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Ward returns to the dirt.

IRL driver Jeff Ward returned to his two-wheeled roots in late November to participate in "A Day in the Dirt," a charity Motocross race in Palmdale, California.

The event, held at Los Angeles County Raceway, was staged by famed "Titanic" movie director James Cameron and Motorsports art and apparel company Troy Lee Designs.

A host of celebrities joined former AMA national Motocross champion Ward at the event, including stars from motorcycle and auto racing, extreme sports and the movie and music industries.

All proceeds benefited various cancer charities and the Steve McQueen Memorial Fund for Boys Republic, a youth-oriented charity associated with the late actor and racer.

The McQueen charity is special to Ward, who knew McQueen and stayed at his house as a youth due to a friendship with McQueen's son, Chad.

Riders were paired in teams during the event, which included competition in various classes. Ward's teammate was CART veteran Paul Tracy.

Teammates took riding shifts in the enduro-style format over a course that included asphalt and dirt, and numerous jumps. The teammates had to ride together on one bike during the final lap.

"It took about five minutes on each lap," Ward said. "It was pretty rough in some spots. There were big doubles (jumps) that I was doing. It was a lot of fun."

Ward, 1997 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, was the first rider to win seven AMA national titles with one manufacturer before retiring from Motocross in 1992. He posted 20 career Supercross victories and 54 career national Motocross victories before turning to auto racing.

But Ward still stays active in Motocross, riding regularly as part of his off-season fitness routine.

"I've been riding quite a bit, to stay in shape, I did the Vet Nationals about a month earlier at Glen Helen (Calif.). There were some guys in there who still race (Motocross), and I finished seventh." Ward commented.

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