“Darrell Waltrip, Earnhardt, and all them guys came in to race, and they basically got lapped.”

Jack Ingram

Jack Ingram was stock car racing’s original Iron Man. Known so for his toughness and his racing mentality. He once said, “Back in those days you had to race several times a week all over the place if you wanted to win a championship. One weekend over Labor Day in 1973, I raced 6 races in five days in five different states.” That’s the kind of racer Jack Ingram was. But it’s also a statement that defines the era he raced in as well. Ingram and his fellow competitors raced in the era between the beginning and NASCAR’s glory years. The era between dirt and superspeedway glory. An era when the asphalt short track was still king, and not only where your skill was tested, but your toughness as well. An era made for a driver like Jack Ingram.

Three years into our journey here at Short Track Report, we know as still a relatively new racing coverage organization that only a select group of fans will take the time to check out our extended racing coverage articles. In an era of short attention spans, we understand this all too well. At the same time, we know the fans that will. The true short track racing fans are starting to understand that we indeed have a method to our madness so to speak, and so to you we say that this event choice at this time was indeed made for a reason. Just off of our visit to Bowman Gray Stadium, the 2024 Jack Ingram Memorial 111 at Hickory Motor Speedway was the obvious choice for the message we are trying diligently to send. Bowman Gray Stadium is where it all began for NASCAR, and Hickory Motor Speedway carried the torch. And as the fans started to flock to stock car racing in the early years of NASCAR, Jack Ingram was a huge part of the organization’s growth into the next era as a driver that showed the heart of it’s competitors. And so for us, this was the perfect time to honor the 2014 NASCAR Hall Of Fame inductee, not only as just a fan, but as a racing organization that is dedicated to telling the story of not just the present of the sport, but it’s past and it’s future as well.

That said, it’s time to take a look at this past Saturday’s event. Some great local short track racers came to Hickory Motor Speedway to honor a legend. And we joined a good number of the Hickory fan contingent in a celebration of the sport we love. Let’s take a closer look at all the action from the third annual Jack Ingram Memorial 111.

RENEGADE FEATURE

Jackson Sparks in the # 7 will lead the entertaining Renegade field to green with the Cale Yarborough inspired # 28 machine driven by Gary Ledbetter Jr starting alongside. Rounding out the top three will be the # 16 of Steve Smart as flagman Scott Herman looks them over, is satisfied with what he sees, and we’re green! Sparks gets an amazing jump as Smart dives under Ledbetter Jr for second. Smart leans on Ledbetter Jr a little bit but the veteran-wheeled # 28 will hold on. Ledbetter Jr takes a look to the inside of Sparks and makes it work, assuming the lead position early. There’s trouble behind though as Matthew Chambers in the # 81 gets into the # 1 of Justin Austin and sends him around off of turn four. That’ll give Austin a flat tire, but he gets it changed just in time to rejoin the field for the restart. Sparks is giving Ledbetter Jr a fit on the outside, but the # 28 will clear as behind, Austin shows his displeasure with Chambers by giving him a little shove, making his way through the field in the process. His progress will be slowed however as Jordan Cook in the # 55 spins out of four. Ledbetter Jr clears the path again on the restart but there’s major trouble behind this time as Sparks and Smart touch, sending both around and Smart into the outside wall hard! Smart walks away but his car is worse for wear as it’s towed away. Amazingly, Smart is able to bring his wounded vehicle back out as is Sparks after a tire change. This will open up the door for Austin and Chambers to tackle Ledbetter Jr, but it’s the same song and dance for Ledbetter on the restart. Chambers will lose third to a reemerging Sparks as Ledbetter Jr starts to walk away. Sparks is certainly hoping for a caution, but unfortunately gets it at his own expense as he and Austin make contact, causing another flat tire for Sparks. That’ll set up the top three to now be Ledbetter Jr, Austin, and Chambers. Austin lays back a little on the restart and lays the bumper to Ledbetter Jr in a last ditch effort, but it’s just not enough as Ledbetter Jr will take home the trophy ahead of Austin and Chambers.

