On a Sunday night in June 2016, history was made at Casino Speedway in Watertown, South Dakota. Before that fateful night, no woman in the long and storied history of the WISSOTA sanctioning body had ever visited victory lane in the Modified division. After coming close several times, Watertown’s own Morgan Ward led the 25th and final lap, etching her name in stone as the first female to ever tally a win in the WISSOTA Modified division. While some were surprised when it hit social media, others saw it coming from a mile away.
While most up and coming stars begin their career inches from the ground in the go-kart ranks, Ward was different. Despite attending her first race at just four months old, Morgan never participated in any kind of racing as a child. “I didn’t race anything until I was 18, but I was around it from the beginning,” Ward says. “I didn’t want to be the first female president, I didn’t want to play dress up, I wanted to race.”
Second Generation WISSOTA Racer
With Ward having an ultra-successful father in the form of WISSOTA Late Model and Modified ace Scott Ward, it was only a matter of time before she got the opportunity to race herself. “In my rookie year I raced a Midwest Modified,” remembers Ward. “After about a year of that my Dad was sick of working on the thing all the time, so I moved up to the Modified division.”
Despite having to go through growing pains like every rookie driver, Morgan gave some surprising answers when asked about her move to the Modified division. “I think the Modified suites my driving style better than the Midwest Modified,” Ward calls to mind. “It was easier to drive for me, you just have a lot more power. It was tough at the beginning, because I was a little bit star struck. All of a sudden I was racing against the people I grew up idolizing.”
While a lot of young drivers get burnt out during a long and tedious season, Morgan is different. “I enjoy working on cars,” comments Ward. “I could go to the track and just watch races, it’s all fun to me. Obviously, I’d like to be out there racing if that’s a possibility, but I truly love everything about the sport.”
Three More Feature Wins In 2017
Although Morgan will never be able to replace what it was like to get that first ever win, it did come in her sixth season. Despite coming close many times, her first win was elusive. “I think it’s true what they say, the first one is very hard to get,” relays Ward. “I think once you get past the first one they come a little easier, but the first one is tough. For me, I started wondering whether it was ever going to happen, it was nice to put it behind me.” For Morgan, that’s just what she did. Not only did she corral that historical win, she added another feature win totaling two in 2016. Her 2017 campaign was even stronger — winning outside of South Dakota in Minnesota. In all, Morgan tallied three feature wins in 2017.
Despite getting a late start in today’s world of circle track racing, Ward had something a lot of drivers do not. The lessons she learned early from her Dad were things she leaned on heavily since getting her start. “My Dad has not only taught me about racing, he’s taught me about life,” allows Ward. “When I first started, he said I was going to have to work hard to make it. He pretty much told me ‘if you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to be successful.’”
Over the past few seasons, Morgan has gotten the opportunity to race against some of WISSOTA’s top contenders. While she has admiration for a lot of them, there were two that stuck out in her mind as drivers she likes to race with. “I really enjoy racing with Matt Gilbertson and my Dad,” smiles Ward. “They always race me clean and it seems like I always learn something from racing with them.”
Now heading into her eighth year, Ward was quick to single out one thing that has increased her success. “After my first win I just had a lot more confidence,” allows Ward. “I think the reason why the wins came a little easier after the first one is confidence. It’s hard to run up front if you don’t believe that you can yourself.”
Despite her love for going in circles, Morgan has found just as much joy off the track and in the pits. In 2016, she teamed up with “Upside of Downs,” which provides support, education, and advocacy for people with Down Syndrome, their families, and communities. “It’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done,” asserts Ward. “My Dad did a car for juvenile diabetes in the past and I wanted to do something myself. I’ve met a lot of great people over the past two years, it’s really been great.”
To be successful at any level it takes help from all angles. Sponsors on the side of Ward’s #37 CNC powered LG2 include: Weelborg Crop Insurance, Haugan Nelson Realty, Jessie Vincent Construction, Triangle Cattle, #1 Welding, Cloud 9 Bar & Casino, Boldt Construction, M&W Construction, QA1, Wehrs Machine & Racing Products, PFC Brakes, CNC Motors, Outlaw Graphics, Fleming Farms.
Crew members on team Ward include: Whitney Ward, Brent Urban, Will Cordell, DJ Tesch, Ryan Hedge, Cory Fostvedt, Josh Fleming, and Doug Weelborg. Morgan would also like to send a special thank you to her parents, Connie and Scott Ward, and friends and family.
With the drive to be successful and the talent necessary to excel on the biggest of stages, Morgan Ward is a driver to watch as we head into 2018. If her last two campaigns are any indication as to what we’ll see this summer, it might be a long season for the fellas.
Lead photo and cover photo courtesy of Jamie Hoefert from Jamie Laine Photography.