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.
“The crate engine also gives racers a way out of the claim rule. Eighty pecent of the engine claims in past have been by 20 percent of the racers. Guys don’t like having their engines claimed, and this gives them a way out of that.”
The Checkered Flag
With tracks and racers from coast to coast, the IMCA is stronger than ever. Attendance is up and the action is better than ever. Those who have been to an IMCA Modified race know how good they are, those who haven’t don’t know what they’re missing!
Those who have been to an IMCA Modified race know how good they are, those who haven’t don’t know what they’re missing!
IMCA Engine Rule
Engine Specifications: All cars utilizing a GM604 crate engine must clearly display on both front roof posts the word CRATE. Must be contrasting in color from body, minimum two inches tall. Markers not acceptable.
(A) Crate Engine: Must use unaltered sealed GM #88958604 crate engine with additional IMCA Cable-Lok system—no exceptions. Upon inspection, any different, altered or missing GM seal bolts or IMCA Cable-Loks will result in disqualification, loss of all IMCA points for the season, $1,000 fine and a one year suspension from all divisions with crate option. GM seal bolt exception is IMCA approved and issued Cable-Lok repair system. $250 fine for any crate engine not using required pushrods, valve springs or rocker arms. $250 fine for utilizing altered rev-limiter components. Any driver using crate engine cannot claim engine or have engine claimed. During same season, no driver is allowed to claim an engine after competing with a crate. If a driver switches to a crate after claiming an engine, the crate engine is then claimable.
(B) Claim Engine: Any American make steel engine block allowed. Aftermarket and OEM performance blocks allowed. Cast iron or aluminum intake manifolds only. Steel cylinder heads and oil pan only. Flat tappet cam/lifters and stud-mounted rocker arms only. Magnetic steel retainers only. No shaft, pedestal, or offset rocker arms, titanium engine components, stud girdles or mushroom lifters. Lifter diameter and configuration must match OEM passenger block. OEM firing order cannot be changed (GM: 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2). All engines must be able to be used in conventional passenger car without alterations. Engine mounts cannot be removed or altered. Castings and fittings must not be changed. No machine work on outside of engine (no lightweight engine blocks). All belt driven accessories must be on front of engine. ‘Wet’ sump oiling system only. External oil pumps go with engine if claimed.
25. Engine Claiming Rules: Refer to www.imca.com for claim eligibility requirements.
$1,050 cash, or $100 and exchange, claim on engine, flywheel and balancing plates ($25 goes to wrecker and $25 to official for each engine). Claimed driver has option of accepting cash, or exchanging engines with claiming driver.
Claim does not include–1. clutch, 2. pressure plate, 3. bellhousing, 4. headers, 5. carburetor, 6. starter, 7. motor mounts, 8. oil/temp. sending units, 9. carburetor spacer, 10. fan and pulleys, 11. clutch ball, 12. clutch arm, 13. throw out bearing, 14. dip stick, 15. water pump, 16. fuel pump, rod and plate, 17. distributor, 18. plug wires, 19. water outlet and restrictor, 20. breathers.
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
“To many racer’s surprise, the crate engine has been very competetive”