NASCAR: Two-Time XFINITY Champion Sam Ard Passes At 78

Jacob Seelman Featured, XFINITY 0 Comments

Sam Ard, a two-time champion of what is today is the NASCAR XFINITY Series, passed away Sunday morning. (NASCAR photo)

ASHEBORO, N.C. — Two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and legendary short-track driver Sam Ard passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 78.

Born in Pamplico, S.C. and later a resident of Asheboro, N.C., Ard’s NASCAR legacy began in the Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series before NASCAR restructured the tour in 1982, with the second-tier division later becoming the NASCAR Busch Series and is today known as the XFINITY Series.

Once the modern era of the series began, Ard caught fire and built a Hall of Fame career. He won 22 times and finished as the title runner-up in ’82, following that up by capturing back-to-back championships in 1983 and 1984 and also securing Most Popular Driver honors in both of those seasons.

Unfortunately, Ard’s career was cut short due to injuries he sustained in a crash at North Carolina Motor Speedway (Rockingham) in October of 1984, with the motor in his car expiring and causing a six-car crash just 14 laps into the race.

A dislocated right shoulder and head injuries would be diagnosed and spell the ultimate end to Ard’s professional career, as he retired from NASCAR the following June and only competed in three more late model events, though he did win one of those.

He boasted a 5.5 career average finish in just 92 career XFINITY starts, with an equally-impressive winning record of 23.9 percent.

Ard’s 10-win season in 1983 was the single-season record for the series for 25 years. Kyle Busch tied the mark in 2008, and then broke the mark with 13 wins during the 2010 season.

However, Ard still holds the record for most consecutive victories (four), and is tied for second in most consecutive poles (three).

Remarkably, Ard made only one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start, coming on Sept. 23, 1984 and appropriately at Martinsville Speedway, where the Cup field competes today in the 68th running of the STP 500.

In that race, he started 27th but only ocmpleted one lap before a steering failure sent his car to the garage area.

After his driving retirement, Ard became a car owner and spent six years fielding entries for Jimmy Hensley, Jay Fogleman, Ed Berrier and Jeff Burton.

Hensley won twice in Ard’s equipment and Burton once, with all three of Ard’s victories as a car owner coming at Martinsville.

Of note, between his driving and ownership careers, Ard was a 12-time winner at NASCAR’s Paper Clip. Five of his wins as a driver came in the modern-era of the XFINITY Series.

In his later years, Ard suffered from Parkinson’s disease and several current Cup regulars pitched in to aid the Ard family with his medical expenses, including Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.

“For many years, Sam Ard’s persona was that of a tough-as-nails racer,” NASCAR said in a statement provided to Race Chaser Online Sunday afternoon. “No matter the track or the competition, he battled to the end. That fighter’s mentality lasted throughout his life, and far beyond the confines of a race car.”

“Sam battled on and off the track with the same ferocity that earned him two championships in what is today the NASCAR XFINITY Series as well as countless victories in the Late Model Sportsman Series. NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to Sam’s family and friends. He will be dearly missed, and his memory cherished.”

“My father left us at 12:24 a.m. this morning, and he is now in great hands,” added Sam’s son Robert on Twitter. “He raced in life like he did on the racetrack. Thanks to all for the loving support (and) prayers.”


About the Writer

Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.

Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.

The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

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