IROC VII (partially found footage of stock car races; 1979-1980)

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The road racing qualifying race and final promoted in a CAN-AM race program.

Status: Partially Found

IROC VII was the seventh International Race of Champions (IROC) season. Occurring from 16th June 1979 to 15th March 1980, Bobby Allison of the NASCAR Winston Cup series would go on to win the championship and $75,000 in prize money, in what would be the last IROC series until 1983-1984. The Oval Final also saw one of the biggest accidents in IROC history.


As with the previous series, 24 drivers were invited, and were split into three qualifying groups consisting of NASCAR, CART, and road racing drivers.[1][2] The top four from each would qualify into the Road Racing and Oval Finals, held at the Riverside International Raceway and Atlanta International Raceway respectively.[1] The series would prove the last until it returned in 1983/1984.[2] The main reasons surrounding this was that Chevrolet, who had provided identical Camaros for several years for the series, had experienced severe financial difficulties and withdrew from IROC.[2] The economic situation meant that IROC were unable to find a replacement manufacturer, causing the series to be suspended.[2]

The Qualifying Races

The NASCAR qualifying race commenced on 16th June 1979 at the Michigan International Speedway.[1] The eight drivers consisted of Neil Bonnett, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough, Benny Parsons, Dale Earnhardt, and Donnie Allison.[1] Parsons would start in pole position, but a competitive race featuring eleven official lead changes, he would end up falling to sixth.[1] Bonnett edged out Bobby Allison by five feet for the victory, with Waltrip and Baker also qualifying for the final races.[1]

Meanwhile, the CART qualifying event took place at Michigan on 15th September.[1] Previously, the race would consist of eight drivers from the USAC Championship Car series. However, a major split in IndyCar racing occurred in 1979, resulting in the most prominent drivers leaving USAC with the biggest car owners to form CART.[3] Therefore, IROC opted to invite eight CART drivers for this qualifying race instead to ensure continuity, consisting of Gordon Johncock, Bobby Unser, Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford, Wally Dallenbach, Mike Mosley, Tom Sneva, and Danny Ongais.[1] Rutherford started in first, though would ultimately drop to Johncock and others, in a race seeing 16 official lead changes.[1] Ultimately, Johncock beat Unser to the line by two feet, with Mears and Rutherford claiming the other qualifying spots.[1]

Finally, the Road Racing qualifier would be situated at Riverside on 27th October.[1] It consisted of Formula One World Championship drivers Mario Andretti, Clay Regazzoni, Alan Jones, John Watson, Keke Rosberg, and Emerson Fittipaldi, as well as IMSA Camel GT's Peter Gregg and Don Whittington.[1] Andretti, who was defending the IROC championship, started on pole, and remained in contention for the lead throughout the event.[1] Fittipaldi retired after ten laps followings a brakes failure, a flat tyre took out Rosberg after 23 laps, while Watson crashed out on the same lap Rosberg retired.[1] Jones also spun on lap 22, though would complete the race.[1] Ultimately, Andretti won by 3.15 seconds, with Gregg, Whittington, and Regazzoni qualifying for the final races.[1]

The Final Races

The Road Racing Final occurred on 28th October at Riverside, with Bonnett taking pole position.[1][2] The race featured the most official lead changes for an IROC road racing event at the time, at four.[2][1] Nevertheless, Waltrip moved up from seventh, and claimed the lead a third of the race through.[1][2] Despite initially facing pressure from Allison and Andretti, Waltrip remained strong, claiming victory 1.48 seconds ahead of Allison, with Andretti finishing third.[1][2] Whittington was the only driver to retire, an oil pump failure proving costly after 26 laps.[1]

For the Oval Final, held on 15th March 1980 at Atlanta, Waltrip would start in the first position, as the starting order reflected the results from the Road Racing Final.[1][2] On lap 2, Andretti attempted to pass Waltrip, with it being three-wide for second place.[2] However, the move went disastrously wrong, as Andretti clipped Waltrip's rear, causing his car to spin into the inside wall, and Waltrip to storm into the outside wall.[2][1] Andretti was suddenly blocking the track, collecting Bonnett, Baker, Unser, Gregg, and Regazzoni, with the accident taking out all seven drivers.[2][1] The crash was one of the biggest and "most memorable" within IROC history.[1][2] With only five drivers taking the restart, Allison, Mears, and Rutherford continually duelled for the lead, contributing towards 23 official lead changes.[1][2] Whittington would suffer his own serious accident after 41 laps, forcing another red flag.[1] Ultimately, Allison outduelled Mears, winning by one car length and claiming the championship.[1][2]


ABC was responsible for filming and later televising the races until 1980.[4] Ultimately, none of the full IROC VII race broadcasts have publicly resurfaced, but Oval Final highlights containing both crashes can be found on YouTube.[5]



Oval Final highlights.


See Also