwback weekend at Darlington has done a ton for the community itself, for this race, and for the racetrack because of the history that is celebrated.

“To continue to tell the story of IROC and the foundation of our motorsports heroes is really important to me. That was really the biggest reason for getting that IROC brand back, because I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for that series.”

The reunion Evernham mentioned is set for July 19-20 at the Lime Rock Park road course in Connecticut, during the SpeedTour All-Star Race weekend, anticipated to include some form of an on-track exhibition.

Kenseth Kimmel IROC

Matt Kenseth (17) and Frank Kimmel race side-by-side in IROC action at Daytona (Fla.) Int'l Speedway in 2006. (Robert LeSieur/LAT Photographic)

But many fans were hoping for a true racing return of the legendary series, which traditionally raced four times a year and did feature a points system and champion’s reward for the series king each go-round.

Mark Martin is the all-time leader in IROC championships (five) and race wins (13) on lists that include such legendary names as Dale Earnhardt, the late Davey Allison, Al Unser Jr., and inaugural titlist Mark Donohue.

Evernham said that, in a perfect world, the possibility of full IROC races being held again is something that could be looked into. However, such a step isn’t on his radar in this early stage of the revival.

“It’s really hard to say if races are realistic or not realistic. That’s something that is still so far down the [road in the] future,” he explained. “Right now, it’s about history and finding and celebrating the old cars. I’ve gotten really hooked on vintage racing and some of the historical [areas of the sport] right now.

“That’s as far as we’re thinking, at least at this point in time.”

Of note, Evernham worked alongside Tony Stewart – who won the final IROC championship in 2006 – to develop the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), which was a six-race, nationally-televised series from 2021 to 2023 that featured a six-race slate utilizing all-star type fields similar to what IROC did.

That entity was shuttered early this year due to “market factors,” allowing Evernham to turn his eyes fully back to the brand that helped launch his long career in the racing industry.

“[Reviving] the history of IROC is something that I’m personally very excited about,” he said.

To watch the full SPEED Channel broadcast of IROC’s final race to-date, held at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway on Oct. 28, 2006, click here.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.