Tony Stewart battles Danny Lasoski and Bobby Labonte during IROC competition at Daytona Int'l Speedway in 2002. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

SHEHEEN: Evernham Talks IROC Return

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham and Rob Kauffman, chairman of Race Team Alliance, have acquired the rights to the International Race of Champions name.

The series held its first race at California’s Riverside Int’l Raceway in 1973 and crowned Mark Donohue its first champion in 1974.

“This is something that is really important to me and we are really excited to have the brand back,” said Evernham.

Evernham worked for IROC when it was under the stewardship of Jay Signore. He began in 1983 with the third-generation IROC Camaro.

Evernham is very passionate about IROC and the concept of bringing racing stars together and putting them in equally prepared machinery. He was also co-founder of the recently shuttered Superstar Racing Experience.

The current plan for IROC is to focus on the vintage side for now.

“We are going to try and have an IROC reunion with a target of fall 2024 for an event. No venue has been picked yet, however, we want a place where fans can see the cars up close in the paddock and while competing on the track,” said Evernham.

There are plenty of cars in collections to make for an exciting event. In fact, Evernham has 13 vintage IROC machines. Kauffman, who races quite a bit, doesn’t have one yet, but he’s looking and plans to participate as a driver.

“We are inviting every IROC car, including the Porsches, Camaros, Dodges, etc.,” Evernham said. “We also want to invite the IROC-themed car clubs to join our events.”

■ The 2019 film “Ford vs. Ferrari” is about specific cars, a specific race and two remarkable characters — Carol Shelby and Ken Miles, who truly were two of racing’s larger-than-life personalities.

On the other hand, the recently released film “Ferrari” spotlights the financial and personal struggles of a very complex man — Enzo Ferrari.

While “Ford vs. Ferrari” celebrates the Ford GT40’s victory in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, “Ferrari” spotlights a dark day in auto racing history when nine spectators were killed during the 1957 running of the Mille Miglia.

The acting in “Ferrari” is outstanding. Adam Driver is tremendous as Enzo Ferrari, and Penelope Cruz does a fantastic job in the role of Enzo Ferrari’s wife, Laura.

A couple of weeks prior the movie’s release, stunt coordinator Robert Nagle spoke with us about the extensive efforts to replicate the cars and the racing scenes. The exceptional stunt driving duties were handled by a stellar group of racers, many of whom also worked on “Ford vs. Ferrari.”

The one thing that let us down was the computer-generated imagery of some of the crashes. It looked a bit overdone and unrealistic. Ultimately, that is a very minor criticism.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Ferrari” and highly recommend it.

The best news to come from our conversation with Nagle is that he currently has a handful of scripts on his desk for future racing-themed films. He couldn’t go into details, but we do know the Brad Pitt Formula 1 movie shot scenes at Daytona Int’l Speedway during the recent Rolex 24 At Daytona.

We’ve also been told that a movie about the life of Janet Guthrie has been given the green light.

■ This year’s Chili Bowl Midget Nationals was another fantastic event with a massive car count, packed grandstands and six nights of competitive racing. The only complaint was the weather as it was the coldest Chili Bowl anyone could remember.

We spent a few minutes chatting with recent National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Gurney in the Chili Bowl pit area. He was one of the best to gas it up from the West Coast.

Also spent some time with fellow National Sprint Car Hall of Famers Brad Noffsinger and Leland McSpadden. McSpadden had one great story after another to keep Noffsinger and I laughing.

McSpadden told one tale about being with Mark Donohue and the Penske Can-Am squad at California’s Riverside Raceway while they were testing. McSpadden said it had gotten to the end of the day and he asked if he could go for a ride. When asked how he was going to hang on inside the car, McSpadden replied, “Don’t worry about me, I race sprint cars.”

McSpadden climbed inside the legendary Sunoco-backed Porsche 917-30 with Donohue at the controls. Just as they were about to exit pit road, track president Les Richter jumped out waving his arms and said, “No way, I’ll lose my insurance.”

That quickly ended what would have been one of the all-time greatest ride-along stories.