Nearly 200 people gathered in chilly weather early Saturday at Myrtle Beach Speedway, the morning after a driver lost his life Friday evening.
“(Friday) we lost a fellow racer and a great friend of ours at Myrtle Beach Speedway,” a racetrack representative wrote on Facebook. “Jackie Ward was a part of the racing community and our family at the speedway, he will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, pit crew, friends, fans and fellow racers.”
Ward, a Surfside Beach resident who owned Grand Strand Towing, was competing in the SELLM Challenger Feature Event at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
He died after crashing into the outside wall of Turn 1 following a two-car collision, according to Mike Neff, Director of Sales, Marketing and Announcing at the racetrack.
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“Jackie was a very, very nice guy,” said Hunter Thomas, co-founder and editor of the NASCAR news outlet FourthTurn.com. “Everyone really enjoyed talking to him, and he’s going to be so deeply missed at Myrtle Beach Speedway.”
The collision happened around 4:45 p.m. and Ward died shortly after in the hospital at 5:32 p.m., according to Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard. An autopsy was scheduled Saturday to determine his exact cause of death.
Several members of the racing community shared their condolences and memories with Ward on Facebook.
“I’m not sure if Jackie ever won a race, but his excitement, spirit and enthusiasm would lead everyone to believe he won every week,” Myrtle Beach Speedway racer Keith Ferrell expressed. “Jackie was a true friend and ultimate fan of the sport and to talk with him you would find that out pretty fast. That black 3 car was a true staple of Myrtle Beach Speedway. Not seeing Jackie roll in every week with it will leave a true void.”
News of Ward’s death has spread throughout the racing community nationwide.
“The racing community is so tight-knit,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t matter if you race in asphalt, or dirt, or go-carts, or whatever it may be, we’re all family. Even last night, Texas Motor Speedway was tweeting about Jackie, so all of us are hurting all around the racing community from South Carolina to Texas to California to wherever, because someone knows someone who probably knew him.”
The speedway is holding the first weekend of the 25th annual Myrtle Beach 400. More races were scheduled throughout Saturday.
“Jackie would’ve wanted us to keep racing,” Neff said.