(Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Hickory Motor Speedway set to honor Jack Ingram with 111-lap Late Model race

Of the drivers who have developed their skills at Hickory Motor Speedway, Jack Ingram remains one of the most efficient in the track’s storied history,

The late NASCAR Hall of Famer tallied two championships at Hickory in 1968 and 1971 before carrying that success into the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he picked up eight of his 31 victories at the facility, including his first and last career wins.

When Ingram passed away last year, Hickory general manager Kevin Piercy elected to recognize his impact on both the track and NASCAR by organizing the inaugural Jack Ingram Memorial 111 on June 11 that will pay $5,011 to the winning driver. Ingram, of course, found most of his success driving the No. 11 car.

“Jack Ingram was kind of my childhood hero growing up,” Piercy said. “I was a big fan of his and watched him win many races, so it’s great that Hickory Motor Speedway will have the opportunity to honor someone that meant so much to me.”

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When Piercy first started attending races at Hickory during his childhood, he knew immediately that Ingram was different than the other competitors on track.

In the early days of the Xfinity Series, Ingram regularly had to contend with other seasoned veterans that included Sam Ard, Tommy Ellis and fellow Hickory track champion Tommy Houston, all of whom pushed Ingram to his limits at the short tracks, intermediates and superspeedways.

Watching Ingram battle it out with those veterans as both a fan and pit crew member at Hickory are among Piercy’s favorite childhood memories, as it allowed him to gain an appreciation for Ingram and how he would utilize every part of the track to gain an advantage over his competition.

“[Ingram] was a tenacious racer,” Piercy said. “When you saw his car pull into the racetrack, everybody knew he was the car to beat. I have memories of him kicking that left front tire down off the corner and kick up a little dirt because he was so low on the track.

“Jack Ingram was a hard charger, competitive, a fan favorite and a winner. He set the standard for how things should be done in [the Xfinity Series].”

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram will be honored at Hickory Motor Speedway this weekend with a 111-lap Late Model Stock feature. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

Although stock car racing has undergone significant changes since Ingram last raced at Hickory, Piercy said the qualities he displayed on track are still prevalent in the current group of competitors that race at the track on Saturday nights.

One driver who views Ingram as a source of inspiration is current Hickory Late Model Stock points leader Landon Huffman, who comes from a proud racing heritage at the facility himself with his father Robert being a two-time track champion in 1988 and ’89.

Like Ingram did, Huffman primarily works on his own cars and utilizes volunteer help in order to race every weekend, a practice he is starting to see dwindle as more money and resources are poured into short track racing around the United States.

While Huffman cannot compare himself to Ingram or his accomplishments, he said the Hall of Famer perfectly embodies what a racer should strive to be and is thrilled to see Hickory honor his legacy with a marquee event.

“Jack is the iron man,” Huffman said. “He’s a grassroots racer who worked on his own equipment. Anytime racers of this time period get to honor someone like Jack or race in an event that memorializes their competitive nature, it’s pretty special. We don’t have many people in our current time that do things like Jack did.”

RACING REFERENCE: Career NASCAR stats for Ingram 

NASCAR Hall of Fame Jack Ingram (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Huffman sees the Jack Ingram Memorial 111 as a de facto replacement for the Dwight Huffman Memorial that ran at Hickory from 2008-11. He is confident this race will bring more notoriety to Hickory and become a crown jewel event alongside the Bobby Isaac Memorial and the Fall Brawl.

Unlike the other two races, the Jack Ingram Memorial 111 falls in the middle of the season, meaning Huffman is going to place an equal amount of emphasis on bagging the $5,011 race-winning paycheck while simultaneously protecting his points lead over William Sawalich, Charlie Watson and others.

A larger entry list will only add to the challenge of winning the Jack Ingram Memorial 111 for Huffman, but he feels comfortable about the speed his car possesses and wants nothing more to proudly represent grassroots racing by taking home a checkered flag in a race dedicated to Ingram.

“It’s always great to win one of these big races,” Huffman said. “I won the Limited [Late Model] portion of the Bobby Isaac Memorial in 2011, and that was my first ever win. I’ve won a lot of races at Hickory since then but haven’t had the privilege of winning one of the big races. I would gladly take the Jack Ingram Memorial as my first big win at Hickory.”

Like Huffman, Piercy anticipates a vibrant atmosphere for the inaugural Jack Ingram Memorial 111 and is doing everything possible to make sure the event becomes a mainstay for Hickory over the next several years.

For the first running, Piercy will have Ingram’s widow Aline Cole Ingram at the track as a special guest, while the Pontiac Grand Am that Ingram drove to victory on numerous occasions during his long career will pace the field during the parade laps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has also been named as the grand marshal of the inaugural Jack Ingram Memorial 111 and will take part in an autograph session before the race. Other notable dignitaries for the event include Houston, as well as Harry Gant, Robert Pressley, L.D. Ottinger and Rex White.

Honoring the history of Hickory and NASCAR has been a key part of Piercy’s philosophy since he became the general manager of the track, and he hopes the Jack Ingram Memorial 111 helps newer fans gain the same appreciation he still has for Ingram and other drivers from the same era.

“These heroes need to be honored,” Piercy said. “People like Jack [Ingram] counted on the money to drive home. He came from the old school form of racing where you had to make your way in the sport, so we need to look back and make sure we don’t forget folks like Jack that paved the way for the future of stock car racing.”

While Piercy wishes Ingram could celebrate the race named after him, he takes pride in knowing that Ingram will always be remembered as one of the greatest drivers to ever take a lap at Hickory.