PICKENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – With sports, often comes teammates and friends who feel like family. Arguably no one knows this more than the Upstate’s racing community.

As they’re mourning the loss of one of their own family members now, they’re reflecting on the impact he left outside of the racetrack.

“He’s obviously going to be remembered as a champion or a multi-time champion but the people that got to know him know that he’s much more than a race car driver or a race car builder, he was just a good person and a good man,” said Bryan Ramey.

Ramey was Marty Ward’s sponsor for many years, including when he won the championship at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway in 2010. He said the victory felt like everyone’s when Ward won. But even if you weren’t as close to him as his crew and sponsors, his kindness made it feel like you were.

“If you met him, you felt like he was your friend even if you barely knew him and if you got to be around him a lot, you felt that more and more,” said Ramey.

Saturday night, while competing with the Southeast Super Trucks at Anderson Motor Speedway, Marty Ward suffered a heart attack.

He had won earlier in the evening, his last victory in the Southern Classic Stock Car Feature race.

According to the Anderson County Coroner’s Office, Ward passed away Sunday.

“Marty’s going to be missed terribly by the racing community and the community in general for the things he has done,” said Ricky Jenkins, a close friend. “Not only was he a great race car driver, he was a great human being and a great friend.”

Ward was a six-time track champion at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, and a three-time South Carolina state champion in what is now known as the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts weekly racing series. He also won several significant touring series throughout his career.

Ward also had a win earlier this season with the Southeast Super Trucks in Anderson in the tour’s season opener on April 29.

“They ought to remember him good because he was a local hero for many years and he was a driver who I think if he would’ve had the opportunity, he would’ve made it big time because he was a fantastic race car driver and a good person,” said Willis Smith, a former race track official and announcer.

His friends said he had a gentle demeanor on and off the track and that served as an example for other drivers.

“There’s so many of us and I was one of them, I’d get ticked off and get out of the car and kick someone else’s car… but you’d never see Marty do that, he just wasn’t that type,” said Jenkins.

Ward raced with the number 97 for his entire career, and to honor him, the Anderson Motor Speedway is changing the name of their annual race that will be hosted on August 26th. It will now be called the Marty Ward 97, and the race will have 97 laps in his memory.