Jack Ingram will be Grand Marshal of the World Classic 150 race meet at Montgomery Motor Speedway October 2-3, 2009. “It’s fitting,” said B. J. Parker, president of the Southern Superstars circuit, in making the announcement, “because Jack stood out in the first World Classic in 1978 like a tough old West marshal.”
That race was contested at 400 laps at the five-eighth mile Birmingham International Raceway. In winning on a 102-degree afternoon in July, Ingram was one of just two entries who went all the way without a relief driver. “And the other guy,” Ingram recalled, “wasn’t doing much racing at the end.”
Ingram’s performance in the Steel City that day illustrated why he deserved the nickname of Iron Man.
“I think being able to run 400 laps in Birmingham in 100 degrees in July came from racing a lot,” Ingram said. In one remarkable stretch of five days he competed in six races totaling 1,650 laps at six different race tracks. On the afternoon of the final day he drove 500 laps at St. Paul, Minnesota, and that night drove 200 laps in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Ashville, North Carolina driver took his cue from Hueytown, Alabama stars Red Farmer, Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison. “When I started my racing career, Red, Bobby and Donnie were someone to look up to,” Ingram said, “because they were doing what I wanted to do, which was race a lot of races.”
Bobby Allison didn’t drive in that first World Classic in 1978, but he inspired Ingram on the scorching July day. “I knew I could do what Bobby Allison did,” Ingram said. ‘The hotter it is, the better I like it because the others will give up and I won’t.’ Bobby was one of the best at long endurance races.”
Ingram, in fact, said he is responsible for the Allison’s and Farmer being called the Alabama Gang. They showed to race at Ashville and Ingram declared, “There’s that Alabama gang.” The name stuck.
Ingram is 72 years old. He started racing in 1963 and still takes an occasional turn behind the wheel at weekly races. “But I doubt seriously I’ll do it much longer,” he said.
He has won 303 NASCAR-sanctioned point races and 32 independent races. Seven times he was the champion of what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In 1998, when the sanctioning body celebrated its 50th anniversary, he was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers.
Who gave him the nickname Iron Man? “I think it was sports writers,” Ingram said. They called me the Arm and Hammer Man at Ashville, and I guess that sounded like Iron Man.”
Aside from the satisfaction of being the Iron Man in the first World Classic, he has another gratifying memory. “I remember that I won more money that I had in my life. I had won at Daytona and it didn’t pay that much.”