It was a great idea, but it was also tough to maintain. Sponsorship was always a problem. True Value sponsored it for a while, then Crown Royal. It was a nightmare scheduling the races around the schedule of the drivers’ regular series. And as the various racing disciplines got more and more specialized in the 1990s and 2000s, IROC’s relevance as the ultimate arena began to fade.
IROC’s boss Jay Signore, the heart and soul of the whole endeavor, still turned out a quality product, and those who have an IROC championship value it. They include Dale Earnhardt, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarbrough and Mark Martin, the winningest IROC champ with five titles. The last champion was Stewart in 2006. After that, the series scrambled for backing that never came and was forced to shut down. Most of its assets were auctioned off in 2008.
For Evernham, getting IROC 2.0 off the ground has a special importance. It was Signore who first hired Evernham as a young mechanic and driver; he describes Signore as a “second father. I learned so much from the man.” Evernham mastered car setup, learned aerodynamics, power delivery and equalizing each car so no driver had an edge. Now retired from NASCAR, Evernham competes regularly in vintage series, mostly in his meticulously prepared 1966 Chevrolet Corvette, and he appears often on television.
“I want to do something to give back,” Evernham said. “Something that would make Jay Signore proud.”
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