IROC IV (partially found footage of stock car races; 1976-1977)
The opening Michigan race advertised as part of the 1976 Michigan 150 race program.
Status: Partially Found
IROC IV was the fourth International Race of Champions (IROC) season. Occurring from 18th September 1976 to 18th February 1977, A.J. Foyt of the USAC Championship Car series would go on to win his second consecutive championship and $50,000, despite again not achieving any victories during the season.
As with the previous IROC series, entrants into the IROC IV season were invited, having been deemed among the best of their respective motorsport series. Among competing drivers included USAC Championship Car's Foyt, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, and Gordon Johncock; NASCAR Winston Cup's Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Richard Petty, and David Pearson; Formula One World Championship drivers Jody Scheckter and James Hunt; and IMSA's Al Holbert. The IROC series calendar and regulations remained unchanged.
The first race was held at the Michigan International Speedway on 18th September 1976. This race broke the IROC record of most official lead changes at 25, beating out race 4 of IROC III. During the event, Hunt was in pole position, but would quickly be outpaced by the other competitors, crashing out after eight laps. Foyt started fourth, but charged up to first. He controlled the early stages of the race, but faced competition from Bobby Unser. The duo collided after 38 laps, putting Unser out and slowing Foyt considerably. Consequently, Baker and Rutherford passed him for first and second respectively, Baker claiming victory in his debut IROC event. Foyt held on to finish third.
Heading into race 2, Hunt quit the series as he was battling for the 1976 Formula One World Championship. The second event occurred at the Riverside International Raceway on 16th October 1976, with Unser starting from first as per IROC's reversed order regulations. Ultimately, Unser controlled the lead throughout the event to claim victory, with Pearson maintaining second, and Petty taking third. Scheckter crashed out after 21 laps, while Foyt was a lap down in eighth. Race 3 occurred at Riverside the following day. Despite starting ninth, Yarborough made a strong start, assuming the lead and controlling proceedings from there to claim victory. Foyt claimed second, but may have been capable of challenging for the lead had Johncock not forced him off-track. Scheckter claimed third, in spite of him, Rutherford, and Baker encountering issues that saw them end up off-track on multiple occasions. In the final event, held at the Daytona International Speedway on 18th February 1977, only the top nine in the points standings were eligible to compete. Initially, Pearson joined Johncock on the sidelines, but would replace Scheckter when the South African was required to fulfil a Formula One obligation. Notably, this was the first instance of Petty qualifying for the final race, having previously failed to do so in the first three seasons.
The finale equalled race 1's official lead change record, with the majority of drivers leading at least one lap. Meanwhile, The New York Times claimed 34 lead changes had occurred by the halfway mark. The New York Times also stated there were highlights considered comedic in nature. This included some of the drivers being red-flagged and lectured on the correct starting procedures, Foyt ending up on the grass not to avoid the lecture but to stop his car after it lacked braking power. Al Unser meanwhile crashed out after 32 laps. Despite initially pulling up after suspecting he ran out of fuel following a fuel tank tilt issue, Yarborough eventually carried on, taking the lead ahead of Foyt. Because Foyt's car was suffering issues, in addition to facing pressure from Bobby Unser, who was just a point behind in the championship, the defending champion opted to stay behind Yarborough. Yarborough claimed his second victory of the season and runners-up in the standings, while Foyt claimed his second title despite again not winning any races. Post-race, Foyt explained that money factor motivated his decision to remain behind Yarborough, stating "Hey, $50,000 is a lot of money to try and gamble and be a hero on the last lap."
ABC was responsible for filming and later televising the races until 1980. Ultimately, none of the full IROC IV race broadcasts have publicly resurfaced, but race 4 highlights can be found as part of a film on the 1977 Daytona Speedweeks.
- IROC I (partially found footage of stock car races; 1973-1974)
- IROC II (partially found footage of stock car races; 1974-1975)
- IROC III (lost footage of stock car races; 1975-1976)
- 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 Yarborough winning the fourth race, and Foyt winning the championship. Retrieved 27th Oct '22
- Archived IROC Racing summarising the season, and providing race results and the final championship standings. Retrieved 27th Oct '22
- CarThrottle briefly 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