Copyright © 2017 Jonathan Ingram. All Rights Reserved

Photo at Police Station

Sebring, Florida

by Mike Jensen

About Jonathan


Welcome to my book site.  This is my 41st season of covering professional motor racing for magazines and web sites. Currently, I write a motor racing opinion column twice weekly for The Sports Xchange, an online wire service and am a regular contributor to RacinToday.com, a terrific site run by my colleague Jim Pedley, among others. Then there’s the craft beer magazines, where I regularly contribute on the subject of, yep, beer.


I guess racing started for me like most everyone else – as a result of my family’s interest, in particular my older brother Bill. I loved riding in his hot-rodded, street legal and very fast ’55 Chevy to the Beltsville Speedway in Maryland to see the Late Models race and drivers like Bobby Ballentine and “Rapid” Ray Hendrick. That’s where I first heard the name Richard Petty – although I never made it to the Grand National events at Beltsville in favor of watching slugger Frank Howard and the Washington Senators at RFK Stadium.


Some may hold this against me, but I soon learned to like all forms of automobile racing, which explains the diversity of the books I’ve written. Over the years, I’ve written about sports cars, NASCAR, Indy cars, Formula 1, NHRA and many other types of racing, including motorcycles. Since 1976, I’ve sold stories to well over 100 different publications on four continents before cyberspace began carrying my work as well. My writing awards have come in the categories of magazine features, columns, and electronic media from the National Motorsports Press Association. But the best reward has always been earning a living as a writer covering an extraordinary sport while traveling the world.


Once upon a time, I played shortstop for the Duke University team (literally – when the star shortstop was sick) and harbored ambitions to play professional baseball. But an injury to my throwing shoulder my sophomore year and a steel pin meant my prospects for making the major leagues were far better in the press box than the batter’s box. Absent baseball, I turned to covering Duke in the ACC for The Chronicle, the student daily. I certainly could not foresee that my writing ambitions would soon lead me into a sport I was only vaguely familiar with, but one that was, in the words of Brian Redman, “a crucible of life.”


After graduation from Duke in 1976, I nearly jumped out of the chair with enthusiasm when I was asked about covering stock car racing in a job interview with the Durham Morning Herald, where I was anxious to get started as a fulltime sportswriter. “I used to go to the races!” I replied. More than a little of my response had to do with two other options, which were covering golf or not getting the job. I used to caddy at a local club and quite frankly didn’t like too many of the people I met there – beyond the other caddies. Prior to the interview, on the other hand, I had recently read a story about “King Richard” in Sports Illustrated by Robert F. Jones on his prospects for another NASCAR championship. No way could I foresee writing for Sports Illustrated about the title-winning ways of a driver named Earnhardt.


As luck would have it, Durham was the home of the Miller & Norburn Racing team, where Nick Craw had won an IMSA championship shortly before my arrival at the Herald and where Preston Miller was the engineering guru for his BMWs. Encountering these guys scant days after seeing David Pearson win NASCAR’s unofficial Triple Crown at Darlington in the Southern 500 began to really pique my interest in motor racing. (I was stunned to find out how easy it was to catch up to Pearson and talk to him one-on-one the night before the big race for my first ever racing feature.) Next I got a call from Rod Campbell, the future founder of Campbell and Company, about the only American-born driver in Formula 1. Brett Lunger, it turned out, was sponsored by Liggett & Myers, whose headquarters were in Durham. I soon met Rod and Brett – shortly after he received a medal for helping to pull Niki Lauda from his burning Ferrari at the Nurburgring.


I would have been a pretty dull clod not to see the prospects for these forms of racing by way of the people I was meeting. The clincher was when a copy of Formula magazine landed on my desk, tossed there by an editor who was somewhat surprised by my fondness for motor racing after less than two months on the job – as was I. Eventually, he couldn’t believe I would give up the Duke versus North Carolina rivalry – truly one of sport’s great spectacles – for what I considered the unsurpassed drama of racing on four wheels. Short term, the articles by Pete Lyons – Fast Lines – in Formula along with the columns on NASCAR by writer Gerald Martin at the Raleigh News & Observer convinced me there was a literary aspect to race writing just as there was to the work of Shirley Povich, Red Smith and Furman Bisher, some early heroes and bards of the sports pages. Once more, how could I have ever realized while daydreaming about somebody actually paying me to write stories that I would eventually have bylines in the same papers where these men had plied their trade so skillfully – The Washington Post, The N.Y. Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


It's been a wild ride at times, but always there was the joy of the written word. I guess the impassioned bias of some fans in favor of certain types of racing and very much against other forms always caught me by surprise. But I think I would have been bored working one type of racing or at one publication and always looked for the upside in any of the series I covered – without sparing the metaphorical rod when it came to the facts or wrong-headedness. I missed a few stories, got fooled by some unscrupulous yarns occasionally, but over the long haul find my rearview mirror – back issues of On Track – to be harmonic and true. I always believed an adversarial approach did far more for racing than trying to only take angles after considering what was best for the sport. If it was good enough, racing could handle journalism 101.


My next book, Crash Course, follows the long and fascinating story of how the HANS Device saved professional auto racing. Formula 1, CART and NASCAR figure greatly in this saga and the book proved to be a sort of ultimate test of what I had learned along the way in terms of writing and reporting. Working on this book with five-time IMSA champion Jim Downing and HANS inventor Bob Hubbard – a fellow Duke graduate – has reminded me how lucky I am to have made friendships with some extraordinary people in the course of working in motor racing. Crash Course should arrive before the end of 2017.

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Used + Rare

Books

The Art

of Race Car Design

now available

with autographs

by Bob Riley

and Jonathan Ingram