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Tonight, It’s The Morgan Shepherd 250

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 8 2009

Morgan Shepherd skates on. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Morgan Shepherd skates on. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Correspondent
RacinToday.com

Darlington, S.C. – There’s no stopping 67-year-old Morgan Shepherd, NASCAR’s ageless wonder who is scheduled to make his 250th career start in the Nationwide Series when the green flag waves on tonight’s Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington Raceway.

 “Keep roller skating, I reckon,” said Shepherd, who is frequently seen scooting around the garage and pit road on a pair of skates.

“It’s just a lot of hard work and being devoted to the sport. I think first, you’ve got to have passion. And, obviously, I have passion to do this.

“I’m looking forward to 250 more.”

As long as his health allows him to compete, Shepherd insists that he’ll race for years to come.

“Obviously, this is where all my friends are,” he said. “Who wants to stay home and have no friends?

“I love this sport and have a passion for it. I still feel the same way as the day that I started racing. I just love automobiles and love going fast.”

The economic recession has had little impact on Shepherd’s No. 89 Lagina Plumbing/Eldora Speedway Chevrolet.

“The worst [the economy] gets, the better we race,” said Shepherd, who owns 15 career victories in the Nationwide Series.

“A lot of the big teams are the ones that are going to really hurt because they’ve got to have these multi-dollars to pay all the help that they’ve got and all the equipment that they need.

“We just operate on very little.”

Shepherd, who made his first Nationwide Series start at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway in 1982, said he marvels at the physical abilities of today’s NASCAR drivers.

“The talent today is just unreal,” he said. “What these guys are doing now with all the flips…drivers like Kyle Busch, all these guys, they’ve really stepped it.

“Back then, that’s when men were real men. Cars were real hard to drive and the heat was real extensive. But the talent is really there.”

With seemingly no end in sight to his driving career, Shepherd admits that he nearly walked away from the sport just over 20 years ago.

But a victory in Jack Beebe’s No. 47 Race Hill Farm Buick in the March 1986 Motorcraft 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway renewed the Conover, N.C. driver’s confidence.

“I was driving Jack Beebe’s car and Jake Elder was the crew chief,” said Shepherd, who recorded four victories in his 514 starts in the Sprint Cup Series. “I thought I was on my way out of racing.

“But I drove the car, qualified third, ran up front all day and had the car to beat. I can remember the last three laps of the race. I could barely see where I was going because of the tears coming into my eyes.

“I couldn’t believe that I could win the Atlanta 500 at that age [44].”

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 8 2009
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