When you think of dirt racing, a lot of things come to mind. But what should most prevalent in your mind are the IMCA Modifieds. These open-wheel racers are everywhere! If there’s a dirt track near, chances are they run Modifieds. If they aren’t directly associated with the IMCA, chances are they have modeled the class after what the IMCA has been so successful with for so long.
Since its inception in 1979, the Modifieds have been the IMCA’s flagship class, attracting tons of racers and millions of enthusiastic fans in the process. The cars are unique, open-wheel dirt slingers that offer nothing less than the most exciting racing you’re likely to see. Fierce competition and wheel to wheel action make the Modifieds just as exciting for the drivers as it is for the fans in the grandstands.
The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) was organized in 1915, and is the oldest active automobile racing sanctioning body in the United States. J. Alex Sloan, a native of Pittsburgh, was instrumental in establishing IMCA and ran more races than all other promoters in the United States combined—all under IMCA sanction. After Sloan’s death in 1937, his son John continued the IMCA tradition. Under his leadership, IMCA continued to grow and held its first Late Model race on November 9, 1947 in Lubbock, Texas. In the late 1970s, Keith Knaack introduced the IMCA Modified division. Few knew then that Keith’s vision and innovation would result in the largest class of race cars in the country.
In 1990, Kathy Root was named president of IMCA and purchased IMCA from Karolyn and Kathryn Knaack in 1996. Using the vision and innovation of Keith Knaack, IMCA is based on enforcing fair and consistent rules that promote affordability as the foundation of racing in America. Through the promotion of the “grassroots” weekly racer, IMCA has continued to see remarkable growth throughout the last decade.
Everyone knows racing is expensive. Whether you’re turning laps on the high banks of Daytona or wheeling a Mini Stock at the local quarter-mile dirt track, racing is not a cheap endeavor. This is why cost control is one of the IMCA’s main focuses.
“Our philosophy and foundation has been built around trying to control or discourage costs,” explains Brett Root, IMCA Vice President of Operations. “We try to keep things as reasonably affordable as they can be for racing, and we are going to stay true to that. We have cost control measures on the cars, and we’ve had a spec motor since 1996. This was done to keep the cost of the engines down. We also run on a little narrower tire and a narrower wheel, which relates to a little less expense when it comes to tire budget. The racers are there and they have the equipment, but we are seeing racers at certain events and at certain racetracks being selective about how much they are racing.”
With the ever-rising cost of race engines, coupled with the downturn in the economy, the IMCA made a bold move, allowing 604 crate engines in its premier series. The move sparked debate between racing purists who are against crate racing and budget minded enthusiasts and racer who are for it. The introduction of crates complicated the IMCA Modified rulebook, due to the combination of built, claimer engines with sealed crate engines that, under most circumstances, are not claimable.
“The response from the racers have been mixed,” Root adds. “We have racers that are very happy we made the decision that went out and bought the crate engine, and other people who dispise the crate.”
With the crate engine program in its first season, it may be too early to gauge the success of the program. Root goes on to elaborate on how this season has been so far.
“To many racer’s surprise, the crate engine has been very competetive. It’s too early to tell [if the crate program has increased car counts], membership is up this year, but it may not be because of the engine rules.