Family and friends remembered Kevin Ward Jr. as a caring and loving soul during his funeral on Thursday morning. Friends remembered Ward as a passionate racer ever since he got in a go-cart at four years old.
Friends said Ward loved to win, but also wanted to see others succeed. His cousin Amanda said, "It was always an excitement and an honor to watch him do what he loved most - and that was race."
Many family and friends wore shirts with Ward's number 13 car number. His sisters told the media they encouraged people to wear orange and white ribbons.
"Orange and white are bright colors and even against black clothing, it does shine through," said one of his sisters before the funeral started.
"Godspeed" by the Dixie Chicks was played at the request of Kevin Ward Jr.'s mother.
During a tearful tribute, Ward's friend Dylan said "My favorite driver was my best friend, my brother Kevin."
Long time friend Ray Falk said Ward's passion for racing and support for other drivers made him very likable.
"If you weren't laughing, he'd make you laugh. It was like the story I told in there. I have a million of them," said Falk.
Dean Reynolds from Empire Super Sprints said the organization's annual race on an asphalt track will now be named the "Kevin Ward Memorial."
Later in the service, one of Ward's friends sang George Strait's "Love Without End" for Kevin Ward Jr.'s parents with many in the crowd joining in.
Ward's three sisters told stories of their adventurous younger brother who was a role model to his young nieces and nephews. Reading from a statement they said, "If there isn't a dirt track in heaven, there is now."
After the funeral, Ward's family and friends stood by as his casket was loaded into a hearse. Orange, white and black balloons were handed out and then released into the sky on a count of thirteen.
Before leaving, Ray Falk said he was grateful for al the people who came out to support the Ward family but was frustrated by the amount of national media photographers outside the funeral.
"The only thing I have to say about all these cameras, if it wasn't about Tony Stewart, only about three of these cameras would be here. And that's what really bothers me," said Falk.
In honor of Ward, Empire Super Sprints announced an "Orange-out" at the Brewerton Speedway on Friday night. Canandaigua Motorsports Park is also calling for an "Orange-out" for Saturday's races. Those races will be the first since the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy.