In 2002, I crawled into my first race car at Spartan Speedway in the Street Stock division. A long time family, Glenn Caswell, friend took the season off and bravely allowed me to race his car. That's when my racing changed the composition of my DNA and added a whole new stand containing race fuel, rubber, and adrenaline. After 2002, I enlisted in the active duty military, spent time time overseas in Iraq, and got out of the military in 2008.
Following the military, I lived in Kentucky where I became a police officer and was part of the entry team on the department's SWAT team. Following a divorce, I went back overseas to Afghanistan as a private security contractor until 2013. After paying off accumulated debts, I returned to the US and moved back to Michigan to be back with my son and family.
Coming back with pretty much nothing, I purchased a cheap, crappy Dodge Neon from a guy in Detroit. It spewed ridiculous amounts of smoke at an idle, the drivers side window wouldn't roll up properly, the muffler imploded, and it eventually left me stranded at the VA Hospital. Dad and I picked it up from the hospital and decided to turn it into a Pony Stock for the 2015 season.
2015 was my rookie year in the Pony Stock division and it was nothing short of a learning curve and finished 5th in the point standings. We came back in 2016 with a better grasp of the class, I won my first ever feature win and finished a close 2nd in the points. We sold the car that Dad I built and thought I would take a year off to build my racing funds to move up but found a deal I couldn't turn down and spent one more year in the pony stock division. In 2017, we had a racers dream of a season, bringing home multiple feature wins and won the championship. We sold the car and NOW I could take a year off... So I thought.
In 2018, I purchased a Late Model and found myself back behind the wheel but in a much bigger, fast car. Going from a Pony Stock to Late Model was going to be a challenge. My only goal - Don't look stupid. I had great guidance and advise from driver and friend Kyle Drake throughout the season. Just like the years before, it was typically just my Dad and I working on the car. I had the support of my fiancé', family, and many friends. We didn't win a feature but we did manage to snag a few Heat Race wins which was more than I expected. But in the end, we managed to bring home the Championship along with Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Driver, and Perfect Attendance. Goal - Accomplished.
It wasn't until the end of the season I decided that my time behind the wheel was over and it was time for me to allow my son to get behind the wheel. As much as I love to race, I knew I couldn't afford to do both. As a parent, it's my job to sacrifice for him. So, I sold my car to get caught back up financially which would allow myself in a better position to purchase him a Bandolero. Shortly after I sold off, Jim Leasure, owner of Corrigan Oil Speedway heard I slipped into "Parental Retirement" and reached out to me. He invited me to be a part of the track by building and growing the Bandolero series at Corrigan Oil Speedway.
Since then, I accepted Jim's offer and have created the "Michigan Youth Auto Racing Development" program; also known as "MI-YARD". My goal is to bring more families into Auto Racing through Bandolero racing and do my part to sustain Short Track Racing in Michigan by bringing in new drivers and families.
Though I no longer have a car for myself, 100% of this sponsorship would go toward my son, Arlington Ward; a 3rd generation driver. We are a low budget team that consists of just my Dad and I and I am looking forward to building these same memories with my son.
Lastly, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. Short Track Racing is never easy on the wallet and opportunities like these are few and far between so I sincerely wanted to say thank you for providing drivers with an opportunity like this.
John M. Ward
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