Skepticism. That's the feeling many race fans have when they hear the term 'Figure 8 Racing.' Is it actually racing or exciting show business?

You might be surprised to learn that Figure 8 racing stretches back to before World War II. But it was the 1950s when the sport really took off. It was a period when tracks across the country were adding Figure 8 designs in their infields. And at many tracks they became a weekly class. During the 1970s, the interest waned with just a few tracks successfully continuing the class. But in the '80s, the sport was re-invigorated with the use of Late Model-style cars which produced higher speeds and more interesting racing. Still it was often regarded as a sideshow-type of event, but with the new International Outlaw Figure 8 Series (IOFS), a Midwest-based traveling series, attitudes are changing and changing fast.

No beat-up junkers here, this group is just as professional as any top-gun traveling oval track group. The technology and performance of the IOFS race cars, the number of cars that show up to do battle and the tight competition that is demonstrated every time out certainly see to that. In fact, the IOFS, which series officials believe is the only traveling Figure 8 series today, has been called "The NASCAR of Figure 8 racing."

The IOFS got its start when racer Charlie Hargraves and photographer David Sink got involved in a casual conversation one day in 2008. Out of that conversation the IOFS was born. Not knowing what to expect, the pair started slowly in 2008 with two non-sanctioned races at the 1/4-mile Anderson (IN) Speedway. "It didn't take long to prove that the idea was right on the money. We had huge crowds at both events," Sink explained.

The success of those two races pushed Hargraves and Sink to run eight races in 2009 with continued success. The crowds attracted all ages, from young kids to their grandpas who probably remembered seeing Figure 8 racing in their younger days. To the man, they would tell you that it was nothing like the IOFS.

For the 2010 season, there are 13 races scheduled with events in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio including a visit to one of the most famous paved short tracks in the country, Salem Speedway in Indiana. Salem is adding a new Figure 8 track in its infield for the 2010 season and the IOFS will be the first group to try it out.

Hargraves and Sink say that there are possibilities of adding races in Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin in 2011. In addition, they are looking into the possibility of running these cars on dirt, and are in discussions with Lucas Oil Speedway in Missouri for a 2011 date.

To date, the entire IOFS racing schedule has taken place on paved tracks no larger than 3/8-mile. Even on the shorter courses, the cars are capable of reaching speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. But get this, the IOFS is a totally-volunteer operation. There isn't a dollar paid to anybody with all the money going back into the series. Sink says that keeping the sport affordable is important and one area they concentrate on is the 10-inch-wide/15-inch Hoosier slicks required by the series. "The tires are sold to competitors at cost to help them during these tight economic times."

The age of an IOFS driver ranges between 18 to the mid-50s. "There were some Figure 8 guys from the earlier days who actually came out of retirement to run with us!" exclaimed Hargraves.

However, running an IOFS race is drastically different than racing in a typical oval track event as Hargraves explains. "Everybody racing with us understands that there is going to be heavy contact out there and many very close calls. From an administrative point of view with cars all over the track, you can imagine how tough it is to score. So for the 2010 season we went to transponders to help keep track, and we've also hired a dedicated scorer."