Hall of Famer Ingram Makes Big Day Bigger
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RICHMOND, Va. – When Elliott Sadler walked out of his house to head for Richmond International Raceway, his father gave him a simple message – “Please don’t embarrass Jack Ingram and run like crap tomorrow night.”
Ingram, a five-time NASCAR champion who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January, was at RIR for Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 – the 1,000 Nationwide Series event.
In honor of the series milestone and Ingram, Sadler’s car number was stylized like the No. 11 Ingram piloted for six decades. Sadler called it an “honor”, noting that he and his father were long-time Ingram fans. In fact, Sadler first met Ingram at age 13 at Hickory Motor Speedway. A couple of years later, Sadler’s brother rented Ingram’s race car and used it at Hickory. Eventually, Sadler found himself on Ingram’s pit crew.
Ingram retired in 1991, yet he remains fifth on the Nationwide Series all-time victory list with 31 wins, the most of any series regular. The four drivers ahead of him are all full-time on the Sprint Cup circuit. For those drivers, they achieved their victories driving cars fielded in the Nationwide Series by full-time Sprint Cup teams. Not Ingram. He fielded his own car in a shop initially located within walking distance of the third-mile New Asheville [N.C.] Speedway.
Times weren’t always easy for the driver nicknamed the “Iron Man”. In fact, his profession cost him his son, who was involved in a fatal traffic accident while driving his father’s hauler back from an event.
“When it started off we were racing Late Model Sportsman cars all over the country, including Daytona, and they’d have maybe 20 championship races a year and you had to run a lot of weekly events because they counted on the championship also,” the 76-year-old Ingram explained. “There were a couple of years, ’72 and ’73, I ran 85 point races. When they made it (in 1982) to where you only had to go to 30 race tracks that was like a vacation for us.”
Ingram, who won three consecutive Late Model Sportsman titles [1972-74] before the division was turned into a national touring series, claimed the first Busch Series [now Nationwide] championship in 1982. His fifth and final title came three years later in 1985. It was Daytona, however, which Ingram cited as the scene of his greatest race.
“In 1975, I took a helper, we built a car, went to Daytona and won the Permatex 300 and it was on (ABC) ‘Wide World of Sports’. That was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my whole life,” Ingram recalled. “I got mail from all over the world, especially Europe and South America. I’ve got a big cardboard box full of those letters.
“I don’t think anybody could have done anything better that day then what we did. I had Banjo (Matthews) and Junior Johnson as co-crew chiefs. We didn’t have any radios and Banjo would walk all the way out in the grass area and hold up a big sign that said ‘Pit’. It seemed like every time I got to the front they wanted me to pit, but they knew what they were doing. We got a big crack in the top of the windshield; a big hole and they were going to black flag me. Junior said he would fix it and they believed him. He taped it up and they let me finish that race. That was the best time of my whole racing career.”
– Deb Williams can be reached at email@example.com Comments