In 1974, the racing world was treated to an all-star motorsports series known as the International Race of Champions.
Drivers from the open wheel ranks, sports car tours, and stock car arenas raced in equally prepared machines on various ovals and road courses across the United States with one goal: Being the best driver of all.
Legendary drivers like Mark Donahue, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Al Unser Jr., Mark Martin, and Dale Earnhardt are some of the names who have been crowned as IROC champion.
Racing on circuits like the Daytona International Speedway, Riverside International Raceway, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, fans have been treated to high-speed action and drama with some of the world's best lead footers.
However, there has been no IROC action in the past three years, as the series auctioned off inventory of the Pontiac Firebird machines that were once used by the likes of Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Steve Kinser, and Scott Sharp among others.
Sure, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has the Car of Tomorrow, which are essentially "IROC-like" equipment, supposedly equal to the "laws" and "restrictions" of the NASCAR officials.
But unlike the IROC series, it's a 43-car field where engines, pit crews, and sponsors are among the factors that create the level of competition for the drivers each race.
Earlier in the year, fans at Bristol Motor Speedway were delighted to a well-hyped but rather dull exhibition race among the "old timers" of NASCAR, where drivers like the legendary Junior Johnson, L.D. Ottinger, Terry Labonte, and Wallace competed in late-model stock cars that were virtually identical.
Sterling Marlin, who piloted a late model Chevy painted to the livery of his No. 4 Kodak ride from the 1994-'97 NASCAR season, won that event. Perhaps more than his win, what stood out after the race was when he told ESPN pit reporter Allen Bestwick that "the cars drove real well."
It got me thinking: Why don't we hear that anymore with the NASCAR Cup guys?
Perhaps we need to see these drivers duking it out in an all-star racing series like IROC. There were intriguing story-lines to follow each year, such as the rivalry between the stock car drivers against the open-wheelers.
Personally, the ingredients which made IROC a relatively successful series were parameters like equally prepared cars and the short-distance races which were suitable as far as time and schedules were concerned.
I think we can all agree that this new all-star racing series should follow the basis of equal cars. But instead of sticking to a stock car model, why not have the drivers adjust to various types of racing vehicles in each event?
Who wouldn't want to see some of the Formula One guys racing a stock car at Daytona, or a NASCAR driver going full throttle with an Indycar at Texas Motor Speedway?
To test and determine which racing series produces the "true" and most skilled driver of all, this series should be the proverbial "triathlon" touring series of all, from a stock car, to open wheel vehicle, and perhaps even a rally car or sprint car machine around the dirt tracks of the world.
There are plenty of racing talents out there in today's motorsports scene to choose from across the globe. Case in point:
In the NASCAR ranks, we still have four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon competing, albeit with his back problem, Tony Stewart tearing it up with his self-owned car, Jimmie Johnson, and of course, the Busch brothers in Kurt and Kyle.
IndyCar Racing has stars like Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, Dan Wheldon, and Ryan Briscoe.
Internationally, Formula One aces like Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso could probably give the American-based racers a run for their money given some time with the car and tracks they will compete on.
A short season, spanning four to five races, would probably be suitable for this all-star tour to fit in all of these drivers' schedules.
Logistically, with the economic troubles this series may not see the light of day for a while.
But a racing fan can dream, right?
I'll leave it to you racing fans here on B/R. If there was an international series of championship drivers today with a 12-car field to be filled, who would you choose?
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