Dylan Ward will head to Bowman Gray Stadium for this weekend’s season-opening Hayes Jewelers 200 chasing a victory in the Sportsman 40-lap feature, but he’ll have an eye on the big picture in chasing the division’s championship in 2018.
In 2017, Ward went to the final event of the season at Bowman Gray with a way outside shot for his first Sportsman championship at the track, it wasn’t a spot he had ever expected himself to be in at the start of the year as a lot of people didn’t think he would contend.
Before the start of the 2017 season, Ward’s plans were to race full-time in the Sportsman division at Bowman Gray and that was it due to lack of sponsorship. Then the 24-year-old driver found himself chasing wins and the title at the famous Madhouse.
“The car I ran last year is actually my legal Late Model Stock Car that I take to Martinsville and everywhere else. It’s the only car I’ve had the past 5 years, it’s been my Bowman Gray, Ace and other tracks around the area car that I just run everywhere. The car I have this year it’s a new piece that I’ve built just to run over there and I think it should be a lot better hopefully. I’m just trying to run a standard chassis at Bowman Gray, I mean where you don’t have any rules on the chassis at Bowman Gray, it’s kinda hard over there and I haven’t had the best of luck the past couple of years. I’ve been fortunate this year to be able to build a new car.”
Speaking of Ward building a brand new car, he’s not only got a couple of new cars, he’s also got a new car owner and a brand new number he’ll be racing al season at Ace Speedway and Bowman Gray Stadium.
“The car I’ll be driving this year is actually owned by Tim Triplett & Gene Bowers and they’ve been really great this year, I just hope I can perform well for them, said the 2015 Ace Speedway Limited Late Model Champion. “At first they were struggling for a while with their 70 car and they had a bunch of drivers in it. At the end of last year, his brother gave me a call and asked me if I would like to run their car at Ace, I guess it was around two days before the race at Ace, I told them to bring it to the shop so I could work on it and I would drive it. They brought it up to the shop and I redid the setups and stuff on it and we took it to Ace and finished second with it the first time out. The second time we went to Caraway, I was actually leading the race and had a right rear go flat and after that over the winter they gave me a call and asked if I’d like to drive for them full time, I’d house all the cars here at the shop [At Dylan Ward Racing] and drive for them full time at Ace and Bowman Gray.”
On the track, Ward looks to build on the success of 2017 at Bowman Gray in 2018 and at his favorite track Ace along with it. Off the track, the young man of Limited racing just keeps building his legacy as a car builder.
Ward’s shop in Walkertown houses his older car and the two other cars he’ll be racing for Triplett this year. It also has teams that have been born/reborn there like 2017 Bowman Gray Street Stock champion Jac Creed and his father David’s car along with a brand new team in rookie contenders Timmy & Bubba Tilley and Josilyn Campos, it’s been a sea of full-fendered Limiteds that Ward and Collins have built together.
The Ward Family name is strong at Bowman Gray with Dylan’s dad Dean who won the 1990 Buzzbombers (now the Stadium Stocks) Division with 9 career wins. He’s also captured 10 Blunderbust wins and the only three-time champion of the now-defunct division (1984, 1985 & 1989) and lastly, he’s earned 8 Modified wins. His uncle’s Dale, Chris & Frank literally dominated the 1980’s Blunderbust alongside Dean, they captured 4 more titles (Dale ’80 & ’81, Chris ’86 and Frank in ’87) and they got a combined 42 wins out of 175 total in the division. Dylan in his short time running at Bowman Gray has had some stellar runs and even nabbed himself three wins so far.
“It definitely makes me feel really good,” said the younger Ward. “It’s just I got some big shoes to fill over there especially in the Sportsman, I guess I got a little while to get closer to how many wins Dale has over there (who has 30 total, but only 6 is Sportsman) and I know dad won a ton of races over there too in the Blunderbust and Mini Stock too (27 wins total) and about the Ward family, almost every single one of us that runs over there has wins and it adds a little bit of pressure to go out there and do good. Hopefully this year it’ll change now that I have the funds, maybe we can get up there and contend for Dale’s wins.”
When asked about how he liked the oldest NASCAR sanctioned track ever, Ward had a great response and a calculated answer to it.
“I have a different outlook on the track now, it’s a very fun track to race around. I know Dale didn’t run long in the Sportsman, but when he did it seems like he spun out a lot and he would come from the back and win some,” jokingly said Ward. “I’ve got to win a 100-lapper this season, he’s already ragged on me about that a couple of times. Back then they only had like one or maybe two 100 lap races, this year there’s three scheduled and we have the cone restarts, so it makes a lot easier for us.”
Dylan isn’t the only younger Ward family driver out there, he also has his little brother Trevor Ward whose raced the Limited Late Models at Ace and Dylan offers his opinion on if Trevor will ever venture over to Bowman Gray. Dylan also gives his take on the hard racing the Sportsman has provided the past few seasons.
