(Editor's Note: This story was updated with quotes at 6:34 p.m. ET)
Jackie Ward passed away following an incident at Myrtle Beach Speedway (S.C.) in the Southeast Limited Late Model Series Challenger Division on Friday afternoon. Ward was involved in a two-car incident on the third lap of the 50-lap race.
Ward, 56, from Surfside Beach, South Carolina, owned Grand Strand Towing in Myrtle Beach, and routinely competed at the 0.538-mile oval.
“We take light in the fact that, he was doing what he loved,” said Steve Zacharias, General Manager of Myrtle Beach Speedway. “Jackie Ward was a blue-collar, great man, hard worker. He worked as an owner-operator."
Ward’s passing marks the latest in a series of tragic events surrounding Myrtle Beach Speedway in 2017. While the year has been marked with increased car counts and fan support, it has also been dampened by the passing of competitors and supporters.
“As far as the speedway, it’s been a great year,” Zacharias said. “Car counts have been up. As racers, the speedway has had such a successful year. On the other hand, to be heartbroken every two or three months has been tough.”
Terry Evans, the winner of the Southeast Limited Late Model Race at last year’s Myrtle Beach 250, passed away on August 2nd following a highway accident leaving the speedway on July 21st. Fellow competitor Justin Milliken was also injured in the incident, but returned to racing last month.
“Not only did we lose Terry [Evans], we lost Terry Lee, one of our officials this year as well,” Zacharias said. “Mark Hale, a past driver here, passed away about a month ago from cancer. It’s been absolutely trying on all of us.”
In light of Evans’ passing, Myrtle Beach Speedway created the Racing Brotherhood Foundation to provide financial assistance to families facing expenses from racing accidents.
“After Terry’s passing, we came up with the Racing Brotherhood Foundation,” Zacharias said. “We felt that we hadn’t had this. We now know the pain of losing somebody, and we are focused on trying to ease that pain for someone else.
“It blew my mind how tight the community is,” Zacharias continued. “After Terry’s passing, we went to Hickory for the CARS Tour race, and they gave us $7,500 for a guy they had never met. We brought in nearly $40,000 over three weeks for a guy who was pretty laid-back and wasn’t a spotlight guy, but he was a great driver.”
Zacharias noted that while he was heartbroken by this weekend’s incident, the primary concern was Ward’s family.
“It’s tough for his family right now. That’s who we’re really concerned about. As far as his racing family, we’re all heartbroken, but his family is who really needs our support right now.”
Race fans wishing to support the Racing Brotherhood Foundation can visit www.racingbrotherhood.com. The Foundation is also hosting a golf tournament this Thursday, October 16th at Arrowhead Golf Course in Myrtle Beach.
“We’re actually hosting a golf tournament at Arrowhead Golf Course next week on the 16th, right after we park haulers,” Zacharias said. “This weekend has changed it a little bit. It was geared towards the Foundation, but now we’re going to incorporate Jackie and his family.”
The Challenger Division feature was postponed to Saturday morning following the incident. Jacob Borst won the race following its resumption.
Speed51.com extends its heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Jackie Ward’s family, as well as the Myrtle Beach Speedway community.
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent - Twitter: @ZTEvans
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com