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Shepherd Moves On As A Driver And A Cause

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 17 2009
Morgan Shepherd arrived in Victory Lane at Talladega last year to congratulate friend and benefactor, Tony Stewart. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Morgan Shepherd arrived in Victory Lane at Talladega last year to congratulate friend and benefactor, Tony Stewart. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Concord, N.C. – As a steady drizzle fell over Lowe’s Motor Speedway, NASCAR driver Morgan Shepherd found time Thursday afternoon to disclose how he celebrated his 68th birthday on Monday.

“I gave everybody the day off and I worked on the race car,” said Shepherd, as a wide-smile flashed across his face.

A driver with four Sprint Cup and 15 Nationwide Series wins on his resume, trips to victory lane are now relegated to memory lane by thumbing through photo albums.

A win these days for Shepherd is just making the show.

A well-respected veteran from Conover, N.C. who holds virtually every job title within his organization except truck driver, Shepherd has failed to qualify for 11 of 30 Nationwide Series events this season.

But despite being forced to lay off nearly all of his Faith Motorsports employees earlier this season due to a lack of sponsorship, Shepherd has vowed to soldier on.

He admitted that he would have long been forced to shut the doors on his operation if not for funding assistance from two of NASCAR’s biggest stars.

“I couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart,” said Shepherd, whose best finish this season is a 13th at Las Vegas in March. “Kevin Harvick has helped me with several cars. He kind of started this program with me.

“And Tony Stewart bought me three engines at the start of the season and he pays for all my tires every week to race.

“We definitely couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those guys.”

Shepherd’s day at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Saturday was cut short when he finished 33rd following engine failure.

“We burned a piston in our engine,” he explained.

But that temporary setback won’t thwart him from attempting to make his 260th career start in NASCAR’s junior circuit in Friday night’s Dollar General 300.

Stewart, a two-time Cup champion, refuses to take credit for assisting Shepherd financially.

“The thing with Morgan is you’ve got to applaud him every week,” Stewart said. “The guy does it with absolutely nothing. He has no help and he is his own crew, basically.

“He has some guys that help but he has to pretty much watch everything that’s going on. That’s something where it would be easy just to walk away from that scenario. But he still plugs along and still makes the effort to be here every week.

“He’s not missed a race, as far as showing up for every race on the schedule. So you want to see somebody like him be successful because of the effort he personally puts into it.”

As for his future plans, Shepherd said it’s too soon to know if he’ll return in 2010.

“We don’t know about next year,” he said. “A lot of times, we don’t even know how we’re going to even make it to the next race. But we seem to always make it.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 17 2009
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