HERITAGE FINANCE STREET STOCK FEATURE

The # 7 of Jeff Sparks barely edges out Cody DeMarmels in the # 53 for tonight’s Heritage Finance Street Stock pole, with the # B00 of Boo Carlisle not far behind in third. The blue collar field gets assorted, flagman Herman approves, and we’re green! Sparks gets a phenomenal launch but it’s a little too phenomenal as the track calls it back. The second time around is more even as Sparks and DeMarmels duel for the high ground. Sparks barely clears and defends a crossover move from DeMarmels as Zachary Mullins in the # 19 nearly spins behind after taking third, giving it back to Carlisle. He drops all the way to the rear as Sparks starts to find his rhythm. The field begins to log laps with Marshall Sutton in the # 64 showing some speed. But he goes up in smoke going into one! He spins along with the # 55 of Johnny Reynolds and Mullins. Reynolds and Mullins get back going but Sutton is done for the night as the red flag comes out for clean up. After a lengthy delay, we’re back going as Sparks looks to clear DeMarmels out of two. He does so but we’ll rerack them again as Trey Buff in the # 48 is spun around by the # 99 of Jeff Morse in four, with Hickory sending Morse to the rear. DeMarmels puts up a way better fight now as he and Sparks are dead even for the lead, with Reynolds moving to third behind. Carlisle later brings his hot rod down pit road with an apparent issue and is done for the night as up front, they trade leading laps multiple times as the fans are on their feet as two of Street Stock Racing’s finest battle it out. It’ll be cut short though with Mullins spinning in three. The caution gives everybody a chance to catch their breath and prepare for the final handful of laps. On the restart, Sparks gets the most out of his car that he can, clearing DeMarmels en route to the dominating win ahead of DeMarmels and Reynolds. Sparks reveals in his post-race interview that he was battling a sticking throttle, making his battle with DeMarmels that much more impressive.

SUPER TRUCK FEATURE

Charlie Neill in the # 2 Truck sets the fast time and will claim the pole for tonight’s Super Truck feature accompanied by the # 9 of Aaron Hodges and the # 8 of Ricky Dennie in the top three. Herman gives the thumbs up and the fast Super Trucks are racing! Hodges drifts up the track a bit, allowing the # 88 of Jamie Johnson to take third. But none of that matters to Neill as he’ll clear the pack and lay down the fastest laps he can. Hodges is able to find his way around Johnson, breaking back into the top three. Back up front, Dennie has started to gain on Neill, but just when it looks like Dennie is within striking distance, Neill gets a little bit better. The last fifteen laps are high speed cat and mouse, with Dennie putting in one last charge on the final lap. He’s almost there, but not close enough as Neill cruises to victory lane. Dennie comes home second followed by Johnson in third.

PARAMOUNT AUTO GROUP LIMITED LATE MODEL FEATURE

A driver that knows plenty about how to get around Hickory in the form of Clark Houston in the # 37 starts on the pole, joined by Jordan McGregor in the # 30, Billy Snodgrass in the # 99, Trey Canipe in the # 5, and Michael Klein in the # 32K who all round out the top five. The field is all lined up and we’re green for the always entertaining Paramount Auto Group Limited Late Models! Houston and McGregor are doorpost to doorpost but it’s McGregor who gets the advantage. Canipe muscles around Snodgrass and doesn’t stop there, now moving under Houston. Houston is better up high though and keeps the position as McGregor has left the building. Canipe now starts to stalk Houston, keeping right in his tire tracks in an attempt to make another move. He finds the space and gets a run, diving to the inside with authority. He gets it as Houston will slot into third. But in a career run, it’s McGregor who will claim the huge victory. Canipe gets second followed by a consistent Houston and great runs from both Snodgrass and Klein in fourth and fifth respectively.

LATE MODEL STOCK JACK INGRAM MEMORIAL 111 FEATURE

Defending Hickory Late Model Stock champion Kade Brown in the # 23 takes the pole with a fast lap of 14.717 seconds. Starting alongside is the # 28 Pinnacle Racing Group machine of Landon S. Huffman. Coming off of winning the Marty Ward Memorial at Anderson Motor Speedway, Thomas Beane in the # 01 starts third followed by the # 17 of Connecticut native Brody Monahan and the always fast # 9 of Charlie Watson. Herman looks over the competitive field, likes what he sees, the fans are on their feet, and we’re green to honor one of short track racing’s greatest! The entire top six is double wide as Brown will clear early. Monahan takes over third as Beane, Watson, and Landon Huffman in the # 75 are three wide for fifth! They somehow all keep it straight with Watson coming out fourth with Michael Bumgarner in the # 97 fighting with Landon Huffman for fifth. Watson now takes third followed by Bumgarner and Monahan as the field continues to jockey. Watson is fast early, taking over second with Bumgarner following through. Landon Huffman breaks into the top five with Watson now making contact with Brown! They bump and bang as Brown will drop to third behind Watson and Bumgarner. Monahan is breathing down Landon Huffman’s neck and makes his way to the inside with success, taking the fifth spot away as Watson leads.

The racing in the middle to the back of the pack is filled to the brim with action, but it’s calmed down a bit up front with some drivers going 100% along with some drivers saving their equipment. Skyler Chaney in the # 17C makes his way down pit lane with mechanical problems and is unfortunately done for the night. Brown decides it’s time to go and leaps onto Bumgarner, moving into second. Before you know it, Brown is right on the back bumper of Watson. But Watson is fast, and puts up a great fight against Brown. Watson tries to pinch Brown as much as he can, but it won’t be ample as Brown takes the lead. Bumgarner is now there as well, looking for a way past the white # 9. He flows to the low line and makes it stick, taking second as Beane has moved to fifth. Up ahead of Brown is a fierce battle between Landon DeVaughn in the # 74 and D.J. Canipe in the # 29, trying their hardest to stay on the lead lap. Brown makes it by without incident but DeVaughn and Canipe are still side by side in an absolutely amazing battle. Canipe will get the best of DeVaughn as Beane takes mulitiple peeks on Landon S. Huffman to no avail. In a clean and green race, it’s Kade Brown and Matt Piercy Racing taking the Jack Ingram Memorial 111. Bumgarner hangs on for second, Watson salvages a third, Landon S. Huffman grabs fourth, and Beane guts out a fifth.

