track-talk

January 18th, 2017.

The Race of Champions (ROC) runs for the first time ever in the United States, taking over Marlins Park, in Miami. New to the ROC? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered below.

It started as a race for the ‘who’s who’ of rally car racing: The ROC started as an all-star rally race back in 1988- specifically as a memorial race for the late World Rally Championship driver, Henri Toivonen.

It’s stadium racing at its best: Are you a fan of motocross or short track racing? Then you’re going to love the ROC’s see-the-entire track from your seat layout. Modeled after ‘special stage’ tracks typically featured in rally car racing, it’s like a motorcross track for cars. And rather than having an entire grid race at once, the ROC features one-on-one duels, with a round-robin knockout format. Not only that, but they do that in a variety of exotic cars.

And speaking of the cars: From the KTM X-Bow to the Polaris Slingshot, the ROC keeps the competition on its toes with a number of cars. I could go on forever, but you can click here to see the full fleet.

And speaking of the drivers: This ROC brings together some of the best from IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, sportscar, rally car racing, and even a former Mazda Road to Indy driver.

IndyCar drivers have a deep history competing in the ROC: A little known fact- IndyCar drivers have had a strong presence at past ROC events. It started with Danny Sullivan and continued with Robby Gordon, Oriol Servia, Kenny Brack, Tony Kanaan, Christiano da Matta, the late Dan Wheldon, Sebastien Bourdais, JJ Letho, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. While Kurt Busch is best known for being a NASCAR driver, we’ll give the 2014 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year an honorable mention.

The IndyCar connection gets deeper: Seven IndyCar drivers will compete in the ROC this weekend. Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay return, but for the first time they’ll be joined by Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Juan Pablo Montoya, Gabby Chavez, and Helio Castroneves.

The Indy 500 is also well represented: Five Indy 500 champions will also compete. Combined Tony Kanaan, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Helio Castroneves have won a total of eight Borg-Warner trophies.

Watch out for the underdogs: Heikki Kovalainen shocked the world when he won the 2004 ROC two years before making his competitive Formula 1 debut. Could an underdog punch above their weight again?  

Can anyone tame the Europeans? European drivers have won every ROC. For the first time, there are more drivers combined from other parts of the world. Specifically, the United States leads the way with six drivers. Could the stars and stripes take the crown on home soil?

 

Victor Genova is the host of the Media People Podcast and a freelance racing writer. @VicGenova

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