IROC III (lost footage of stock car races; 1975-1976)
IROC III was the third International Race of Champions (IROC) season. Occurring from 13th September 1975 to 13th February 1976, A.J. Foyt of the USAC Championship Car series would go on to win the championship and $50,000 in prize money, despite not winning any of the four races.
As with the previous IROC series, entrants into the IROC III season were invited, having been deemed among the best of their respective motorsport series. Among those competing were USAC Championship Car's Foyt, defending champion Bobby Unser, and Al Unser; NASCAR Winston Cup's Benny Parsons, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, and Richard Petty; Formula One World Championship drivers Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, and Jody Scheckter; and SCCA Can-Am's Mario Andretti and Brian Redman.
The race calendar remained unchanged. However, it was announced heading into the season that a new champion would be crowned based on points scored throughout the four races, rather than winning the final event. Therefore, it was now theoretically possible to win the championship without ever having stood on the top podium.
The first race was held at the Michigan International Speedway on 13th September 1975. The event would be without defending champion Unser, as he broke a kneecap at the 1975 Michigan 150 held earlier that day. The pole position was won by Andretti, who remained in contention for the lead throughout. In fact, the top seven were about 100 feet of each during much of the race, with 15 leader changes occurring, breaking the record set by IROC II's race 4. Ultimately, Andretti spun out late-on, falling to ninth. Elsewhere, Pearson and Allison duelled for the lead on the final lap, with the former getting through on turn three, outmatching Allison by one-half car length in the end to claim his first IROC victory and 12 points in the championship. Foyt claimed third after pipping Parsons for the final podium spot at the finish line. There were no retirements, although Hunt was a lap down following a spin on lap 6, with his car struggling for performance from then on.
Unser returned for the following race held at the Riverside International Raceway on 25th October. Starting in first place because of IROC's reversed order regulations, he successfully led the entirety of the 30-lap race to claim victory and 12 points in the championship. Foyt had another strong race; having started 10th, he climbed the order to finish second. Fittipaldi also made strong gains, having started eighth. He was on-course to finish third, but spun on the final lap, allowing Andretti to move ahead. Hunt retired after five laps following a gearbox failure, while Allison exited after eight due to a failed engine. Pearson and Al Unser both retired after 20 laps from ignition failures, while Redman crashed out after 23 laps. At the time, this race produced the highest number of retirements in IROC history.
Race 3 was held at Riverside the following day. After starting second, Allison passed Hunt for the lead early-on, facing challenges from Al Unser. Despite closing in late-on, Unser was unable to move by, allowing Allison to claim victory. However, the main battle was between Foyt, Andretti, and Bobby Unser for third, Foyt winning the three-way duel in the end and nearing the top two. Fittipaldi and Petty both crashed out after laps 18 and 23 respectively, while Scheckter suffered a flat tyre following the completion of 27. For the final event, held on 13th February 1976 at the Daytona International Raceway, Petty, Hunt, and Scheckter were eliminated from the championship as only the top nine in the standings were eligible to compete.
In the finale, an IROC record number of lead changes occurred, with 24 deemed official, and with more than 30 others also noted during the race. The race was also noted for having fewest number of finisher in IROC history at six; Redman retired on lap 1 following a transmission failure, Bobby Unser's engine blew after 23 laps, Allison suffered an oil leak after 28, while Fittipaldi exited with four laps remaining after an engine failure. Parsons, who started second, would narrowly claim victory by a car length. However, it was second place Foyt who claimed the title, as, despite not winning any races that season, he had accumulated enough points to edge out runners-up Andretti, who finished third in the final race. Parsons' win promoted him to third in the standings. For winning the series, Foyt would earn $50,000 in prize money.
ABC was responsible for filming and later televising the races until 1980. Ultimately, none of the IROC III broadcasts have publicly resurfaced, and no race footage is seemingly publicly available.
- IROC I (partially found footage of stock car races; 1973-1974)
- IROC II (partially found footage of stock car races; 1974-1975)
- IROC IV (partially found footage of stock car races; 1976-1977)
- IROC VI (lost footage of stock car races; 1978-1979)
- IROC VII (partially found footage of stock car races; 1979-1980)
- IROC IX (partially lost footage of stock car races; 1985)
- IROC XII (partially lost footage of stock car races; 1988)
- IROC XVII (partially lost footage of stock car races; 1993)
- IROC XXV (partially lost footage of stock car races; 2001)
- IROC XXVI (partially lost footage of stock car races; 2002)
- The New York Times reporting on Pearson winning the opening race. Retrieved 27th Oct '22
- Archived IROC Racing summarising the season, and providing race results and the final championship standings. Retrieved 27th Oct '22
- CarThrottle summarising the races. Retrieved 27th Oct '22
- Race Line Central providing the IROC regulations. Retrieved 27th Oct '22
- GMEFI noting IROC's races from 1973 to 1980 were televised by ABC. Retrieved 4th Nov '22
- Austin LaPlante's IROC race broadcast YouTube playlist. Retrieved 27th Oct '22