MY TAKE

In the 1700’s, a smart physicist named Georg C. Lichtenburg said, “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; What I can say is that they must change if we are to get better.” Now to be honest, I am not one that deals with change very well. But, I am old enough now to understand that change is inevitable. In that end, I have also come to understand that we are ultimately in charge of how things change. As individuals, we do not have the power ourselves to fully control it, but we must choose to affect it in any way we can so that we help add an element of positivity. And when it comes to short track stock car racing, if we want to make sure that all the previous eras left behind us still remain into the future in any essence at all, we must remember the sacrifices, risks, goals, and groundbreaking achievements they accomplished. And all they were in the beginnings should not be forgotten for some polished dream of what some would want the sport to be. Again we say, “Forget where you came from and you’ll lose where you’re going.” We will say it until it registers to all that will listen.

Jack Ingram also said, “When we did it, we had different cars, we had different motors, we had different racetracks. Darrell Waltrip, Earnhardt, and all them guys came in to race, and they basically got lapped. They just could not keep up. Now when they started running a lot of those races on superspeedways, they had so much more experience than a lot of them guys, and they started getting pretty good cars, they started winning them speedway races. But until they eliminated all them South Bostons and Hickorys and Orange Countys and Indianapolis Raceway Parks, they couldn’t win those races.” He was talking about the transition to a new era. An era that moved the sport primarily to the superspeedway era. It was the dream of Bill France coming into it’s own, and it took the sport to new heights, indeed the pinnacle of stock car racing. But as they did, they left the short tracks to fend for themselves. Sure they left the sanctioning body in place that secured a “weekly racing” format, now sponsored by Advance Auto Parts. But they later took away the Late Model Sportsman Series that morphed into the Busch Grand National Series. The series that was full of races at tracks like Hickory, Myrtle Beach, and IRP. Same goes for the Grand National Series that is now the Cup Series

For the most part, those tracks were left to pick up the pieces and forge ahead, many left on the very brink of non existence. It’s been a struggle. And now, with NASCAR’s new car, even the short tracks left on NASCAR’s premier series schedule are in a fight for relevancy most don’t even realize, leaving some to wonder about NASCAR’s concern about their very future. Only time will tell if the current and future brass consider short tracks relevant anymore. And it will become known on how they handle two separate but related issues. NASCAR has bought back the very first asphalt track it competed on, and the very first NASCAR sanctioned weekly racing track, Bowman Gray Stadium. But for some of us it’s unsure if they did so to add it as another novelty item. Again, only time will tell for sure. But more importantly right now is if the NASCAR organization truly deems it important that their Next Gen car race well on the handful of short tracks on it’s premium series schedule. We can be encouraged by the revival of North Wilkesboro Speedway, but we must remember how long it took, and the fact that it took another racing legend to make it happen. It wasn’t NASCAR that brought it back to life. It was dedicated fans who would not give up on it, and short track racing advocate Dale Earnhardt Jr’s persistence that brought that about.

We are not criticizing the organization for the actions to transition the sport into what they feel was Bill France’s dream however. Don’t get us wrong on that. We do question however if they are indeed forgetting where they came from as do many others besides us. Until that question is fully revealed however, we will say that it’s in their right to do whatever they feel benefits their true agenda, whatever that may be. But as we say that, we also say to the short track fans and it’s advocates that ultimately it’s up to us as to how relevant the sport of short track stock car racing truly is. We can either let those social media keyboard warriors tell us how their favorite tracks are the only ones relevant, or how every driver that beats their favorite guy is illegal, that Daddy’s money is all that wins races these days, or any other spout of nonsense they can muster. Or we can take a look at the sport as a whole and decide that history means something, past and present. It’s up to us to support the tracks and the great teams and drivers in the sport whether in person or online avenues today’s tech provides. At the same time, we’ll say again that the tracks themselves must do what is in the best interest of the short track racing fans and the competitors they support. To not do so will be in your own peril. Change is not only coming, it’s here. For us, we have faith in the sport of short track racing. And those involved in it have indeed become like family to us in many ways. We share an immense love for a sport that takes all you have in order to compete, or indeed provide a place for it to. I can’t begin in the short time I have left to explain all that. The love we have for the sport or what it takes to make it happen. Congratulations to all the winners that came to race at Hickory in the honor of one Jack Ingram. A man that indeed represents an era of short track racing deserving of being remembered and respected. Until next time, as always, See You At The Track!

(Race write ups by Joshua Weatherman. Intro and My Take written by Billy Weatherman. Copyright 2024 SHORT TRACK REPORT)

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