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June 9, 2023

Clark Houston hopes to add a Jack Ingram Memorial win to his family’s proud legacy at Hickory

Clark Houston
(Photo: Gardner Street Photography)

The Houston family has long been synonymous with success at Hickory Motor Speedway.

Ken Houston kickstarted the dynasty with a track championship in 1964 before his brother Tommy tallied two titles and eight NASCAR Xfinity Series victories of his own. Tommy’s two sons in Andy and Marty carried on their family’s efficiency at Hickory with championships in 1994 and 1997, respectively.

Andy’s son Clark Houston is the latest member of the family to excel in a Late Model Stock after earning his first victory in the division on May 21, which carried extra significance for the younger Houston since he got to celebrate in Victory Lane with his dad.

“We’ve had a really rough start to the season just getting caught up in wrecks,” Clark said. “To finally get it done meant a lot. My dad doesn’t get to come to most of them since he travels with the [NASCAR Cup Series] schedule on weekends. With the [Cup] race being at [North] Wilkesboro, he was able to be there, so it was such a special moment.”

RELATED: Everything to know about Saturday’s Jack Ingram Memorial

Clark Houston
Clark Houston is finding momentum in his first full-time Late Model Stock season at Hickory Motor Speedway. (Photo: Adam Fenwick/NASCAR)

Although he was not alive to see most of his family race at Hickory in their prime, Clark has plenty of fond memories watching races in the track’s grandstands alongside Andy while getting acclimated to the people who maintained the vibrant culture at the facility.

Clark’s first opportunity to work in the pits came at the age of 12 with Doug Hauser and his son Dillon. The time spent with the Housers helped Clark gain a broad understanding of the commitment and sacrifice necessary to stay competitive against many other efficient organizations in the southeast.

As Clark continued to learn from the Housers, he became determined to follow in his family’s footsteps as a racer and got connected with Ashley Huffman, another staple in Hickory’s community. The duo ended up forming a successful partnership that saw Clark win a title in the Southeast Super Trucks Series in 2021.

Clark and Huffman now find themselves in the middle of their first full-time season in Hickory’s esteemed Late Model Stock division. Although he expected a learning curve in Late Model Stocks, Clark said racing at Hickory in trucks helped prepare him for every challenge the track throws at him.

“[Hickory] is a very unique track,” Clark said. “The corners are very different, so the main thing is to get through [Turns] 1 and 2 good so that you can set up your passes and get underneath somebody going into [Turn] 3. Things can get crazy there, so keeping the fenders on the car has also been emphasized to me.

“You don’t want to make dumb decisions early that will cost you late in the race.”

For Clark, having a full field of cars nearly every week at Hickory has been beneficial toward his development. The initial struggles he and Huffman faced in 2023 helped Clark compartmentalize his situation and understand every win would have to be earned.

Andy Houston is proud of the perseverance Clark has shown in his first full year of competition at Hickory. Having experienced many of the same pitfalls his son is going through now, Andy is encouraging Clark to stay true to himself and learn with every race.

“The biggest thing I’ve told Clark is to not give up,” Andy said. “When I started Late Model racing, it took until my third season before I won a race, and then once I won a race, it was like the floodgates opened. We won a lot of races and a championship, but this is Clark’s first season racing in the top division. He needs to be patient and to keep trying. Things will work out.”

Andy believes his son is more prepared than ever to tackle Hickory’s crown jewel events, with the first one being the Jack Ingram Memorial taking place Saturday evening.

STREAMING: Watch the Jack Ingram Memorial LIVE on FloRacing

Clark was one of 26 drivers who took part in the inaugural Jack Ingram Memorial last season. He found himself deep in the field at the start with an 18th-place qualifying run and did not have a chance to work his way forward after being swept up in an accident on Lap 4.

Now with more laps at Hickory under his belt, Clark has plenty of optimism heading into this year’s Jack Ingram Memorial. His strategy for the 111-lap feature will depend on his qualifying effort, but he hopes to earn a better starting position so he can avoid potential early chaos.

“We obviously need to qualify well, because track position is going to be big,” Clark said. “If we’re not able to qualify how we like, our main thing is going to be keeping the fenders on it and the tires under me.

“This is the first long feature we’ve ran this year, so if you’re not the fastest car, save your stuff so you have something in the closing laps.”

Through watching Clark’s career so far, Andy said his son has excelled in longer races that require drivers to conserve tires and equipment. That’s why he thinks Clark will be in contention at the end of this year’s Jack Ingram Memorial.

Clark Houston
Clark Houston added to his family legacy at Hickory with his first Late Model Stock win on May 21. (Photo: Gardner Street Photography)

Although Andy believes Clark has more talent compared himself at this point in their respective careers, he has no idea what his son’s future entails beyond Hickory. Despite this, Andy is thankful for the support Clark does have, and he plans to cherish every opportunity to watch his son race around a facility that has meant so much to the Houston family.

Watching Clark drive his No. 6 car into Victory Lane at Hickory was a highlight for Andy as both a racer and a parent. Which also reinforced the idea that the Houston name remains prestigious at Hickory nearly 60 years after Ken won his title.

“With my family’s history of winning races and championships at Hickory, that was as big a moment as any of the races I’ve won,” Andy said. “You want more for your kids than what you have. I was thankful to be there since I don’t get to attend many of his races, so for [Clark] to put that thing in Victory Lane was such a special moment.”

Clark is confident he can keep the momentum going Saturday in the Jack Ingram Memorial. He has long been familiar with the stories of Tommy racing against Ingram and would love to win a race named after one of the greatest drivers in the history of Hickory and NASCAR.

Even if Clark comes up short of a checkered flag Saturday, he takes great pride in being able to race at Hickory and carry on a proud family legacy that spans nearly six decades.

“Between my great uncles, my grandpa, my uncle and my dad, this is just what we do,” Clark said. “We race at Hickory, and winning there just means so much.”