Former NASCAR champion Sam Ard dies

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Sam Ard, a two-time champion in what was called the Busch Series, died Sunday, a friend of the family confirmed to NBC Sports. 

He was 78.

A moment of silence was held before Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.

Ard won the 1983 and ’84 titles in what is now the Xfinity Series. He won 10 races in 1983 and eight races in 1984.

Ard competed in what was the Busch Series from 1982-84, winning 22 of 92 races. He had 79 top-10 finishes. Ard ranks 12th on the all-time series wins list, tied with Tommy Ellis. Ard’s career was cut short when he suffered head trauma in a racing crash in 1984.

A 1982 Oldsmobile Omega that Ard drove was added in January to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Glory Road that shows the sport’s iconic cars. 

Ard was selected to the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999

Ard had been in failing health, suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. In 2008, Kevin Harvick donated a van to Ard’s family. The NASCAR Foundation and Motor Racing Outreach teamed for an online auction to benefit a fund for Ard. Kyle Busch committed $100,000 to Ard after winning what was then a Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway. That was Busch’s 10th win, tying him at the time with Ard for most wins in a season. Busch went on to break that mark and finish with 13 victories that year.

“Sam Ard is one of the pioneers of this (series) and to be tied with him at 10 wins is something that’s pretty spectacular and really, really special to me,’’ Busch said after that Texas win.

NASCAR released the following statement about Ard.

“For many years, Sam Ard’s persona was that of a tough-as-nails racer. 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.”

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