Ralph “Hop” Harrington began racing on
the dirt at the Kinston Fairgrounds in 1948. He remembers driving to
the track in a 1934 Ford Coupe, removing the headlights, and
competing in the car he had driven to the track. He was equally
proficient on dirt or asphalt.
Hop is modest when talking about
his career, during which he won, “oh, I dunno, maybe 6 or 7
championships”, at Norwood, Lonsdale, Kinston, and Westboro. He also
won an estimated 300 career features, most with the help of
long-time friend and mechanic Red Hudson.
Hop was also known as an expert
racecar builder. When he retired as a driver, Hop continued building
cars for owner Dick Armstrong. Gene Bergin, whom Hop considers to be
one of the finest men he raced with, filled in as driver after
Harrington’s retirement. Later Geoff Bodine drove the Armstrong
cars, still being built by Hop.
Being inducted into the NEAR Hall
of Fame came as a surprise to Harrington. “After all these years, I
never thought that anything like this would happen. It’s a real
honor to be joining this group.”
Hop passed away in the summer of
1999, shortly after being inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame.