DARLINGTON, S.C. – 19-year-old Cole Custer will pay tribute to a legend of the NASCAR XFINITY Series by driving a paint scheme paying tribute to the late Sam Ard during the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 2.
The same white paint and red lettering that can be seen on Ard’s No. 00 Oldsmobile Omega, which currently sits on the Glory Road display inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will be emulated on Custer’s No. 00 Ford Mustang at Darlington.
“The 00 number has been a part of my entire NASCAR career, and over the years I’ve gotten to know its history and met some of the people who worked with Sam and saw him race,” Custer said. “The more I learn about Sam and all that he accomplished, the more impressive it becomes. I feel like I’m driving his car, and I want to make him and his family proud.”
“Guys like Sam Ard helped shape the sport into what it is today. Without him, I don’t know if the opportunity to drive race cars for a living would exist. I’m grateful for it and I’d like him and his family to know it.”
Ard was born in Pamplico, S.C., roughly 45 minutes southeast of Darlington. He was a U.S. Air Force veteran who worked on aircraft at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C., as part of the war effort during Vietnam.
In just 92 career XFINITY Series starts between 1982 and 1984, Ard drove his No. 00 machine to 22 victories, 67 top-five and 79 top-10 finishes, earning 24 poles and leading 4,035 laps.
Ard’s average finish was an astonishing 5.5, and it led him to back-to-back championships in 1983 and 1984 in what was then known as the NASCAR Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series.
Ard competed in four XFINITY Series races at Darlington, and while he didn’t win, he never finished lower than sixth. His best result was second, earned twice, in both 1983 and in his final Darlington race on Sept. 1, 1984.
While Ard passed away earlier this year, his legacy lives on.
“Sam Ard was a terrific ambassador and champion for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. It’s great to see a team like Stewart-Haas Racing, and their rising star Cole Custer, pay tribute to Sam with a special throwback paint scheme in his honor,” said Kerry Tharp, president of Darlington Raceway. “Sam is from nearby Pamplico, and it’s great to have a local racing hero like Sam, and his family, recognized in this manner.”
“Cole’s paint scheme will be one of the highlights of our Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 race on Sept. 2, and we thank him and Stewart-Haas Racing for remembering one of our sport’s heroes this way.”
CREDIT: Stewart-Haas Racing