True Value IROC Series Prepares For 1999 Debut at Daytona
11 February 1999
Daytona Beach, FL -- The True Value IROC (International Race of Champions) Series for 1999 gets underway on Friday at the famous "World Center of Racing" Daytona International Speedway. The four race series (Daytona, Talladega, Michigan and Indianapolis) will be conducted over the next six months. The series which began in 1973 is considered to be motorsports "All-Star" game with representatives from open-wheel and closed wheel series competing in identically prepared vehicles.
This year the twelve representatives will be 1998 IRL Champion Kenny Brack, 1998 IRL Indy 500 Winner Eddie Cheever, 1998 Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon, 1998 Busch Champion Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Winston Cup drivers Rusty Wallace, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. CART drivers Adrian Fernandez and Greg Moore will fill out the twelve car field. CART driver Al Unser, Jr. will miss the full-season due to a family medical emergency that concerns his twelve year-old daughter. Bobby Labonte was asked at the last minute to replace Unser, Jr. when word came that Unser, Jr. would withdraw. Labonte accepted the invitation to race with some reluctance out of respect for Al Unser, Jr. Labonte, who was contacted after the news broke of his replacing Unser, Jr.,replied "I am concerned about the news of "little Al's" daughter. Family comes first and I respect his decision not to race."
The True Value IROC series uses identically prepared racecars utilizing GM 350 cubic-inch small-block V8's. The cars at race weight come out at 3,500 pounds, which is a few pounds heavier than a Winston Cup car. The horsepower is small at 500 bhp at 6800 rpm. The one variable that the drivers must become accustomed to is the "drafting effect" which favors the Winston Cup representatives. The IROC organizers have tried to maintain a balance between closed-wheel and open-wheel drivers. However, over the past few years, 10 to be exact, the series has been dominated by the NASCAR drivers who know the intricacies of using a "drafting partner." The last time a driver from outside NASCAR won the series was 1988 when Al Unser, Jr. was the over-all champion. Since the series started in 1973, drivers from NASCAR have won the championship 14 times. The Indy-Style drivers have won 8 times. Not surprisingly Al Unser, Jr. and A.J. Foyt have each won the championship twice. But the dominant driver of IROC has been NASCAR driver Mark Martin, who has won an incredible 4 championships.
The "rookies" for this season include Greg Moore, Adrian Fernandez, Eddie Cheever, Kenny Brack and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The drivers themselves are certainly not rookies but when it comes to IROC racing the "yellow stripes" will be presented. For Moore, Cheever, Brack, and Fernandez the learning curve of racing at Daytona has been almost as tall as the banking itself. But like anything else, these guys are race drivers which means you either adapt or you lose. On Friday we will find out after 100 laps of nose to tail racing and finding that all important "Dance partner."
David Treffer -- The Auto Channel