Two time NASCAR second-tier champion, Sam Ard, died Sunday morning, April 2nd. He was 78.
NASCAR released a statement confirming Ard’s death, saying, “No matter the track or the competition, he battled to the end.” The statement did not provide additional details on his death.
Ard highlighted the financial struggles many veteran drivers face after leaving the track. NASCAR classifies its drivers as “independent contractors,” meaning when the drivers stop racing their relationship with NASCAR ends.
For pioneers of the sport that can mean a lifetime of hardship, similar to the life Ard faced after an injury forced the end of his career. As contractors, drivers are responsible for their own life insurance, retirement, and health care. The cost of the latter can be astounding in a sport that emphasizes driving at incredible speeds surrounded by other cars.
“You can drive for NASCAR, but when it’s over, it’s over. You get nothing,” Ard said in a 2007 Associated Press interview.
As an icon in the racing world, Ard did receive occasional support from other famous drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, who pledged $100,000 to Ard after winning the 2007 Xfinity Series race, tying Ard’s record for 10 wins in a season.
Ard struggled against Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease throughout the last two decades of his life before passing away at McLeod Hospice House in Florence, South Carolina.