Sam Ard, a two-time champion of NASCAR’s second-tier series, died Sunday. He was 78.
Ard died in South Carolina. NASCAR called Ard “a tough-as-nails racer” in a statement confirming his death, but gave no details.
Ard won titles in what is now known as the Xfinity Series in 1983 and 1984. He won 22 races in three seasons — just 92 career starts — and his average finishing position was an impressive fifth.
“No matter the track or the competition, he battled to the end,” NASCAR said. “That fighter’s mentality lasted throughout his life, and far beyond the confines of a race car.”
Ard retired because of injuries suffered in the final race of the 1984 season. He suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease for much of the last two decades, and his financial hardships made him the face of the difficulties faced by many of NASCAR’s former stars.
Ard was living in a doublewide trailer in Pamplico, South Carolina, in his declining years and had long ago sold his two championship rings and a handful of grandfather clocks from Martinsville Speedway because his family needed the cash. Unlike veterans of most major professional sports leagues, Ard had no pension to fall back on.