Longtime sports/information technology entrepreneur/executive Dave Lockton joins this week to discuss his managerial adventures in the geographically fragmented and provincially fractious auto racing scene of the late 1960s/early 1970s – including the founding of the groundbreaking Ontario Motor Speedway, and its role in the ideation of the ultimate “all-star” professional driving competition – the International Race of Champions (IROC).
Sports fans of a certain age will surely remember the old IROC series – which ran for 30 seasons starting in 1973 – where the best drivers from the world’s top auto racing disciplines raced one another in equally prepared and equitably crewed cars to determine motorsports’ “ultimate” annual champion. Multi-circuit veteran Tony Stewart (who won the final IROC XXX in 2006) certainly does – he and fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham are teaming to reinvent the format next summer with a nationally televised six-race, short-track series to air in prime time on CBS called the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX).
The basis for the IROC concept dates back to Lockton’s time as President/CEO and chief visionary of Ontario’s “Indianapolis of the West” – a stalled mid-1960s pipe dream that Lockton helped resuscitate, leveraging his budding professional driver representation firm and his Indianapolis Speedway/USAC governing body relationships into a state-of-the-art, all-purpose West Coast racing mecca just east of Los Angeles.
Among the innovations Lockton and team pioneered at Ontario (which included a private stadium club with annual memberships, corporate suites, crash-absorbent retaining walls & safety fences, and computerized real-time timing/scoring/positioning data) was a first-of-its-kind pro-am celebrity race – featuring a co-mingling of Hollywood luminaries and professional drivers competing in similarly prepared vehicles – the foundational element of what would soon become the signature IROC series.
PLUS: Hugh Downs keeps it together; Evel Knievel makes his case; and the short-lived sports commissioner career of Gerald Ford!
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