Remembering Marty Ward
Marty Ward, what can I say about a friend that won the hearts of thousands with his boyish smile and his natural ability to win stock car races across the Southeastern United States.
At the age of 16 Marty chose to follow his father's footsteps through the local dirt tracks of northwestern South Carolina. Maurice Ward was a hero at Riverside Speedway in Cleveland, SC and was that dirt track's Cadet division champion in his Carolina Tools white Corvette. Maurice was Marty's hero and Marty was Maurice's hero. The two raced with each other in those early years at places like Tri-City Speedway in Harris, NC, Riverside Speedway in Cleveland, and Sugar Creek Speedway in Buffalo, SC. Maurice developed heart trouble and ended his driving career so he could help Marty to bigger and better things in the world of motorsports. The Wards purchased a Camaro from Greenville-Pickens Speedway racing legend Gene Morgan of Travelers Rest and Marty set his sights on asphalt racing in NASCAR at that historic Speedway.
I had covered Greenville-Pickens Speedway since 1978 and Marty read my stories about Gene Morgan, Buddy Howard, Don Sprouse and their weekly battles on the paved half mile oval. Maurice and Marty told me about their plans to race there on a weekly basis and wanted to make sure I would be there at their first race on asphalt. Marty told me how he read my racing stories and my coverage of attending six races in a seven day period. "Man, I wish I could do that," Marty said with a big grin. "All of those race tracks in one week. You see, that is what I would love to do. I love racing so much." He was so excited about coming to Greenville Pickens Speedway and he even asked me for advice. Marty had natural racing talent and he didn't need advice from anybody, especially from a local sportswriter. But, I told him who the top drivers were at the track and advised him to follow those guys during pre-race practice and study how they drive the track, "you have to be smooth and let the track come to you." That is what Marty did and he did it so well that he became one of the winningest drivers in the history of the speedway, winning the track championship a record six times and hundreds of weekly features and more second place in the G-P point standings than I can remember. He also branched out and won races at Charlotte Motor Speedway (twice), Myrtle Beach Speedway and other NASCAR tracks in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee in the NASCAR weekly racing series, the Hooters Pro Cup Series, UARA Stars Late Model Series, NASCAR Sportsman Series, NASCAR All American Challenge Series and the Southeastern Super Truck Series.
Maurice was with his son at those weekly Greenville Pickens Speedway wars and suffered two heart attacks, the last one was fatal. Marty carried on his father's winning tradition as his mother watched every lap of his every race. Maurice died doing what he loved and Marty followed that love.
Last weekend Marty Ward at age 58 entered two races at Anderson Motor Speedway with the Southeastern Super Trucks Series. He won the legends stock car feature that night (pictured above) and was running third in the super truck feature when he spun in turn four and suffered a massive heart attack. Marty was air lifted to AnMed Hospital where he passed away on Sunday afternoon. He is survived by his mother Brenda, his wife Gina and his son Jacob. Funeral services are today at Clearview Baptist Church in Travelers Rest. Burial will be private.