Six Pack of Pop: Hall of Famer Jack Ingram
October 09, 2013, NASCAR.com
Two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion talks about his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame
Tickets for the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony went on sale Tuesday, Oct. 8. Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts will be honored during this year’s ceremony set for Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Individual tickets and ticket packages are available at ticketmaster.com, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
Drivers, celebrities and legends of the sport will take the stage during the induction of the fifth NASCAR Hall of Fame class, including Ingram, the first champion in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 1982. He added a second title in 1985. Ingram, who turns 77 this December, spoke about his career on the occasion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series 1,000th race at Richmond International Raceway last month.
WHAT: NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014
WHERE: Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center
WHO VOTES: 21 members of Nominating Committee and 33 members of Voting Panel. In addition, one vote is generated by fan input.
WHO WAS CHOSEN: Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts
WHEN THE 2014 INDUCTEES WILL BE INDUCTED: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 (Live television coverage provided by FOX Sports 1)
Q: What are your thoughts about the Nationwide Series?
A: [Before] the series started off, basically we were racing Late Model Sportsman cars all over the country, including Daytona International Speedway, and we maybe had 20 championship races a year. You had to run a lot of weekly events, and they counted (toward) the national championship also. In 1972 and ’73, I ran 85 or 86 points races [a year].
When they made it to where you only had to go to 30 race tracks, it was like a vacation for us. I really liked the idea … it worked out well for me, and it’s worked out well for everyone else to have another division of this caliber. I was delighted to be able to sign a deal with NASCAR in 1982 to run all of those races, and I did until I retired.
Q: In all your years of racing, what was the greatest race of your entire career?
A: I’ve answered that quite a few times, and I won’t mind doing it forever. In 1975, we took a car and went to Daytona and won the Permatex 300. It was on [ABC’s] Wide World of Sports. That was the greatest feeling that I’ve ever had in my whole life, probably of anything. I was coming down that pit road, and I’m thinking it was kind of warm that day. All of the sudden, everything got real cool and quiet, and Will Hunt was the owner and he said, “I know what it feels like to be in heaven.”
That was a fabulous thing. I got mail from all over the world, especially in Europe and South America. It might be addressed to Jack Ingram, Asheville USA. I’ve got a big cardboard box full of those letters still today.
Q: What was the key to winning that race?
A: I don’t think anybody could have ever done anything any better than what we did. I had Banjo (Matthews) and [NASCAR Hall of Famer] Junior Johnson as co-crew chiefs. We had no radios, and Banjo walked all the way out into the middle of the grass area at Daytona to 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.
I’ve got to thank Junior Johnson always. We got a big crack in the top of the windshield, a big hole. 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 and they let me finish that race and we won and that was the best time of my whole racing career.
Q: When was the last race that you actually ran and competed in?
A: Last September at Greenville Pickens Speedway. I struggled to run fifth. I don’t think there were 10 cars that finished. Believe it or not, I had blisters on my hands. I was so tired, I couldn’t even hardly get out of that car. I said, “I think I’ll quit this.”
I don’t even know how I did it or anyone else [did it] back in the day when cars were hard to drive because they didn’t have power steering or nothing. This thing had power steering, full containment seat and the whole deal, and here I can hardly walk after 50 laps.
Q: Was Sam Ard, Nationwide Series champion in 1983 and 1984, your greatest rival?
A: No, not really. Sam did pretty well once that series started. He won a couple of those championships and did really well. But I raced against him for championships long before that, going back in the early ‘70s and I beat him a couple of times then.
Q: Then who was your greatest rival?
A: The best driver that I raced against in Late Model Sportsman and then [Nationwide] was Harry Gant. There was a magazine that came out some time in the middle ‘70s, and Butch Lindley had said he’d won 36 races, and I said, “Butch, I don’t believe that could happen.” He was at my shop, and I called Daytona about every Monday or Tuesday to find out what the points would be.
I called down there, and I asked, “Do you know how many races Butch Lindley had won?”
She said, “Yeah, 14.”
I asked, “How many have I won?”
She said, “21.”
I asked, “How many has Harry Gant won?”
She said, “25.”
This is toward the end of the season, but Harry never did tell people, inflate anything, and as a matter of fact, he’d probably tell you he didn’t even know how many he won.
I’ve got to say this about Harry Gant. We wound up being good friends, and he’s going to induct me into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That’s quite an honor that he agreed to do that.