Jack Ingram: A Five-Time Champion
January 28, 2014 | 11:55 A.M. EST
Jack Ingram, shown here in Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway in 1980, will be enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday night. (Photo: ISC Archives)
(This is part of a series in advance of the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday. Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET) with live streaming at MRN.com. Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts comprise the Class of 2014.)
When three-time NASCAR Late Model Sportsman champion Jack Ingram was told that the "here, there and everywhere" series would transition into a more compact tour of 29 races in 1982, he figuratively licked his chops in anticipation.
Later nicknamed "The Iron Man," Ingram had run 86 races throughout the Southeast – sometimes three and four times a week in as many different states – when he won the 1972 title.
"When they made it to where you only had to go to 30 racetracks, it was like a vacation for us," Ingram said of the tour that's known today as the Nationwide Series. "I liked the idea. It worked out well for me."
Indeed, it did.
Ingram captured the inaugural 1982 championship over cross-town rival Sam Ard with seven victories, 23 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes. He placed second to Ard in 1983 and '84, and fashioned a second title in 1985 with five wins. A two-race suspension kept Ingram from collecting a third championship the following season, in which he finished third.
Over nine seasons as a full-time competitor, Ingram finished outside the top five in points just twice. He competed in 275 races, winning 31. That total stood as a series record until it was broken by Mark Martin in 1997. Today, Ingram is fifth in all-time Nationwide Series victories.
He won at least one race in six consecutive seasons, to go with five career poles. All but two of those victories came on short tracks, leading to Ingram calling himself - half-jokingly - "the best short-track racer ever."
Ironically, Ingram’s best racing memory was his victory in the 1975 Daytona Permatex 300, a race broadcast by ABC’s "Wide World of Sports." Because the event was televised, a rarity in those years - especially for a Late Model Sportsman race, Ingram received congratulatory letters from throughout the U.S. and even from fans in foreign countries.
His car had two crew chiefs, NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson and Banjo Matthews.
"We got a big crack in the top of the windshield, a big hole," said Ingram. "They were going to black-flag me. Junior said he would fix it and they believed Junior. Now, he didn’t fix it but he taped it up, they let me finish the race, we won and that was the best time of my whole racing career."
That NASCAR Nationwide Series total of 31 wins doesn’t include the dozens of points-paying NASCAR Late Model Sportsman features Ingram won during the 1960s and 1970s while driving his No. 11 J.W. Hunt-sponsored Chevrolets on weekly tracks. It was not uncommon for a driver and a single crew chief/mechanic to race in Virginia on a Friday night, tow to Tennessee for a Saturday show and finish the weekend in North Carolina.
Ingram won 15 races and finished among the top five in 67 starts during his 1972 championship season. A year later, he won a second title by concentrating on national championship-designated events, winning 11 of 18 starts. His third crown was a runaway as Ingram held a 2,000-point edge over the late Butch Lindley at season’s end.
"One weekend, we ran Langley, Richmond and Manassas (Va.); and Kingsport (Tenn.) in the same car ... maybe on the same set of tires," fellow competitor Jimmy Hensley said of a typical weekend in NASCAR’s Late Model Sportsman years. "Jack raced for a living. I’d work all day and race all night. He was tough to beat. He had good ability and was very competitive. He finished most of the races and rarely had breakdowns."
Ingram also competed in 19 Sprint Cup Series races between 1965 and 1981 with a best finish of second to Richard Petty on Sept. 8, 1967, at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
"Jack’s record was phenomenal because he was the driver, crew chief, car owner and chief bottle washer on his team for most of his career," Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s late vice president of communications, said during Ingram’s 2007 induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. "He was a no-nonsense, get-in-your-face, hard-nosed, fender-scraping racer who took no prisoners on the track.
"He raced other drivers however they raced him. Sort of, ‘You wanna beat and bang? I’ll beat and bang with you. You want to race hard but clean? I’ll do that, too.’ (But) in spite of his hard-nosed temperament, Jack was and still is very popular among his peers."
"He was very dedicated to the sport. He dedicated his life to it and even after he quit driving, Jack continued to help others along the way," said NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett.
Ingram was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.