At 71-years old, most people are usually sitting back and relaxing. Morgan Shepherd isn’t most people. In fact, he’s still racing, well at least attempting to do so.
Shepherd is NASCAR’s oldest driver. Well, he’s not James Hylton old, but he’s still pretty old. Shepherd’s been in the sport since 1970. Think about that for a minute, that’s 43-years and he’s still going. Though he doesn’t race for wins any more, he still shows up to the track and makes sure he does it right or else he doesn’t show up at all.
In 2012, Shepherd was only able to finish two races because of sponsorship woes. In those two races, he finished 22nd in each of them. With the little amount of equipment that Shepherd has, it was a rather inspirational sight for NASCAR fans who know Shepherd’s story. After such a terrible season where Shepherd had to start-and-park 19 times, Shepherd’s come to realize that maybe it’s best for him not to run all of the races anymore.
“Just going to let everyone know that I do not know if or when we will be attending another race event in 2013 due to non-funding. We have given all the efforts every way we could just can not go any longer. Sorry to disappoint. We have and are always looking for sponsors,” Shepherd announced via Facebook on March 17.
That announcement must have broke the 71-year old racer’s heart. Fans love the guy. He always puts a logo on his hood that says “JESUS” with a Cross on it whenever he doesn’t have a sponsor which is unfortunately more often than not. Shepherd’s announcement is just one of the many sad efforts by low-funded NASCAR teams this season. Many teams are having to scale back simply because they just can’t find sponsorship.
However, at 71-years old, not earning a top-10 finish since 1999 has to be frustrating. Maybe it’s time for Shepherd to call it quits as a full-time driver. He doesn’t necessarily have to give up on driving, but maybe he should focus his efforts on being a car owner. Things got so bad at the beginning of the season that he couldn’t afford to build a new car, so he bought one of the old Penske Racing Dodge’s so he can attempt Daytona.
Shepherd would make a great car owner. He has experience in nearly every type of stock car that’s ever existed and knows how to successfully get around every track on the circuit. Shepherd can definitely help some young guys on the short tracks. Back in the 1980′s, Shepherd won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Hickory Motor Speedway. He also won 14 of his 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series victories at short tracks.
His mentoring process has already begun. At Bristol, Shepherd enabled Cj Faison, a 19-year old K&N Pro Series East driver, to practice his car for a few laps. It would be a smart decision for Shepherd to lease his car out to younger drivers that have sponsors and are just looking for experience. He could make a respectable car owner and definitely help some young guys get their careers started.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR and can be reached via e-mail at Joseph.Wolkin@gmail.com.