ISM Racing is a former auto racing team owned by Bob Hancher. The team fielded entries in the Indy Racing League and the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
ISM fielded cars in the IRL from 1997 to 1999. In 1998, Jeff Ward finished 6th in IRL driver points and won the pole at Phoenix in an ISM car and the team fielded three cars in the 1998 Indianapolis 500. However, the team was only able to run part-time in 1999 and shut down in July of that year. The IRL team used G-Force chassis and Oldsmobile engines.
(key) (Results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
|Dallara IR7||Oldsmobile Aurora V8||Jeff Ward (R)1||35||16||3||17||30th||69|
|G-Force GF01B||Oldsmobile Aurora V8||Jeff Ward||35||2||5||13||17||22||19||2||20*||6||3||21||6th||252|
|Steve Knapp (R)||55||3||22nd||118|
|G-Force GF01C||Oldsmobile Aurora V8||Jeff Ward||35||3||11th||206|
McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco brand products, sponsored their Winston Cup car. The company announced in 1997 that it would sponsor the No. 35 Pontiac driven by Todd Bodine. The car would be owned by Bob Hancher. The team debuted on the weekend of the announcement at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with Bodine finishing 26th.
After a rumor that Tabasco had ended its sponsorship, the team failed to qualify for the first three races of the 1998 season. Surprisingly, McIlhenny Company voiced no concerns, despite the high-pressure stakes of NASCAR racing.
After a tenth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Team Tabasco qualified for Darlington and Bristol finishing 27th and 29th, but failed to qualified for three of the next four races, ranking 39th place in the one race in which it did appear.
A practice accident took Bodine out of the California 500, where Wally Dallenbach Jr. filled in as driver. Bodine would be back on board for the Coca-Cola 600 in late May, finishing 28th.
June 6 saw Bodine's last ride in the Tabasco Pontiac at Richmond International Raceway. In his brief tenure, Team Tabasco only managed to qualify in five of the first thirteen races (including the race during which Dallenbach drove). ISM replaced Bodine with Loy Allen Jr. for the Pepsi 400 on a temporary basis; after the race was delayed due to wildfires, Bodine was fully released by the team before the next race at New Hampshire International Speedway. Gary Bradberry and Jimmy Horton were scheduled to drive for the team at future races. After running only one of the next three races, however, Hancher sold the operation to Tim Beverly and his driver Darrell Waltrip. The Tyler Jet Motorsports team drove Chevrolet Monte Carlos and intended to continue using the model. In their first race, the Brickyard 400, Waltrip started dead-last but climbed through the field to finish 13th. But the team's use of Chevrolets sparked outrage at McIlhenny Company because it had invested heavily in Pontiacs as part of its marketing program. Lawsuits ensued between Tabasco and Hancher, and McIlhenny Company forced the team to run Pontiacs. Waltrip's best finish that year was 18th at Richmond; otherwise, the team performed poorly and Tabasco left the sport at the end of the year.
In NASCAR discussion this affair has become known as the "Tabasco Fiasco".
[Junie Donlavey] could have been describing what happened to a lucrative sponsorship deal that Bobby Hancher’s team had from Tabasco a few years ago. A buildup that started nearly a year earlier at Indianapolis ended when Todd Bodine failed to qualify for the Daytona 500. It’s still referred to as the “Tabasco Fiasco” in NASCAR circles.