Hickory Boys Branch Out

Little did Tommy Houston know that back when he was racing at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway - and the sport was nowhere as popular as it is now - so many people would want to follow in his footsteps.

Not only was the Hickory track the birthplace for the racing careers of Ned and Dale Jarrett, but it was also where the Houston family would make its claim to fame in the NASCAR world.

Like the Jarretts, Tommy Houston would carve a path from the small Western North Carolina track to a career of racing fame.

Houston sits third on the all-time victory list in the Busch Series with 24 wins, trailing only Jack Ingram (31) and Mark Martin (45). But perhaps the biggest thing about Houston is the legacy he left behind for his three sons and Mike Beam, a close friend of the family who is also from Hickory.

It appears those old racing days at Hickory have paid off, as all four have top-notch positions in NASCAR.

Two of Tommy Houston’s sons, Andy and Scott, as well as Beam, are now working for the Cal Wells-owned PPI Motorsports team which - you guessed it - is located in Hickory. For Marty Houston, it might not be too much longer before he’s in Winston Cup, as well, if he can make a good impression while driving in Busch Series competition in 2001.

“It’s great that Andy has gone on to Winston Cup as a driver,” Tommy says. “Marty has a very good Busch Series ride, and Scott has been the crew chief for Scott Pruett. Now that team went through a learning curve, but Cal Wells is dedicated to Winston Cup racing and he’ll do whatever it takes to be successful.”

Tommy Houston says one of those commitments was showcased by Wells when he hired Beam in December to come on board as the senior team manager.

“I’ve known Mike Beam for a long time, and he’s always been a very close friend of mine,” Tommy says. “I can call on him anytime I need to, and he can call on me anytime he needs to. It seems like we’ve known each other forever. It’s great those teams are taking advantage of all the local talent. All it’s going to take is getting the right chemistry and you’re really going to see things shine.”

The relationship between Beam and the Houstons is something that dates back quite a few years.

“I’ve known Andy forever because we went to high school together,” Beam says. “Years ago, I used to work with Butch Lindley and he used to race Andy’s dad over at Hickory Motor Speedway. So I got to see Andy, Scott and Marty grow up. It’s pretty exciting for me to be here at PPI and be able to work with Andy and Scott.”

Heading into his first full season of Winston Cup competition, Andy Houston admits he hasn’t been focused a whole lot on anything outside of racing.

“I’ve always told people we have to race because we don’t know how to do anything else,” he says. “If you look at it, it’s really true. My brother Marty is moving up to run in the Busch Series and my other brother Scott works with us at PPI. Plus we have my dad who has done a lot in the sport. So we’ve always been involved in racing, and it’s what we like to do. We just want to continue that tradition.

“Plus, Mike has been around this area pretty much his whole life, just like our family. We all grew up in this area, so it’s pretty neat having Mike around with all the experience he has. Mike is really going to bring a lot to this program when it comes basic knowledge of racing. I’m looking forward to it, and I think we’ll have a great year.”

When asked what he thinks about the chance Andy Houston was given by Wells to move up to Winston Cup, Beam says it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

“It’s wonderful for Andy, especially with us being from the same town,” Beam says. “I’ve seen him have to work hard and sacrifice a lot of things to get to this point. Andy is now living the American Dream because of the chance he’s getting. He just acts like a kid in a candy store. Andy did real well in the truck series and he’s got a lot to learn in Winston Cup.”

Both Andy and Mike point to Tommy Houston as having a major – if not the biggest - impact on getting them to where they are now.

“I watched Tommy race a 1956 Ford over at Hickory on dirt,” Beam says. “I watched him progress through his career and always tried to help him. I never did work for him because the opportunity never came up, but I’ve always been a big fan of his.”

Along the way, Andy Houston says he thinks he’s made his father proud.

“I hope so, because my dad has always been real good to me,” Andy says. “When I was trying to decide what to do over the summer, it was nice to be able to throw all my ideas at him and get his opinion of what was going on. I feel like I made the right decision to go racing, and my dad was a big part of that. It’s good to have somebody, especially headed into my rookie year in Winston Cup, to be able to call up on the phone and run things by him.”

Tommy Houston says the efforts of all three of his sons, as well as that of Beam, have made him feel good about providing a career path for them to follow.

“Andy has done a fantastic job of getting where he’s at in his career,” Beam says. “Especially with him being as young as he is. Getting in Winston Cup is all he’s ever wanted to do, and you’re going to see a lot out of him in the years to come because he’s talented and has his head on straight.

“Andy spent three years in the truck series and did real well at learning what all was going on around him. I know his Winston Cup team is dedicated at what they’re doing, so his team is going to be in the big picture for years to come.”

If there’s one thing for certain, no matter how much racing wants to change them, some things remain the same.

“I’m just a Hickory boy trying to help another Hickory boy out,” Beam says.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2000

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