“I’m sure he’ll end up over there at some point in time, it does teach you a lot being over there, it teaches you a lot of bad habits too, but if you can avoid getting the bad habits from it, it does teach you how to be a better driver and stay out of trouble. It teaches you a lot of patience over there and it teaches you to race when you don’t have as much room, I mean yeah anybody can go in there and knock them out of the way, but if you try to pass them there clean, it’s harder than anywhere else. You have to stay up on the wheel over there, you can go to bigger tracks and you feel like you got a ton of room over there, but over there it’s really fun to try and pass people and not try to wreck them. Anybody can wreck somebody, it doesn’t take a lot of talent, but it takes a real driver to pass somebody without wrecking them.”
With the help of close friend and car builder Nick Collins, Ward’s reputation as a guy who can drive a car fast has been combined with the reputation as a guy that can build very a fast car too. In 2015 Ward and Collins built their first clip out of Ward’s Walkertown shop. Nick Collins has been there for a long time helping the Ward’s and their racing career and Dylan gives Nick credit where it’s due.
“Nick has been around for years and he even helped my dad when I was younger and he’s helped me along the way to get to where I am. This winter is the first time I’ve turned him loose on a lot and he’s really helped me out, I really didn’t have a choice as we were backed up and trying to get stuff done. I’ve stayed in the shop ever since I was a kid watching my dad and Nick build race cars, watching my family build cars, it’s all I’ve ever known, we stay in the shop day and night, my dad still stays up all night working on race cars. I guess it’s just dedication that keeps us going, I know I’m far from being the best, but I would like to be, so I’m just going to keep trying. It’s a lot of ups and downs, but I have to work through them, but Nick has always been there and actually, he’s helped my dad since he was 18 and my dad taught him a lot, so it was easier when he started helping me, he pretty much knew how everything went.”
“Building chassis is something I’ve always wanted to do and I still don’t have all the equipment to make my life easy. Last year with Jac running a clip I put on his car, I think it helped a lot, he’s got a new piece this year and it’s a car we built from the ground up and the one last year I built half of it, but this year he’s got a full DWR Car now and I have really high expectations for it. I would like to take that car to 12 victories or more this year as it’s my career high of wins and I would like to break it this year.”
I built my first car when I was 14, I built my first front clip when I was 14, I took my car to Ace, I talked my dad I to taking me and I built the whole thing, I didn’t really have much experience, but I wanted to do it by myself and I wouldn’t let him help me and I took it to Ace and tore the whole front end off it. I was going to try and break his record first time in the car and it didn’t work out for me. That was the first one I actually put together and my brother ended up with that car and took to the Miesha Sell race in 2014 and sat on the pole with it. I built from then in 2015 I probably built 6 or 7 front and rear clips, I had built a couple other clips in my dad’s shop when I was younger and I built part of a clip about three years ago. I built Jac Creed’s last year and my front & rear on my car that’s when things kinda took off.
Dylan is a very intelligent racer and he’s a quick-witted driver that catches onto a race track very quickly and he’s always been a versatile driver whose attempted the ValleyStar Credit Union at Martinsville five years in a row and has never made the main event. He thinks with his new car he could make it.
“That’s one race I would really like to win one day. My dads had a lot of luck there and has run really good there, he’s never won it, but he’s finished second and third, but never locked down the win. I definitely want to win that race one day if possible. I’ve had a lot of bad luck there, so hopefully this year things will change.”
Being the versatile driver he is, Dylan didn’t want to just take the new car to Bowman Gray this weekend and hope for the best, so he took it to a place he knows well and he knew what the car would do the first time out of the box. He took the car to Ace and it seems he had an interesting time with the car.
“I raced the new car at Ace last Friday, it was the first time it’s run, I was very happy with the car made a few adjustments late and missed it a little bit and I didn’t know what my car was going to do on the long runs, but we had the fastest car on track in the first 30 laps. So we got a little work to go to it being that was the first time it was on the race track. I mean not being tested we struggled a little bit because we’re trying to get things settled around here at the beginning of the season with all of these cars and trying to get them together. It’ll be easier as we’ll just focus on getting the setups and making it faster.”
“Really big thanks to Ace Motors, it’s been a long winter, me and the crew have not stopped working and I’m so grateful for the good lord above and Ace Motors for seeing something most people don’t and giving me this opportunity and all my help along the way. Thanks to Nick Collins without you none of this is possible. Gene Bowers, Milton Rhoades, Tim Triplett, Jac Creed and Marissa Cockerham for dealing with me through all this and a huge thanks to my dad Dean Ward making my the driver I am today and really keeping me motivated. Thanks to my uncle Dale Ward for being there for me and keeping my head on straight, it’s going to be a great year.”