Daytona Beach, FL — Marty Ward can’t ever remember racing without his father. So when Maurice Ward passed away following a heart attack while racing at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., in 2006, it nearly chased the younger Ward out of the sport.
“Last year, I just didn’t want to race,” Ward said. “I had a hard time going back to the race track. I just didn’t want to be there.”
He made spot starts throughout last season, but the fire that had fueled four track championships in the historic half-mile’s Late Model division was gone. Ward said he began to come back when he traveled down to Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway for a Thanksgiving Day show and wound up finishing second.
“When we got back home, I said ‘maybe we need to make this our backup car and build a new one,'” Ward said. “I put my head into it to go back and win one more championship.
“I still have my bad days when I go, but we work through it.”
Dedicated to winning a championship for his late father, the 43-year-old Ward is on pace to do even more. With his seventh straight win at Greenville-Pickens, Ward moved into second in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series overall standings. He has five less points than leader Keith Rocco of Connecticut, but unlike Rocco, he still has one more race to reach the 18-race mark.
A driver’s top 18 finishes are counted toward their point total.
Ward has 10 wins and 17 top fives in 17 starts this season for 832 points.
Rocco, who races a Modified at a trio of Connecticut tracks (The New Waterford Speedbowl, Thompson International Speedway and Stafford Motor Speedway), has six wins and 837 points.
Brian Harris of West Liberty (Iowa) Raceway is third at 798. Coleman Pressley of Greenville-Pickens is fourth at 791 and Philip Morris of Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., is fifth at 753.
Ward admits to being more focused on the track championship than the overall standings, but his crew keeps him updated every week when they are released.
Ward’s season started off with a pair of wins, but then he picked up just one more in the next eight events. The turning point came in a double feature June 21, which he swept. He hasn’t left Victory Lane since. Saturday’s win stretched the streak to seven straight.
“We can’t complain at all,” said Ward. “We’ve had an awfully good year. It seems like everything we’ve done has went right so far. If we stay on a roll, I’d be tickled to death. But if we can’t, I can’t complain either.”
Ward lives in nearby Marietta, S.C., owns a coin laundromat and said, “I guess you can say I race for a living.”
So far, he has raced exclusively at Greenville-Pickens. That may change as the season winds down and the championship race comes into focus. For now, though, he’s concentrating on adding his name to the track’s wall of champions for a fifth time.
And Ward’s late father is never far from his mind.
“I guess he’s blessed us,” Ward said.
Under the point structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner will receive two points for every car in the event up to 25 cars. Second place will receive two fewer points, and so-on through the field. For example, if there are 25 cars, the winner receives 50 points, second gets 48 and third 46. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 30 points, second gets 28 and third 26. New this year, drivers receive five bonus points for a win. The final day for the 2008 points is Sunday, Sept. 14.
Sources: Jason Christley/NASCAR PR